Minutes of Meeting of the Caithness Local Access Forum held in Ross Institute, Halkirk on Monday 21st August, 2006 at 7.00 pm





Mr Ken Butler (Chairman)

Mr William Bruce (Vice Chairman)

Mr Peter Blackwood

Mrs Elena Koponen-Baikie

Councillor John Green

Councillor Graeme Smith

Stephen Fraser (from end of Item 4)


In Attendance:


Mr Geoff Robson, Head of Environment, HC

Mr David Barclay, Access Officer, HC

Mrs Fiona Sinclair, Area Solicitor/Administrator, HC (Clerk)

Adair McIvor (representing SEERAD)






1. Apologies for Absence


Apologies for absence were intimated on behalf of Willie Beattie, Cath Clark, Chris Hobson, Robert Coghill, David Shaw and David Hall.



2. Chairman’s Remarks


The Chairman thanked David Barclay for his work in the consultation exercise in relation to the Core Path network.  He advised the Forum that a new member would be appointed at the Caithness Committee Meeting on 28th August.


3. Minutes Of Meeting Held on 19th June 2006


The Minutes of the Meeting held on 19th June were held as read and were approved.


Arising from the Minutes Mr Bruce referred to the e-mail sent by the Customer Relations Advisor at ScotRail to the Clerk intimating that the trains from Inverness amd Wick to Forsinard and Altnabreac accommodate between two and six bicycles.  Mr Bruce said that he did not feel that this information was correct and said that he would pursue the matter with ScotRail.


4. Presentation by SEERAD           


The Chairman introduced Adair McIvor from SEERAD who was attending the meeting to speak about Land Management Contracts.  Mr McIvor said that land management contracts were introduced in Scotland in 2005 to encourage sustainable land management.  He said that it is a whole farm system of support which makes payments for the delivery of environmental, social and economic benefits for public good.  The LMC concept has three tiers:

Tier 1 – the single farm payment and cross compliance – Tier 1 secures a basic level of environmental protection, food safety and animal welfare.

Tier 2 – LMC Menu Scheme – Tier 2 delivers widespread benefits leading to economic, social and environmental improvement.

Tier 3 – this under development for 2007, and will deliver tailored benefits leading to economic, social and environmental enhancement.


Tier 1 – The Single Farm Payment Scheme (SFPS) in Scotland is calculated on a historical basis.  The reference period is the years 2000, 2001 and 2002 and the payments are de-coupled from production.  Approximately 20,000 land mamagers receive a share of the total pay out of  £420 million.  The Tier 1 scheme insures that agricultural land is covered by the requirements of “Cross Compliance”.  Cross Compliance recognises the statutory responsibility of farmers towards the environment, food safety and animal health and welfare.


Tier 2 – The aim of the menu scheme is to give flexibility and choice to land managers.  The memu provides a range of measures suited to the range of land management activities and land types throughout Scotland.  There are many options to choose from.  Farmers and crofters can use the menu to choose which activities they would like to carry out.  The activities chosen will depend on the farmers or crofters’ circumstances.


A single application form is now used instead of the IACS forms.  Application must be made each year before the 15th May.  In the first year of the LMC Menu Scheme there were 10,000 participants, which is almost 50% of land managers.  The scheme provides for access maintenance and environmental issues.  One strand of the scheme relates to improving access (option 15) which has the aim of helping the public exercise their access rights in terms of the Land Reform Act of 2003.  Such a scheme should satisfy one of the following three requirements, it should provide a link to a local path network, give access to points of attraction or meet a local need for some other clear purpose.  To participate in this element of the scheme the land manager would be expected to get in touch with the local authority access officer. Entry into the scheme binds a land manager to the scheme for five years with an annual payment given for the  approved project.


