Camper clampdown: Call for ‘dirty tourism’ prosecutions

Community leaders hit out at lack of action to tackle wild campers leaving litter and setting fires.

Camper clampdown: Call for ‘dirty tourism’ prosecutions

Community leaders in the Highlands are calling for prosecutions to clamp down on “dirty tourism” at beauty spots.

In the village of Durness, the number of wild campers has regularly outstripped the local population.

Fires, litter and bad parking have also been causing problems in the area.

Fines of £200 can be imposed, but STV News has learned none has been dished out during a post-lockdown tourism surge.

Tackling the problems of littering and dumping of general and human waste is primarily the responsibility of local authorities.

However, police and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency have also been part of a co-ordinated effort to deal with well-documented recent problems affecting countless communities across Scotland.

A spokeswoman for Highland Council said: “No tourist-related fixed penalty notices (FPNs) have been issued during lockdown by (our) environmental health service.”

She added that its officers were investigating claims of camper van illegally disposing of chemical waste and a wild camper leaving litter behind.

“If sufficient evidence is established, then a FPN will be issued in both cases,” she said.

Community council leaders said they wanted to see tougher enforcement action.

Kinlochbervie Community Council secretary Margaret Meek said: “I’m shocked that Highland Council have issued no fixed penalty notices and are only pursuing two cases.

“Although I’d imagine gathering sufficient evidence to pursue an individual case would be difficult, it seems clear the current measures to address the ‘dirty tourist’ problem are inadequate.”

Durness Community Council chairman Donald Campbell said: “I’m not surprised by Highland Council’s response.

“They haven’t put any staff in place to cover this area in order to enforce any litter or pollution infringements by tourists. If the same happened in Inverness it would be dealt with.

“If we, as locals, break the same law they seem to have the resources to deal with it. We can’t ask people to put themselves in danger by asking people to obey the law.”

Highland Council is keen to promote the fact that it welcomes lifeline tourism as “a crucial component of our local economy”.

It pointed out that there is no statutory requirement for it to provide public toilets, but that it supports communities taking responsibility for them through asset transfers or with bids to develop new facilities.

In an effort to prevent littering, council officials said there were bigger bins and more collections in key sites including Sutherland.

The council, together with the Highlands and Islands Local Resilience Partnership, has established a working group to tackle so-called “wild camping” issues.

The organisations are developing a leaflet for local communities to use to promote “responsible tourist/camping behaviour”.

Highland has applied for a £358,000 Scottish Government grant for infrastructure to provide enhanced waste services.

The council is also planning to develop a “visitor management plan” with the aim of addressing key tourism related concerns.

Police Scotland said local officers carry out regular patrols in the north-west Highlands to respond to concerns raised about irresponsible camping and parking.

Inspector James Rice said: “We’ll continue to work with our partners to address any antisocial or illegal behaviour and take the appropriate action.”

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said: “We’re aware of incidents of littering, antisocial behaviour and damage to our natural environment since lockdown restrictions began to ease, and are clear that this behaviour is completely unacceptable and disrespectful to local communities.

“We’ve taken exceptional measures in every area of government as we deal with the challenges of Covid-19 and that’s particularly clear in our support for local services.”

She said the Scottish Government had committed almost £330m of extra funding to local government, of which Highland Council would receive “a fair share”.