Scottish Outdoor Access Code:
The land Reform (Scotland) Act, 2003, was brought in by the Scottish Government to establish a statutory framework of public Access rights to most of Scotland's land and inland water. These legal rights are based on the principle of reasonable access with obligations both on the access users and on the managers of the land/water. Guidance on these responsibilities is set out in the Scottish Outdoor Access Code 2005.
In England & Wales: Having researched the subject, this page on photo-wild aims to give guidance to other motorhome users as to what is (and what isn't) acceptable in terms of our use of a motorhome in Scotland and even, in some repects, within England and Wales. Certainly Road Traffic law in England & Wales is broadly the same as in Scotland - so in the absence of a Traffic Regulation Order you can stop and sleep in any road layby - complying with drivers hours legislation, HGV drivers do so regularly. Before leaving the subject of England and Wales, I understand that 'law of trespass' south of the border is generally a civil matter - and not a 'trespassers will be prosecuted' criminal issue. So treat the adage that 'wild motorhoming' in England and Wales is illegal, with some suspicion. There is certainly no UK statute that creates a blanket offence of staying in a motorhome elsewhere than on a caravan site.
Although the main content of this page deals with the law in Scotland, we use the same Scottish code and principles of responsibility when motorhoming in England and Wales. Like most Scottish legal principles they are, after all, based on common sense.
So most of this page deals with the Scottish Outdoor Access Code, under the Land Reform (S) Act. It may also be of interest to local land owners and land managers who have not, perhaps, researched the subject.
The full Scottish Outdoor Access Code 2005 can be downloaded in various formats, from their official site - click here.
In summary, however, the following points seem to be of particular note:
- Everyone has access rights under the code to most of Scotland's land and inland waterways, but only if that access is exercised responsibly. Importantly access rights can be exercised at any time of Day or Night.
- Such rights can be for recreational pursuits such as cycling, wild camping, walking, and photography (there's a long list).
- There are places where access rights are specifically excluded,
such as:- land adjacent to houses and gardens, land with growing crops,
schools, playing fields/golf courses etc, military bases etc, quarries
and construction sites, and places which charge for entry (a full list
in the code).
- Local Authorities can make by-laws limiting access if there is a local need, but only with due regard to the general principles of the 2003 Act.
- Motorised activities such as motor bike scrambling and off-road driving are (rightly) excluded as an activity (presumably due to the damage and disruption this might cause). However, the mere parking of a stationary vehicle, responsibly in a suitable place, is not a 'motorised' activity. Neither is merely sleeping in a stationary vehicle. Indeed para 3.19/20 of the code specifically deals with the need for access rights to be exercised at night when visiting remote places (provided it is done in a way not to cause alarm to local residents).
- Section 34 of The Road Traffic Act 1988 creates a criminal
offence of driving a motor vehicle elsewhere than on a road, without
authority. HOWEVER the Act
specifically states that it is NOT an offence if such off road driving
is for the purposes of parking the vehicle within 15 yards of a road. So,
for example, pulling off a few yards from a single track public road
(perhaps onto an informal unfenced layby) to park your motorhome is not
- Traffic Regulation Orders can be
enacted by local authorities to
limit or charge for parking (perhaps prohibiting overnight parking),
but they can only be made in certain circumstances (where there is a
particular local problem). Similarly by-laws can be made to restrict
access to land where there is a genuine local need, but in making the
by-law they must take into account the provisions of the Land Reform
(S) Act. In particular local authorities must display authorising signs
(usually white with blue bands) - advising the public of the existence
and provisions of a Traffic Regulation Order - otherwise it has no
Moreover the ordinary yellow 'No overnight parking' signs are not
legally enforceable and in some cases are now prohibited under the Land
Reform (S) Act. If there is a sign it should be a legal one.
- In general terms the code requires the public to exercise their access rights responsibly - BUT equally it also requires land owner/managers to act responsibly in any limiting of access. Specifically para 4.8 of the code comments that land owner/managers must not obstruct or hinder people from exercising their right of access either by physically obstructing access or by discouraging or intimidating them.