Is right to roam legislation being flouted in East Lothian?

Pencaitland community was recently contacted by an Arthur Greenan of East Linton, raising the issue of public access to rural land, enshrined in the Right to Roam legislation enacted in 2003.

Mr Greenan became aware of public access issues in East Lothian when organising a local event to take horses from his East Linton home down to the coast to Whitekirk. This became a battle to find an unencumbered route, discovering numerous impediments that made it all but impossible to use paths that were meant to be open to public access but were either locked or blocked.

Arthur Greenan argues that Right to Roam legislation, which came into force in 2003, is being ignored in parts of East Lothian. Photo copyright Trevor Coultart @ Flickr
Arthur Greenan argues that Right to Roam legislation, which came into force in 2003, is being ignored in parts of East Lothian. Photo copyright Trevor Coultart @ Flickr
As Arthur Greenan sees it, “John Muir won freedom of access to the countryside for millions of Americans but in his native county of East Lothian thousands of citizens are being denied their rightful access to the countryside.”

Scotland gained what many now refer to as “Right to Roam” legislation with the passing by the Scottish Parliament of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003. This gives statutory access rights to most land and inland water in Scotland. The rights under the Act must be exercised responsibly by respecting people’s safety, privacy and livelihoods; and with regard to Scotland’s environment.

However, if Arthur Greenan’s experiences are representative across other parts of the county, it would seem that the theory enshrined in this legislation does not match up with its practical application in East Lothian.

It’s now ten years since the legislation came into force and it’s a little known fact that this law is currently under review, with an opportunity for interested members of the public to have their say. Unfortunately, to date, this does not appear to have been publicised by East Lothian Council.

Mr Greenan, aware that the deadline for comments to the Scottish Government on current Right to Roam legislation is looming (submissions need to be made by the 11th of January 2013), has asked a number of Community Councils to bring this issue to the attention of local residents.

Have your say

The Land Reform Review Group was set up by the Scottish Government in July 2012 to look at a range of land issues, including the effectiveness of Right To Roam. If you have a view you can submit it via email to or write to the following address no later than the 11th of January.

Dave Thomson
Land Reform Review Secretariat
B1 Spur
Saughton House
Broomhouse Drive
EH11 3XD

Q. Have you experienced problems with access to or through the countryside in and around Pencaitland? If you have please share your experiences with a comment below.

More Useful Resources

Scottish Outdoor Access Code website

378 thoughts on “Is right to roam legislation being flouted in East Lothian?

  1. Ralph Averbuch Post author

    Personally I’m not aware of ever having any difficulty rambling around the countryside of East Lothian since we arrived here in 2003 – the same year this right to roam legislation came into force.

    That said, we’ve pretty much stuck to the obvious footpaths in and around Pencaitland so it’s hardly a scientific analysis.

    Plainly farmers aren’t going to want people to trample across their fields when they are growing crops or leaving gates open that may allow livestock to get in or out.

    I’d hope it’s about acting responsibly when you are on a landowner’s property but equally maybe farmers and landowners need to show a little more trust in people to behave sensibly.

    Of course, it only takes one or two who leave gates open, dump rubbish or generally don’t bother heeding best advice, to spoil it for the rest who do.



  2. Eilidh Wilson

    This is a matter for the local council to resolve. Any issues of access being denied should be reported to the local council. Scottish Natural Heritage can also advise on access issues.

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