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ForestHarvest: non-timber forest products in Scotland

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Gathering NTFPs - Access issues

Walking across private land in Scotland is not a criminal offence as long as you do not cause any damage to property, crops or livestock. Nevertheless the landowner may insist on your leaving with good cause. According to the Criminal Justice & Public Order Act (1994), mass trespass with intent to interfere with management of land is an offence.

If an individual persists in disobeying instructions to leave with due cause, the Trespass (Scotland) Act (1865) may be invoked. Other Acts prohibit specific activities such as hunting without permission of the landowner. Armed trespass is a serious criminal offence.

Land Reform (Scotland) Act, 2003

The laws of access to the Scottish countryside changed with the introduction of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act, 2003, and with the accompanying guidelines, the Scottish Outdoor Access Code [PDF file].

These two documents need to be considered together. The Act provides a right of access to land and to inland water, so long as those exercising the right comply with the Access Code. The detail, therefore, is in the latter document, which legally acts as a guideline to what is "responsible behaviour".

Most significantly, the 2003 Act makes the harvesting of NTFPs for commercial purposes without the consent of the landowner a criminal offence (previously it was a civil offence only). This is an important change whose consequences in practice are not yet known.

 

Access to Forestry Commission land

Access to all land owned by the Forestry Commission is subject to FC Byelaws [PDF file].

These state: "No person shall in or on the lands of the Commissioners: dig up, remove, cut or injure any tree, shrub or plant, whether living or not, or remove the seeds therefrom, or dig up or remove any soil, turf, leafmould, moss, peat..."

However, the attitude taken may be different in practice - for example, public fungal forays actively encourage people to harvest wild fungi.

Gatherers who wish to know more should contact their nearest FC office or www.forestry.gov.uk.

 

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NTFP-relevant clauses in the Access Code

Land access is fundamental to people's ability to gather NTFPs. According to the Access Code:

  • "Customary picking of wild fungi and berries for your own consumption is not affected by the legislation."
  • "You can exercise access rights for ... certain commercial purposes" (such as outdoor pursuits, writing, photography)

But access rights do not extend to:

  • "Being on or crossing land or water for the purpose of taking away, for commercial purposes or for profit, anything in or on the land or water (for example, mushrooms or berries picked for commercial use)"
  • "land in which crops are growing"
  • "disturbing certain wild birds, animals and plants"

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