December 2001

Walker dies in Angus glens

A hillwalker collapsed and died on Monday, December 17, during an outing to the Angus glens. The 71-year-old man was pronounced dead on arrival at hospital after a vain mercy dash by a rescue helicopter. While the exact cause of death has yet to be established, it is thought that the pensioner may have suffered a heart attack. The man was one of seven walkers from the Kirriemuir area whose hiking trip took a tragic turn during the early afternoon. They were walking in the area of Cairn of Barns, a 2000ft hill south of the Glen Clova Hotel, when the man took ill. The group was around an hour's walk from the hotel. A member of the party immediately set off for the hotel to raise the alarm while the others attempted to revive their colleague. As he made his way to get help, two trained first-aiders in the group attempted heart resuscitation. When the man arrived at the hotel shortly after 2 pm, police were contacted and they alerted the RAF, which scrambled a search and rescue helicopter. As the helicopter made its way across country to the glen, contact was maintained with the group on the hill by a mobile phone. Tayside Police also sent Inspector Nick Hull, leader of its search and rescue unit, to the area following the alert. The RAF Lossiemouth helicopter arrived at the scene at 3.15 pm. The casualty was put on to a stretcher which was taken on board the aircraft and flown to Ninewells Hospital in Dundee, touching down there 21 minutes later. The rest of the walking party made their own way off the hill and were last night safe and well at home, although said to be shocked.

A post-mortem examination will take place and a report will be submitted to the procurator fiscal as a matter of routine. The incident is the second one in the Angus glens within a handful of days involving the rescue services. Search teams were called out on the night of Thursday, December 15 after a 67-year-old man failed to return from a walk in Glen Doll. He was traced safe and well early the next day.

New reserve manager on Rum

By Steve Page

A new manager for the Rum National Nature Reserve has been appointed by Scottish Natural Heritage, which owns and manages the island. Rhodri Evans, previously Director of the Snowdonia Society, has arrived on the island to take up his new post. He is accompanied by his wife, Judith and five-year-old daughter Catrin. Commenting on his new role, he said: ''There is no doubt that the island of Rum is a major asset to Scotland, not just as a National Nature Reserve, but for its historical and cultural importance. The difficulties associated with the development of a sustainable community on the island don't seem to have dampened the will of the people here to move that process forward. It will be an unusual job in a unique place and I am certainly looking forward to working with all parties concerned in managing the Reserve, and to being part of a more established Rum community.'' With the arrival of Mr Evans and the recent appointment of a new reserve officer, the population of Rum now stands at 31. This comprises 23 adults, 20 of whom work for SNH, and eight children, six of whom attend the island primary school.

New owner for Glenfeshie

The 42,000 acre Glenfeshie Estate on the edge of the Cairngorms has been sold by Danish businessman Klaus Helmersen to fellow Dane, Flemming Skouboe for an undisclosed sum. Mr Skouboe said, ''The first time that I saw Glenfeshie I fell in love with it. The sheer beauty of the scenery compares with anything anywhere in the world.'' He has pledged to honour land management agreements concluded earlier this year with Scottish Natural Heritage and environmental agencies. These included a Woodland Grant Scheme agreement with Forestry Commission. The future of what is one of Scotland's most prized Highland estates was last month thrown into doubt because of a financial crisis facing Helmerson, a multi-millionaire who made his fortune from a famous chain of fashion shops. Klaus Helmersen, who founded the Carli Gry fashion house, earning him £90 million, bought the estate for over £6m in 1997, outbidding a consortium of government and voluntary agencies. Helmersen left Carli Gry in 1999 but continued his wide-ranging business through a company called St Frederikslund. In the past three years the company has made a string of multi-million pound investments in US firms. To make the investments Helmersen borrowed large sums of money from Danish banks and financial institutions. Glenfeshie is at the heart of the new National Park proposed by the Scottish Executive and is famous for being the place where Sir Edwin Landseer painted his well-known picture of a stag, Monarch of the Glen, in the 1830s. The estate was owned by Helmersen through a company called Glenfeshie Estate Limited, registered in Perth. Renowned among walkers and mountaineers for its dramatic wild landscape, Glenfeshie has been a source of dispute for many years because its ancient pine trees are dying out due to high deer numbers. In the past the number of deer on the estate has been kept in the thousands in order to make sure that there were plenty of stags available for landowners and their guests to shoot for sport. SNH has a legal agreement with the estate aimed at protecting the Caledonian pine forest by culling a significant number of deer and the agency is content with the way that the estate has been implementing the management agreement.

