The Ramblers’ Association and the council taxpayers of Perth and Kinross may be saddled with a bill of up to £200,000 after the unsuccessful access case against bus magnate Ann Gloag.
Mrs Gloag, whose estimated £400m fortune was made from the Stagecoach company, was awarded costs in the case in which Sheriff Michael Fletcher found in her favour. Mrs Gloag won the right to exclude the public from four acres of land on her Kinfauns estate near Perth.
Now the Ramblers’ Association (RA) says it may ask the Scottish Executive to limit such judicial expenses, which it describes as excessive.
Mrs Gloag, one of Scotland’s richest women, says she will donate the award to two charities. The RA says the awarding of such costs may limit the ability of organisations to take to court issues of public interest such as the right-to-roam issue at Kinfauns. English law already limits costs in certain public inquiries when there is a public interest issue.
Helen Todd, RA access campaign officer, said: “These are the kind of costs one would expect in a case that has gone to the House of Lords, not Perth Sheriff Court in a case which is testing rights of access over just four acres of woodland.
“If substantial costs are being awarded against ourselves and Perth and Kinross Council, it raises serious concerns over access to justice for local authorities, local communities, outdoor recreation bodies and other charities.
“There is a serious risk of limiting access to the courts on right to roam legislation to those who are very rich.”
An access case brought by Labour donor and millionaire Euan Snowie is still proceeding through Stirling Sheriff Court.
A spokesman for Mrs Gloag said the money would be split between a children's hospice, Rachel House in Kinross, and the Princess Royal Trust for Carers (Scotland).
Perth and Kinross Council has yet to make a decision on whether to appeal against the award of costs.