Following the recent introduction of a seasonal camping ban on a stretch of the east shore of Loch Lomond a Perthshire politician has called for similar bylaws in his own area.
Murdo Fraser, a Conservative MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife during the last session of the Scottish Parliament, believes the measures are needed to combat antisocial camping on the shores of lochs Earn, Rannoch, Tay and Tummel.
He tells us why:
'The problem identified here is one which many people living in rural Perthshire are familiar with. Along the lochsides of Earn, Rannoch, Tummel and Tay we have situations where we have busy public roads which pass close to the loch shore. There is a regular situation, particularly at summer weekends, of some people simply parking their cars beside the road, climbing the fence and camping at a suitable spot on the loch shore. Providing individuals behave responsibly in so doing there is no particular objection to this but unfortunately a sizeable minority seem to abuse the position.'
'I have had numerous complaints from constituents living in these areas over the years about irresponsible behaviour, namely the leaving of litter, human waste, lighting fires, cutting down trees illegally, playing loud music and generally making a nuisance. In some cases at the end of the weekend the people have also simply departed leaving the tents in situ with no effort to clear up after them.'
'This was a serious problem on the east shore of Loch Lomond which led to the National Park there bringing in bylaws to prohibit camping. I appreciate that this is very much a last resort but such is the frustration in the local community I have asked Perth and Kinross council to consider it for the Perthshire lochs in addition.'
'There have been attempts by the local authority Access Officers working with the local police and representatives of local landowners to come together to try and deal with the problem but these initiatives so far seem only to have been of limited effect. I would also hope that the threat of bringing in camping bylaws might in itself be helpful in changing the behaviour of the minority who behave in this irresponsible fashion.'
However a spokesperson for Perth and Kinross Council was recently quoted in local newspaper The Courier saying that the authority was taking other measures in response to the problem:
'A working group made up of council, Tayside Police, landowners, and community representatives regularly meets to discuss actions that can be taken to ensure that those camping around our loch shores...do not engage in illegal activities and anti-social behaviour which can spoil the areas for other people. These actions will be taken forward this summer.'
'The problems caused by irresponsible camping in Highland Perthshire are not on the same scale as at Loch Lomond, and so we are not looking at introducing any bylaws at this time.'
Organisations representing walkers and climbers fear that any legislation could have a negative impact on the responsible exercise of access rights, which include the right to wild camp. Cold water is poured on the idea of Perthshire camping bylaws by Hebe Carus, Access and Conservation Officer for the MCofS:
'The bylaws at Loch Lomond are an absolute last resort, as was stated as an imperative in the MCofS response to the consultation, driven by the extraordinary problems that occur there primarily connected to illegal activity rather than marginally unacceptable use of access rights. There is a problem in some restricted areas of Highland Perthshire and processes are in place to address these in ways short of bylaws through a working group of local communities, police and landowners. The MCofS welcomes this approach which we have encouraged and support. Just as local communities do not want to suffer the impact of illegal activities under a guise of enjoying Scotland's outdoors, mountaineers do not want to either, nor would it be acceptable for access rights to be restricted when they are exercised responsibly. We will be watching closely to see the impact of the camping bylaws at Loch Lomond and any effects on other areas which we understand are to be monitored closely.'
The seasonal bylaws at Loch Lomond, which take effect on 1 June and cover the March - October period every year thereafter, will make it an offence to camp overnight on the east side of the Loch outside designated camping sites, in an area covering nine miles of wooded coastline between Drymen and Rowardennan.
Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park Ranger service will continue patrols along the east side of the Loch and will work with Central Scotland Police to monitor camping activity. Penalties for breaching these restrictions could reach a maximum of £500.
The effectiveness of the regime will be reviewed after three years.