Mountain leaders required

The Duke Of Edinburgh's Award in Dundee is seeking volunteer leaders to assist with the outdoor activities elements of the scheme. With the numbers of participants rapidly growing there is a very real danger that many young people will have to be turned away due to the lack of new leaders coming forward. Leaders are required to teach classroom training sessions to young people aged mostly between 14 to 18 on core subjects such as navigation, camping skills, equipment needs as well as specialist topics such as geology or wildlife. Leaders are also required to assist with groups venturing out into the mountains and hills of Scotland (occasionally further afield). Mountain Leaders are preferred but any keen volunteers will be welcome. Female leaders are particularly sought as the number of female participants has doubled in recent years. Although all leaders are volunteers there are a number of benefits on offer:

  • All activities count towards the experience requirements of the national outdoor qualifications.
  • For unqualified volunteers, training will be offered to achieve the Basic Expedition Leader Award.
  • You will receive formal first aid qualifications.
  • Assistance will be given to committed volunteers who wish to attain Summer Mountain Leader Qualifications.
  • You are entitled to free loan of outdoor equipment whilst active with Award activities.
  • You are insured whilst participating in activities.
  • You undergo Police Record Checks which can aid future employment in youth work.
  • You receive support and supervision from more experienced leaders until you are happy to take charge of a group yourself. Even then its unlikely you will be left on your own.
  • There is no minimum or maximum amount of commitment required although you must be reliable.
  • You'll be working in a close knit and friendly team.

If you think this may be something which could interest you then please call the Open Award Centre on Dundee (01382) 435866 anytime and ask to speak to Grace Chalmers (The Award Officer) or Stephen Page (Expeditions Section Coordinator) - Email. If you live outwith the Dundee area but would like details of Award Groups near you then please contact the Regional Offices of the award. Contact details are available at

Revised Land Reform Bill published

By Steve Page

The Land Reform Bill, which is designed to open access to the Scottish countryside and provide rural communities with the opportunity to turn their hopes of land ownership into reality, has been published. The Bill is divided into three parts: access, community right to buy and crofting community right to buy. The following lists some of the key changes which are relevant to the many individuals who take pleasure and enjoyment from outdoor access:

  • The provision in the draft Bill to allow temporary suspension of access rights by landowners has been removed.
  • No new criminal offence of trespass is created.
  • The provision to allow local authorities to exclude people from land has been dropped.
  • The issue of liability has also been revised to ensure that when determining duty of care on the part of the landowner, the fact that someone was exercising rights when injured, will have no bearing.
  • The duties of local authorities to uphold access rights and to plan for and establish networks of core paths has been more clearly defined.
  • A right of responsible access is not applicable to land with growing crops and this has been widened to include grass intended for hay and silage, but not to pasture.

Justice minister Jim Wallace said: ''The changes we have made strengthen the purpose of the Bill which is to provide certainty and security for those wishing to enjoy the pleasures of the countryside without constraining land operations. The Bill puts into law what responsible landowners have recognised and encouraged for years. It now establishes a clear, unambiguous right. Irresponsible landowners who sought to block responsible access will no longer be able to do so,'' he added. Published as a White Paper in July 1999, a draft Bill was published in February this year and an extensive consultation followed, attracting more than 3,500 responses. The Land Reform Bill was introduced before the Scottish Parliament on November 27 and published on November 28. Summary of main changes to Part 1 of the Bill:

  • Inclusion of specific reference to "responsible" exercise of access rights (section 2).
  • Reciprocal obligations on landowners to act responsibly (section 3).
  • Clarification that in determining whether a member of the public or a landowner is acting responsibly, regard should be had to the Code. In other words, the Code has evidential status in determining responsible behaviour (sections 2 & 3).
  • Specific provision that occupiers' liability is not affected by this legislation. The effect of this is that the fact that someone was exercising access rights when injured is to be ignored in determining the duty of care in the particular circumstances (section 5(2)).
  • School grounds contiguous to a school excluded from access for reasons of child protection (section 6(b)(iii)).
  • Exclusion of cropped land from access extended to include grass grown for hay or silage (section 7(7)(b)).
  • Access to golf courses restricted to passage, and not for purpose of recreation (section 9(1)(e)).
  • Business and commercial activities excluded from access rights (section 9(2)(a)).
  • Duty placed on SNH to promote compliance with Code (section 10(7)).
  • Duty placed on local authorities to "assert, protect and keep open from obstruction or encroachment any route or other means by which access rights may reasonably be exercised (section 13).
  • Duties of local authorities clarified and expanded in relation to planning for, establishing and keeping open systems of core paths (sections 17 - 21).
  • Provision included relating to protection of the natural heritage (section 26).
  • Powers of local authorities to suspend access rights for reasons of emergency dropped (section 8 of draft Bill).
  • Provision to allow temporary suspension of access rights by landowners dropped (section 9 of draft Bill).
  • Offence provision dropped (section 15 of draft Bill).
  • Exclusion provision dropped (section 16 of draft Bill).

