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Forestry and Land Scotland wins backing from environmental groups and landowners after pleading with public to take litter home and show more responsibility when visiting Ross-shire, the Highlands and wider Scottish countryside during the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic

By Philip Murray

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Mam Ratagan overlooking Loch Duich is one of Forestry and Land Scotland's many sites.
Mam Ratagan overlooking Loch Duich is one of Forestry and Land Scotland's many sites.

'SHAMEFUL' littering has sparked pleas to the public to show greater responsibility as the region welcomes greater numbers of visitors under eased lockdown restrictions.

Forestry and environmental groups have pleaded with visitors to Ross-shire beauty spots to take their litter home.

Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS), which manages many of Scotland's forests reminded the public while many car parks and beauty spots are now open, waste collection services may not yet be operational.

Their plea has been backed by Zero Waste Scotland, Keep Scotland Beautiful, Scottish Water, Scottish Natural Heritage and the country's two national parks.

It is hoped that this early appeal will encourage people to think carefully about when and where they want to travel to and that they will be considerate of local communities, other visitors and land management staff and take their litter home.

Simon Hodgson, Forestry and Land Scotland chief executive, said: “Although the travel limit has now been lifted, we are still in the process of getting staff back to work with new, safe-working practices that comply with the Scottish Government guidance. Many of our contractors are in the same boat so waste collection services might not yet be operational.

"And while many FLS car parks are now open, the toilets at some of our sites are not.

"So as Scotland gets re-accustomed to travelling further afield for leisure pursuits, we are appealing to the public to help avoid repeats of the selfish, irresponsible behaviour that over the past few weeks has seen many sites swamped by litter – or even despoiled by human waste.

"This sort of anti-social behaviour not only creates a significant health hazard but also eats in to the limited resources that land managers have at their disposal.

"We would urge people to first of all think carefully about their travel plans, and secondly to behave like people who are proud to be able to call such a beautiful country home: don’t visit sites until they are open and take your litter home."

Littering at one of Forestry and Land Scotland's sites in the Loch Lomond area.
Littering at one of Forestry and Land Scotland's sites in the Loch Lomond area.

As FLS returns to work, it has prioritised activities such as wildlife management, top-up spraying and ground preparation. However, together with other land management organisations, it has started a phased reopening with most car parks now open, and some mountain bike trails.

Mr Hodgson added: "The sad thing is, many of the people responsible for the littering would say they were proud to live in Scotland, and yet as we have seen over the past few weeks, they treat our beautiful countryside in this contemptible manner. It’s not acceptable."

Grant Moir, the CEO of the Cairngorms National Park Authority, is among those supporting FLS' stance. He said: "People come to the Cairngorms for the beautiful landscapes, scenery and the peace and quiet.Since the coronavirus pandemic we have seen an increase in visitors who are new to the park and we have worked hard to promote how people can enjoy the Park safely and responsibly.

"How visitors behave makes a huge difference to ensure everyone can enjoy the park so we ask that people are considerate towards each other, to nature and our local communities – in particular please take your litter home."

And, Francesca Osowska, the chief executive of Scottish Natural Heritage, added: "We are truly blessed in Scotland with our stunning national parks, nature reserves and trails and it’s up to everyone to help keep them that way, so we urge everyone to take all of their rubbish away with them and to follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code.

"Even a small piece of litter dropped can have devastating consequences for our wildlife on land, in the air and in our seas. So please take it home and as well as keeping Scotland beautiful, you could also could be saving a life."

And Barry Fisher, chief executive of Keep Scotland Beautiful, added that littering was even worse during the Covid-19 pandemic. He said: "Littering is illegal and unacceptable at any time. But now, when we are living through a health pandemic, it is really not OK to drop litter, to leave it in a park or on a beach, and to expect someone else to have to clear it up.

“Our message is clear – bin it, and if you can’t, take it home!”

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