Highland Council could ban alcohol in a bid to halt the blight of dirty campers as fed-up communities say they have had enough
Get a digital copy of the Ross-shire Journal delivered straight to your inbox every week
A CALL has been made to stop “pussyfooting around” and get tough on tourists whose behaviour makes life unpleasant for locals and other visitors to the Highlands.
It came from Lochaber member Andrew Baxter at Highland Council’s tourism committee which considered the problems caused by wild camping this summer.
A ban on overnight parking and by-laws prohibiting alcohol consumption are among measures being considered.
While some have cautioned against a response that might put tourists off visiting Cllr Baxter said: “I think we are being too charitable and we are pussy-footing around when it comes to the behaviour of some visitors to the Highlands.
“I am going to underline that I think the vast majority of visitors are responsible and extremely welcome.
“But there is a small minority who are spoiling it for everyone else.
“I have communities which support alcohol by-laws to sort part of this problem, but the stumbling block (has been) the procurator fiscal’s office, who were not prepared to support these cases coming to the sheriff court.”
In a wide-ranging discussion council leader Margaret Davidson, having backed the closure of
public toilets in 2018, supported the idea of further investment in facilities while cautioning funds would not be easy to find.
She said a council officer had said existing toilets needed to be refurbished or rebuilt because they are “that important” to tourism but questioned: “How do we do that, because we can’t without money?
“We need to put our hands in our own pockets and when we get to looking at the capital programme and the revenue budget we must be aware of what we need to put in there to support the ambitions we have.”
Chairwoman Maxine Smith welcomed some creative suggestions to engage landowners to provide space for basic services for campervans.
The council, she said, was open to hearing from landowners interested in providing simple short stay facilities, known in Europe as aires.
“Primarily these provide short overnight basic stopping facilities for people on longer journeys that bring economic benefit to local businesses from those overnighting,” she said. “It may be that you are a farmer with a spare field or someone with a large garden, but we need to start thinking more commercially as well as trying to alleviate any issues caused by motorhomes.”
It is understood the council is looking at creating its own facilities at the northbound car park off the A9 at North Kessock.
“We welcome tourists in the Highlands, but we need to have the right infrastructure in place,” Cllr Smith said.