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Well-known broadcaster, author and outdoor pursuits expert, Cameron McNeish, a former chairman of the Nevis Partnership, has cautioned against all litter problems being blamed on campervan and motorhome users.
His remarks follow several weekends of problems at various Lochaber beauty spots, including wild campers on the beaches at Arisaig and Morar, and hundreds of cars, tents and motorhomes descending on Glen Etive, with mountains of rubbish and damage left behind.
The problems prompted a conference telephone summit last week, hosted by Fergus Ewing, Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy and Tourism, which involved representatives from local community councils and organisations along the Road to the Isles, and which was organised by local MSP Kate Forbes.
Mr McNeish told us: ‘I am aware that we are in unusual times at the moment. Hordes of young people who would normally be drinking on the sun-warmed beaches of Costa del Sol, Majorca and Ibiza can’t get there because of Covid.
‘Neither can they get B&B or hotel accommodation, or even a campsite with toilet facilities in Scotland at the moment, so they are buying a cheap tent and a ton of booze and head instead to the honey-pots of Scotland. They are, in the main, totally unaware of what no-trace-camping is about.
‘On the other hand we are seeing something I warned about a few years ago, the ‘dispersal effect’ from Loch Lomond.
‘When the National Park there decided it would be permits or criminalisation for everyone who ‘wild camped’ during the summer months there were many of us who believed most of these regular ‘dirty campers’ would simply go elsewhere. It appears Glen Etive was their chosen location.’
And he added: ‘Finally, I’m getting impatient with all those who link campervans and litter. The period of lockdown has seen an epidemic of littering, all over Scotland at a time when there were very few campervans on the road.
‘We have certainly seen a large increase in the number of campervans and motorhomes visiting Scotland but any sensible nation would recognise this as a welcome addition to tourism.
‘All over Continental Europe this sector of the tourist market is welcomed with suitable low cost infrastructure. In France they are called ‘Aires’.
‘Our continental cousins are aware these campervan owners spend money in fuel stations, local shops, pubs and restaurants but here in Scotland there is a tendency to treat campervanners like lepers.
‘We badly need a system of low-cost overnight parking places for campervans and motorhomes.
‘Until we provide these things visitors will choose to spend overnights in laybys, something they are legally entitled to do under UK Road Traffic law.’