Land Reform Bill reaction

The Mountaineering Council of Scotland (MCofS) has issued a cautious welcome to the Land Reform Bill (as introduced), but has warned hillwalkers, climbers and mountaineers not to take their eye off the continuing threats to their freedom. Commenting on the latest version of this proposed legislation, president John Donohoe said: "We welcome the changes from the draft as they remove the worst threats to our access rights. We believe this has happened because of the strength and the depth of feeling among walkers and climbers expressed in the considerable number of responses to the draft Bill and the Open Scotland access petition." The MCofS believes that there is still a huge amount of work to be carried out on this Bill in order to arrive at a final piece of legislation that is workable, respects the right to take responsible healthy recreation in the countryside, and which 21st century Scotland can be proud of. Speaking of the remaining threats to the long held campaign for a statutory right of access to be enshrined in law, MCofS Access & Conservation Officer, Mike Dales, commented, "This latest version of the Bill still contains some clauses that are of great concern to us. For example, clauses such as the one giving local authorities the option of enforcing night-time curfews may be intended to address urban fringe problems, but as currently written could be interpreted in a completely different way by the owner of a remote estate and his friendly local councillor." The Scottish Parliament Justice 2 Committee has invited written evidence from interested individuals and organisations, and will be taking oral evidence in January. The MCofS will be submitting written evidence on behalf of its members, and hopes to be given the opportunity to give oral evidence to the committee in the New Year.

The Scottish Rights of way and Access Society, involved in safeguarding access throughout Scotland for the past 156 years, welcomes the positive step towards even greater freedom of access for all recreational users & cyclists, horse riders, walkers and others - implicit in the revised bill. Sandy Valentine said they particularly appreciate the fact that the Scottish Executive has recognised the responsible attitude adopted by the vast majority of recreational users during the unfortunate Foot & Mouth episode by removing the more restrictive measures and criminilisation proposals contained in the original Draft Bill. He said: ''We continue to believe that the general public would be better served, and confusion avoided, by adopting some of the additional proposals contained in our supplementary recommendations with regard to rights of way since the existence of two different strands of access provision is likely to give rise to difficulties that could be avoided with relatively simple alterations to the proposed legislation. We shall continue to press for consideration of this matter, as we did in 1990 and 1997.''

Dave Morris, director of the Ramblers Association Scotland said: "We are pretty pleased with what we have seen. There have been some substantial changes which reflect the result of the public consultation and also the petition to parliament of 150,000 signatures." Mr Morris said some aspects of the bill still needed to be simplified, particularly in relation to access to land where crops were growing. 
Opposition parties welcomed many proposals contained in the legislation but said it was a "missed opportunity" that shied away from "radical reforms".

Scottish National Party justice spokeswoman Roseanna Cunningham said there were still "areas of concern" and accused the Scottish Executive of performing an "utter u-turn" on the issue of land access. She said: "Local authorities still retain too much power to close down access to land or exclude particular activities from the right to access. Some of the restrictions on access remain too tight - for example will the ban on exercising access to golf courses for recreational purposes mean that kids will be banned from sledging on them in the winter? I have a real concern about what effect the bar on commercial activity might have, for example, on mountain guides and companies that run walking holidays."

Scottish Green MSP, Robin Harper, also welcomed several elements of the legislation but said it amounted to a "token Bill that will achieve little". He added: "Two thirds of Scotland's rural land is owned by only a thousand or so individuals and this Bill is unlikely to change the situation significantly for a very long time. What is worrying is that the hand of the landowners is present in the bill and they've been able to use their influence to prevent more radical legislation."

The National Trust for Scotland welcomed the basic principles of the bill. Chief executive Dr Robin Pellew said: "The trust is pleased to see that the access proposals in the bill reflect the recommendations of the Access Forum better than those in the earlier draft. The proposed right of responsible access to land and water acknowledges Scotland's long tradition of access to the countryside."

