Greater funding for local authorities is vital in tackling the dirty camping problem which has blighted rural Scotland during lockdown, a Fife politician has claimed.
Alex Rowley, Labour candidate for Fife, called on more funding for councils during a hustings arranged by land access campaigners ScotWays.
The digital hustings covered an array of topics other than dirty camping, such as parking and toilet facilities at beauty spots and protecting wildlife.
The conversation comes in the light of last year’s surge of campers leaving a mess behind them.
The ranger situation in Fife
Mr Rowley said more funding being delivered to council coffers can help curb the issue locally.
Fielding a question from the digital audience for his thoughts about the lack of rangers employed by Fife Council, Mr Rowley said: “Cuts to local authority budgets have impacted disproportionally on these kinds of services.
“In Fife’s case, my understanding is they put a lot of the rangers services into the (Fife) Coast and Countryside Trust.
“That was a way of saving money and it is problematic.
“We did have ranger services in the Lochore Meadows Country Park, but there has been moves afoot of late to remove them as well.
“If you cut local council budgets then it is those types of services, that are not seen as mainstream services, that bear the brunt of the cuts.
“That is what’s happened here. In the longer term we all pay the price.
“These short-term cuts have major impacts on our countryside.”
Mr Rowley also called on a “zero tolerance” approach to people who “damage the countryside” through dirty camping or fly tipping.
Also taking part in the hustings, which was moderated by BBC presenter James Naughtie, was:
- Molly Nolan, Liberal Democrats (Highlands)
- Graham Simpson, Scottish Conservatives (Central Scotland)
- Ariane Burgess, Scottish Greens (Highlands)
- Ben Macpherson, SNP (Edinburgh Northern and Leith)
Tackling dirty camping as lockdown eases
The first question of the event was asked by Katharine Taylor, a member of Scotways.
She asked the panel if the countryside was ready for an onslaught of visitors as the “stay local” message is lifted.
Mr Simpson said: “People have been cooped up for a long time. There will be a lot of people who really want to travel a bit, so it is inevitable that the numbers will go up.”
Ms Nolan said: “There has been a huge failing in funding local authorities properly.
“We can’t kid ourselves that these issues only arose last year. We’ve had problems with a lack of infrastructure for tourism for years now in the Highlands.”
Ms Burgess said: “The Scottish Greens are committing £895 million over the next five years, which would be about restoring nature.
“But a proportion of that would go towards creating more national parks and regional parks and also bringing in a ranger service.
“I think the responsibility needs to lie with the government and better funding.”
Defending the government record
Ben Macpherson highlighted SNP manifesto pledges, including £2.75 million of investment.
“The national parks asked for more resources during the budget process and that was provided,” he said.
“But the rural tourism infrastructure fund, which goes beyond the national parks… has made significant and meaningful investments across different parts and pinch points of demand.
“That is a fund that has plenty of scope to continue to evolve and deliver.”
What would the candidates do about dirty camping?
Ahead of Friday’s hustings event, we asked the candidates how they tackle the problem.
They all said better education and campaigns are key tactics to employ.
You can watch their responses here:
Mr Rowley did not respond by the time of publication.
Read more about our work about dirty camping.