COVID-19 Advice

Scottish Outdoor Access Code Latest Advice

  • The current outbreak of COVID-19 is an unprecedented national emergency and is a challenge for everyone. Staying at home has become the only way of slowing the spread of this virus and giving our NHS the chance to cope and save lives.
  • Under current guidance, it is only permitted to leave your home for specific reasons, including to take exercise, alone or with other members of your household, and no more than once a day.
  • Essential workers, including farmers who are helping to maintain the nation’s food supply and have important animal welfare responsibilities, must be allowed to go about their business without interference or fear of unnecessary exposure to COVID-19

The current coronavirus pandemic is a difficult and anxious time for the public and land managers and we can all play a part in the important action needed to keep ourselves and other people healthy and safe. A statement by Scottish Ministers sets out what exercising rights of access responsibly means during the COVID-19 emergency.

Staying active and connecting with nature on a regular basis is very important for everyone’s health and well-being. Current Government rules allow people to take one outing for exercise per day – walking, running or cycling, either alone or with members of the same household.

Rights of responsible access to most land in Scotland, including paths, continue to apply. It is important to emphasise that, as always, these rights depend on responsible behaviour, both by the public and land managers. This is particularly important at this time when many people are using new and unfamiliar local areas for daily outdoor exercise. This is also an important time of year for farmers and other land managers, in particular, because lambing is taking place and many fields will contain young livestock and newly planted crops. It is therefore essential to comply with the Scottish Outdoor Access Code.

Advice to the Public

When visiting the outdoors during the coronavirus outbreak, you must follow this guidance:

  • stay local - please do not travel in your car to take exercise; please make use of the paths, open spaces and quiet roads in your local area
  • maintain social distancing – stay at least 2m away from other people – including people who are working in the outdoors – and try to avoid popular paths or places at busy times. Be prepared to slow down or stop if needed to help maintain the necessary distance from others. If you meet other people on a narrow path, pass quickly but courteously and try to leave as much space as possible
  • avoid touching surfaces like gates as much as possible – try to plan a route that does not require you to open gates. Wash your hands or gloves as soon as you get home
  • if you have a dog, keep it on a lead or close at heel on farmland. Scottish Government guidance for owners of companion animals and livestock indicates that dogs from self-isolating households should be kept on a lead at all times, avoiding contact with other people and animals. If threatened by cattle, release your dog and take the shortest route out of the field
  • avoid fields with young calves or lambs - go into a neighbouring field or onto adjacent land
  • avoid fields with growing crops unless there is a clear path or field margin (remember that newly planted crops may not yet be obvious)
  • remember that Government rules specifically allow exercise rather than activities such as sunbathing or picnicking.

The police have a responsibility to enforce the special measures in respect to essential travel and social distancing and have powers to warn and fine people who are not following them.

As well as the special measures outlined above, you must continue to follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code.

For everyone:

  • take away all your litter
  • leave gates as you find them
  • respect the interests of farmers and others working the land – please follow all reasonable requests and signs that ask you to avoid places such as farmyards, fields with pregnant or young livestock, and other busy working areas

If you have a dog:

  • do not allow your dog to approach animals or people uninvited (in open country, it may not be obvious when animals are around)
  • where possible avoid animals - release your dog if threatened by cattle
  • always keep your dog in sight and under control – if in doubt use a lead
  • pick up and remove all waste

This is a temporary situation and it is more important now than ever to maintain good relationships between neighbours and within communities. This is not about restricting the general right of responsible non-motorised access to land but it is part of the wider approach to prevent COVID-19 deaths and preserving the nation’s food supplies.

Exercising access rights responsibly means respecting the needs of other people, and you will need to adapt your behaviour accordingly in the national effort to contain the spread of COVID-19.

Land managers should respect access rights, which are particularly important at this difficult time. If necessary, use helpful signs to highlight issues to users and suggest reasonable alternative routes.