Ban wildcamping vans from Mull, councillor pleads

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Campervans should be banned from Mull unless they have already booked into one of the island’s official campsites.

The call for new legislation to stop wildcamping in vans has come from worried Mull councillor Mary-Jean Devon who has sent an urgent letter to rural economy minister Fergus Ewing.

Thoughtless campers polluting rivers and lochs with toilet waste that is poisoning fish, stripping trees for campfires and burning pallets and leaving nails in ashes that injure farm animals are just some of the concerns being brought to her daily by residents and farmers, she says.

While the island welcomes visitors back and the vast majority of them are regular travellers who respect the environment, there are some who are ‘putting the fragile community at risk’, she warns.

Although some campsites on the island have chosen to stay closed due to Covid there are others that are open and still have plenty of space.

‘Many campervanners and motorhomers would rather wild camp in our special areas. They are having open campfires, trees are being stripped for wood, rubbish is being abandoned. Pallets are being burned leaving nails in ashes injuring animals, and human waste is being dumped in our rivers and lochs. Salmonella from this waste is a risk to humans and animals. Fish farms are also being affected by this waste,’ councillor Devon told The Oban Times, adding: ‘They are decimating and spoiling our beautiful island.’

In her letter to Mr Ewing, also copied to Skye MSP Kate Forbes whose area is suffering from excrement and dumped rubbish too, she pleaded: ‘Please ban campervans from wildcamping’, and tells him that to prevent wildcamping, all campervans should have to produce a booking for a registered campsite on our island before being allowed to cross from the mainland.

Wildcamping is a term meant for tents for no more than three days, says councillor Devon.

Free parking at the council-run Ledaig car park, where there is toilets, showers and wi-fi is not helping registered campsites.

Mull Community Council chairperson Andrena Duffin said: ‘Why should people expect to come here for nothing and not do anything to help our island economy? The lack of respect some people have for our community is soul destroying.’

Reports received of disrespect included one campervan spending three nights in the doctor’s surgery car park in Tobermory, going away during the day and returning at night. The occupants were wandering around in their pyjamas as the nurses were going in to work.

Councillor Devon also wants the minister to ask Transport Scotland why they have not asked CalMac to improve PPE and implement track and trace on its small unbookable ferries from Iona, Lochaline and Kilchoan.

‘The only PPE staff have on those ferries is masks and gloves, they have no visors. Because there is no contactless payment option on those boats, staff are handling bank cards,’ she said.

She warned the outcome of Covid reaching remote communities such as Kilchoan and Arndamurchan would be catastrophic as they have no resident nurse or doctor and the nearest hospital is a couple of hours a way.

‘We need track and trace to be implemented on these smaller unbookable ferries because we need to know where these people are going. CalMac says there is no need because people can stay in their cars but the reality is that on good weather days, people want to be out looking at the scenery.

‘If Covid spread to those communities served by the small ferries the outcome would be catastrophic,’ said Councillor Devon.