The technical specification for improving access paths are that the paths be well drained, fit for purpose, free of all obstructions, signposted and waymarked and regularly maintained.  The appropriate width  for such paths is 1.2 metres, and they should be free of obstruction for 2.3 metres in height.  Other requirements are that there be a map showing the location of the path and that the capital items be shown on the map e.g. gates, stiles.


The payments for improving access are made per metre of path, and a percentage of the vouched costs up to a maximum of £150 per item for signposts, waymarkers, gates, stiles, bridges, culverts etc.  Mr McIvor detailed the number of participants for each of the Caithness parishes in the years 2005 and 2006 as follows:


 Number of Payments in 2005
 Additional Participants in 2006
 Total Access Payments


Mr McIvor continued by explaining that in terms  of the rural stewardship scheme,  the countryside premium scheme and the habitat scheme checks are made to ensure that the projects comply with the rules of the different schemes.  If any schemes don’t comply then payments may decrease, there may be a penalty, and repayments with interest may require to be made.  The number of paths improved in Caithness in metres are as follows:                          

 Total Length (metres)


The paths which are the subject of the applications vary from 1600 metres in length right down to 100 metres.


Mr Barclay explained that this is the first universal Scotland wide scheme which pays a Land Manager for access maintenance.  He said that it made Land Managers think of the scheme in positive terms.


Discussion followed as to whether it would be possible to include the new paths in a tourism booklet in order to promote the path usage.  Mr McIvor is to find out the extent of the information he could provide to the Forum and make it available.


The Forum noted that some farmers use the scheme to enable them to construct paths to manage public access away from the places which would inconvenience or create further land management issues for the farmers, and the Forum agreed that the existence of the scheme should be included in the Forum’s Public Relations Strategy. 


The Chairman thanked Mr McIvor for his enlightening talk at which point Mr McIver left the meeting.                     


5. Access Officer’s Report


A copy of Mr Barclay’s report is appended to the Minute of this meeting. 


With regard to Reay Golf Club, it was agreed that consideration of the matter be deferred until either Chris Hobson or a representative from Scottish Natural Heritage are present at the meeting, investigations being ongoing at the moment.


Regarding the issue of potential diversion of the route by the keepers cottage at Braemore the Forum was satisfied that the short diversion was a reasonable one. Signage issues should also be considered in the area. Ongoing liaison with the Estate and keeper was suggested with the Forum being kept informed of progress from the access officer.


With regard to the public notices posted in the local press regarding deer stalking in the Braemore and Langwell areas, the Forum noted the situation and agreed that the Access Officer continue to speak to the new Factor.


Subject to the foregoing the Forum noted the terms of the report.


6. PR Strategy          


Mr Robson reported that this had been considered by all the Access Forums and that there was an opportunity to add some final matters.  He suggested that the communications database should include the various youth groups.  Mr Butler suggested that Mr Barclay prepare a 30-40 minute lecture which could be used for such groups as the WRI, a useful network for people.  It was also suggested that the Forum have stands at the Education Forum and the County Show.  It was agreed that the Forum would wait until the revised guidance had come out from the Paths for All Partnership as this would give a framework for the Forum’s public relations strategy. 


7. Progress with Tasks


Caithness Core Planning update – Mr Barclay reported on his attendance at the County Show and Latheron Show, the results of his mailshot to landowners/managers and his visits to some of the smaller communities.  He said that there had been 177 paper responses and 17 e-mail responses to the widely circulated questionnaire and that there would be some form of analysis of the responses at the next meeting of the Forum. 


Access Strategy – It was noted that this should be approved by the end of May 2007 and that a reminder will be inserted in the document to the effect that the Highlands is a 2working landscape as there are concerns that the document is too aspirational. 


Code of Conduct – This had been ratified by the Highland Council Planning, Development, Europe and Tourism Committee at the end of May.


8. Any Other Business        


It was suggested that at the meeting on 23 October there be some discussion on the possibility of holding an annual meeting open to members of the public and that on 11 December access issues for paddle sports be discussed.


There being no further business the Chairman closed the meeting.