By Lucy Ashton
However, it may take a tourism tax or a new visitor levy to keep it going.
Tory MSP Edward Mountain (Highlands and Islands) asked First Minister Humza Yousaf whether extra resources will be made available to local authorities for additional rangers to help with the reported upcoming tourist influx in rural Scotland.
But he was told: “We value the important work that our countryside rangers do. We have already provided a package of up to £3 million to the national parks, NatureScot and Forestry and Land Scotland to support seasonal ranger activity in 2023.
“That includes running another round of the successful better places fund, which last year supported more than 100 local authority and community ranger posts.
“For this year, recruitment is either well under way or has been completed for the majority of the posts. The posts include people who are employed directly by our public bodies and others who are supported through the better places fund.
“That complements our investment that is provided through our £18 million rural tourism infrastructure fund, which is helping to future proof popular countryside locations so that they can be enjoyed for generations to come.
“We have also introduced a bill to give councils the power to raise funds through a visitor levy, which will enable local authorities to invest in practical visitor management solutions.”
Edward Mountain replied: “Scotland leads the way on outdoor access rights. Walking and tourism are worth £1.6 billion to the Scottish economy, but we have seen a reduction in the amount of money that is paid, from £3.1 million to £900,000.
“I believe that it must be right that we reinforce success. Will the First Minister therefore consider giving extra funds to remote areas across the Highlands that would benefit from having rangers? That would stop dirty camping, which is obviously a major problem.”
The First Minister suggested that the visitor levy or tourism tax was the way to go – “I am grateful to Edward Mountain for raising the issue and for supporting the work that the Scottish Government, in partnership with local authorities, has taken forward.
“He will know that the fund that was introduced in 2021 was to support local authorities following the huge increase in dirty camping that resulted from lockdown and from reduced international travel opportunities.
“The fund was always intended to be a temporary means of support, so a reduction in funding is appropriate as we transition away from it. I take on board what Edward Mountain has said and will explore what more we can do in that regard.”
Top picture: Keen walker Karen Hood out on the hills above Loch Lomond.