The proposed signs for the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs camping control areas

The proposed signs for the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs camping control areas

Mountaineers are calling on national park authority members to delay the implementation of ‘appalling’ new rules that mean campers could be landed with a criminal record.

The Loch Lomond and the Trossachs board is due to consider on Monday proposals for a system which involves a system of camping permits for anyone wishing to wild camp in designated areas.

The plans are a further step in controlling camping in the national park, following bylaws introduced around Loch Lomond which the authority says are essential to combat anti-social behaviour and environmental damage caused by irresponsible visitors.

Mountaineering Scotland, which represents hillwalkers, climbers and mountaineers north of the border, called on the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs board to defer any introduction, likening the case to the Scottish Government’s argument in the Supreme Court over the need for a proper consultation on the UK Brexit plans.

Under Scotland’s right-to-roam laws, responsible wild camping is permitted in most of the countryside, but the initial Loch Lomond bylaws overrode that right, making it illegal to camp in the summer months along stretches of the loch, including a large section of Scotland’s most popular long-distance trail, the West Highland Way.

Park bosses are asking board members to approve the introduction of a £3 charge for anyone wishing to be exempted from the wild-camping bylaws, and a £7 per person charge for using the authority’s ‘informal’ campsites, including a new one at Loch Chon and an existing one at Loch Lubnaig, a 40 per cent increase in the charge for using the Sallochy site on the east shore of Loch Lomond which is currently operated on the authority’s behalf by Forest Enterprise Scotland.

David Gibson, chief executive of Mountaineering Scotland said: “The park authority is rushing through the introduction of a set of appalling proposals which present a confusing picture to intending campers.

“If the proposals are approved, the lack of on-the-ground clarity about camping management zones and provision could lead to the criminalisation of people who might believe they are camping or resting at night during a journey, which would otherwise be within their rights by complying with the provisions of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act and Scottish Outdoor Access Code.

“The proposed permit scheme will also impose costs of £7 per night on people who would otherwise be able to enjoy free access to the outdoors and as such is socially divisive, at a time when the Scottish Government is encouraging more people to get active.

“We still maintain that the park authority is resorting to bylaws which are wholly unnecessary as they, with Police Scotland, already had the powers to act against the limited few who cause nuisance and damage.

“We therefore call on the park authority board to delay the introduction of the bylaws by 12 months to enable appropriate public consultation on the specific proposals for the permit scheme and signage.”

Mountaineering Scotland, which was formerly the Mountaineering Council of Scotland, said proposed signs for camping management zones are misleading. It said bylaws include campervans, motorhomes and anyone sleeping or resting in a vehicle overnight, yet the signs gives no indication that these users are subject to restrictions.

Anyone served a notice by a park ranger could be committing a criminal offence which attracts a £500 fine.

Mountaineering Scotland represents more than 13,000 members and also acts for 75,000 members of the British Mountaineering Council on matters related to landscape and access in Scotland.

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