£15m CairnGorm Funicular opens

The £15 million CairnGorm Funicular railway made its inaugural run with 60 guests, including local residents from the Badenoch & Strathspey, many of whom have been involved in skiing at Cairngorm for several decades, on December 23. With snow falling to create a totally seasonal setting on the mountain, the UK's first high-speed funicular railway, a high-tech replacement for the 40-year old chairlift, carried its first fare-paying passengers from early tomorrow on Christmas Eve. Exactly forty years to the day - 23rd December, 1961 - when the first White Lady chairlift was launched, the first two passengers aboard the new Cairngorm Funicular had firm links with the previous chairlift. Georgie Crook from Inverness, then a four-year old, had been the first passenger on the original chairlift in 1961, along with her brother, David McIntyre, and Norman "Plumb" Warrel, from Aviemore, was the final passenger on the chairlift prior to its de-commissioning on April 18, 2001. Hamish Swan, Chairman of CairnGorm Mountain Ltd., paid tribute to those early visionaries of the 1960s, describing them in the words of late US Senator Robert Kennedy as people with "the vision to see things that never were and ask 'Why Not?'" He said: "That same question - Why Not?" - along with many others, has been asked time and time again over these several years as we have successfully overcome the various obstacles and hurdles placed in our path. Every time the answer has been found to have had the highest environmental, economic and legal integrity. "At the same time, this new funicular has also been a catalyst in bringing different interests together to deliver a whole package of benefits to the local community and to achieve a genuine balance between recreational, environmental and economic land use within a sensitive area. "The lessons that we have learned from this scheme should become a template for other parts where differing and diverse interests and points of view have to live together in harmony for the greater benefit of the entire community,'' Mr Swan added. Recognising what clearly had been a team effort, particularly in getting the funicular railway ready in time to meet with HMRI's approval to run with passengers, Mr Swan paid tribute to his own team, some of whom have been involved with the project since its earliest days. Mr Swan continued: "Everyone involved at CairnGorm Mountain Ltd, and its predecessor the Cairngorm Chairlift Company, should be very proud to have delivered this first phase of the project on time and against what often appeared to be formidable odds. Throughout it all, they carried the belief that someday it would all be in place, had the confidence and commitment to try to make it happen as quickly as possible, and possessed the tenacity and drive required to see it up and running in time for Christmas." First suggested by winter sports pioneers in the 1950s, development of the railway was beset by opposition from conservationists, which was finally thrown out by the Court of Session in 1999. More than £12million of the cost of the railway has come from Highlands and Islands Enterprise, with other funding coming from the EC. It is expected the new railway, which can carry 1,200 passengers an hour in winter, will increase visitor numbers on the mountain from the present 50,000 a year to 165,000 a year. A new shop, restaurant and exhibition development is currently taking shape at the top station. Bob Kinnaird, Chief Executive of CairnGorm Mountain Ltd added: "This is a historic day for everyone involved in the project and we can now get on with the job of operating the railway for the benefit of tourism across the Scottish Highlands. We took nothing for granted at any stage and the decision to allow us to carry passengers demonstrates that we have complied with every regulation. "What is not immediately evident, but will become so as the project develops, matures and is carefully managed, is the manner in which we have also complied with regulations and standards imposed by others, such as Scottish Natural Heritage and all of the other environmental bodies that have kept a watchful eye on us throughout. SNH has declared itself well satisfied with what had been achieved. "We have introduced some of the most comprehensive environmental management schemes ever seen and our monitoring systems cover all forms of wildlife, plants, climatolgy, geology and geomorphology as much as paying attention to the impact of man and the related recreational uses of a mountain environment. "We are up and running but the project is far from finished. Even operating the funicular railway will see minor changes evolving and we will have a running-in period over the next few months before we can run at full speed and capacity. During this time, it is inevitable that adjustments will be made and there may even be the odd time when we close the system down for a couple of hours to make adjustments under operational conditions. "However, the most important fact is that, in partnership with many others, some Scots, some Swiss, we have delivered a high quality product on time, within budget and to the high standard expected and given tourism across the Highlands, and particularly within Monarch Country, the best possible Christmas present." Highlands and Islands Enterprise chairman Jim Hunter said: "I am genuinely delighted that the funicular railway, for which we've been waiting for so long, is now up and running and poised to make a significant contribution to the tourist economy, not only of Badenoch and Strathspey, but to Scotland as a whole. I am confident it will prove to be a key attraction for the area attracting many visitors - not only snow-sports enthusiasts in the months ahead, but the general public through the rest of the year. " Getting ready for an expected massive influx of visitors over the next few days, Tania Adams, the company's Sales and Marketing Director, said: "Interest in what we are doing has been building up steadily over the past few months and this will be a popular outing for visitors over the Festive Season. However, it has to be remembered that the funicular is only one part of the CairnGorm Mountain Experience, the rest of which is not due to be completed until next Spring. Unless skiing is possible, there is very little to see at the top but people may wish to come along and enjoy the experience of riding in the UK's only high-speed funicular. After so many procedural delays over the years, who can blame them?" Ticket prices for the new CairnGorm Funicular are very much in line with those for other major visitor attractions across Scotland with adult tickets costing £7.50 and tickets for children (16 and under) costing £5. There will also be concession tickets at £6.50 for senior citizens and students along with a Family Ticket costing £25.00 being valid for two adults and two children with a third child travelling free.