Growing concerns over anti-social behaviour of Aberdeenshire's countryside visitors
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There are growing concerns that visitors making trips into the Aberdeenshire countryside are endangering not only each other, but livestock, wildlife and the environment.
While most visitors continue to abide by the Scottish Outdoor Access Code and act responsibly as the easing of lockdown progresses, there are those who are treating the countryside with a total lack of respect.
Both the Aberdeenshire Ranger Service and the Cairngorms National Park Authority have today (Friday July 24) reported a significant rise in the number of incidents of barbecue use along with large quantities of litter, broken glass, discarded camping equipment and evidence of toileting.
The volume of vehicles being parked dangerously on roadside verges, narrow tracks and across access points also soared this weekend, prompting serious safety concerns.
While most people are now planning their destinations carefully to be in close proximity of public toilet facilities which are now reopening, many continue to use the woods or countryside where they are visiting to do the toilet which causes a serious environmental health issue not only for other visitors but also for livestock and wildlife.
The increasing instances of littering, damage and blocked roads across the country prompted Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham to urge people to act responsibly, and she said: “We all want to enjoy our beautiful surroundings and have a duty to protect them, which is why I
have been disappointed to learn of a number of incidents of littering, anti-social behaviour and damage to our natural environment since lockdown restrictions began to ease.
“Ultimately I hope that people will act responsibly, respect the communities they are travelling to, clean up after themselves and have a safe break.”
Head of Aberdeenshire Council’s economic development and protective services Belinda Miller, echoed that view, and said: “The north-east of Scotland is a mecca for visitors and we rely on that tourism to support many of our communities and businesses.
“Some of the scenes which have been reported such as widespread littering and public toileting are absolutely vile and they have no place in our countryside.
"There is no excuse for littering – if you bring it with you, you can take it home.
“We want people to enjoy our wonderful array of attractions and beautiful scenery, but if visitors are faced with this sort of behaviour and mess then they are unlikely to return and that will have a massive impact on our tourism sector.”
Pete Crane Head of visitor services with the Cairngorms National Park Authority, Pete Crane, added: “Across Scotland we are seeing a small but damaging number of people irresponsibly camping outdoors – and to be blunt the problems are the litter, the fires and human waste left
“We are working with Police Scotland and the local authorities, who are responsible for dealing with anti-social behaviour, littering, and traffic management.
"The irresponsible behaviour is coming from a small but damaging few and we are all working hard to change this messy activity.”
Aberdeenshire Ranger Service coordinator Fiona Banks highlighted particular concerns over the weekend parking issues and encouraged people to have a Plan B when visiting the countryside.
She said: “At the weekend we had numerous reports of our car-parks being full – including the Muir of Dinnet facility where we had to call the Police to manage the dangerous parking on the verges and roadside.
"We have so many wonderful areas of countryside in Aberdeenshire, it’s not worth losing tempers over a car parking spot – please have a back-up.
"If an area feels too busy or the car park is full, move to your Plan B site.”
Aberdeenshire Council and the CNPA are now urging anyone who witnesses any form of anti-social behaviour to report it immediately to Police Scotland.
Police Scotland Deputy Chief Constable Malcolm Graham said: "Our officers will continue to engage with the public, explain the legislation and guidance and encourage compliance.
"We will use enforcement as a last resort only where there is a clear breach of the legislation.
"We recognise that people have made significant sacrifices, but we would ask people to use their judgement and avoid places which are busy to stop our countryside and green spaces from becoming over-crowded."
If you are a new visitor to countryside sites, the Scottish Outdoor Access Code will help you to understand your access rights and responsibilities.
The code has three broad themes:
• Respect other countryside users, including those who work in the countryside
• Respect the environment
• Take responsibility for your own actions
For more detail on the code you can visit: www.outdooraccess-scotland.scot