Media Release: Roaming wild in Scotland – staying on the right side of the law

SCOTS have traditionally had the attitude that the land is there to explore and people should be free to wander – as long as, of course, they act responsibly and are aware of the need to respect others, including local wildlife and livestock.

Jim Drysdale, who sits on the Law Society of Scotland’s Rural Law Committee, said: “One of the biggest attractions of living in or visiting Scotland is the great outdoors, with many people choosing to holiday at home this summer and make the most of its fantastic landscape.

“However, while we want to encourage people to make the most of Scottish countryside, it’s important that they are respectful of those who live and work there and of course the land and wildlife that make it so attractive.”

Says a spokesperson: “The ‘right to roam’ was cemented by the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 which allowed everyone the right to access land and inland water across the country.”

The Scottish Outdoor Access Code, published under the legislation, details the key principles to be followed by all – most importantly:

• Respect the interests and privacy of other people

• Care for the environment

• Take responsibility for your own actions

Drysdale said: “While the legislation allows people an extensive right to roam, it is not an unlimited right and does not extend to all areas of Scotland for all activities.

“There are some predictable exceptions which include going through buildings, curtilage around buildings, reasonable privacy and disturbance zones around houses, land with sown or growing crops, sports and recreational fields while in use, golf courses – except for crossing over them, building sites and working quarries.

“You can, however, freely access areas including fields containing livestock and horses and over bridges, paths, waterways, fences and walls so long as you do so in a responsible manner.

“Additionally, the right also applies underwater, in caves and in the air. Access rights can be exercised at any time of day or night, however if you are using this right at night, ensure that you take greater care to respect the interests and privacy of others. Similarly, additional care should be taken when accessing areas where there are livestock or wild animals nearby.”

Drysdale, a partner at law firm Anderson Strathern, adds that the right to roam extends to individuals only and not vehicles for recreation or passage – except motorised wheelchairs and while it does not extend to hunting, shooting or fishing, it does include other recreational purposes and activities. These include wild camping, horse riding, cycling, carriage driving, canoeing and sailing, and participation in events such as mountain marathons and orienteering events.

He added: “The law and guidance covering this right adopts a common sense approach and individuals adopting a similar attitude, acting in a responsible, respectful way, will be able to enjoy Scotland’s countryside without issue – apart from perhaps the dreaded midge.”


For further information journalists can contact Val McEwan 0131 266 8884 or Emily Young on 0131 476 8164. Email: /

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Contact: Val McEwan
Phone: 0131 266 8884