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'PATHS FOR ALL' INITIATIVE LAUNCHED IN SCOTLAND

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An initiative to give better access to walkers, cyclists and horse-riders around Scottish lowland villages, towns a...
An initiative to give better access to walkers, cyclists and horse-riders around Scottish lowland villages, towns and cities was launched at Battleby, near Perth, today by Scottish environment and rural affairs minister Lord Lindsay.

'Paths for All - The Scottish Way' aims to create and extend local path networks to enhance enjoyment of the countryside by Scottish people and also by visitors. A partnership of 15 organisations has been set up under the chairmanship of Magnus Magnusson, chairman of Scottish Natural Heritage.

Lord Lindsay said: 'The Paths for All initiative is committed to achieving solutions through dialogue and consensus, reflecting an approach which encourages partnership and mutual respect in the matter of access.

'Too often, access can be a matter of unnecessary and regrettable contention given that it depends crucially on inspiring trust, confidence and co-operation. The unilateral imposition of a legally prescriptive edict is unlikely to help the widely differing circumstances across Scotland in which access is sought and enjoyed. Much greater progress will be achieved through education, through changing attitudes and through multi-lateral solutions.

'Suspicion and anxiety with regard to access exists on both sides of the fence - visitors often uncertain where they might go and feeling unwelcome; land managers equally anxious about the impact on their activities of more people being on their land. Farms, especially those close to towns and cities, are subject to a range of pressures which make life difficult for farmers. Support and understanding are needed.

'I am also very conscious about the need to address the demand for recreational opportunities outwith towns. Without guidance, however, we cannot expect the public to be immediately sensitive to the concerns and constraints of the farming community.

'One of the main priorities of the partnership therefore should be to find ways to build trust and confidence between the visitor and those, such as farmers, who are responsible for the land being visited.'

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