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IRR Seminar, University of Aberdeen 4 March 2009 Claiming rights to rural recreational space: Scottish access legislation in practice Katrina Brown Macaulay Land Use Research Institute Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 Probably the best access legislation in the world …

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IRR Seminar, University of Aberdeen 4 March 2009

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IRR Seminar, University of Aberdeen 4 March 2009

Claiming rights to rural recreational space: Scottish access legislation in practice

Katrina Brown

Macaulay Land Use Research Institute


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Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003

Probably the best access legislation in the world …


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Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003

  • ‘Right of responsible access’ came into effect in Feb 2005

    • established a clear statutory ‘right of responsible access’ to most land, inland water & intertidal foreshore for the purpose of passage, recreation, education & commercial activities

    • supported by the Scottish Outdoor Access Code (‘the Code’)

  • Notable because inclusive wrt:

    • places - rights extend to most land

    • practices - rights extend to all forms of non-motorised access

  • ‘Behavioural’ emphasis centred on notion of responsibility


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The enactment of Scottish access rights depends heavily on public understandings of reciprocal entitlements & responsibilities - and how they are put into practice


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Research questions

  • What senses of entitlement and responsibility underpin people’s ideas and practices of taking access in the countryside?

    • How does that effect the staking of various claims over rural space?

  • What is the role of the official framework (LRSA & ‘the Code‘) in this?

  • How are the entitlements & responsibilities of different modes of recreation harmonised?


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Diversification of recreation

  • Dominant modality though which rural outdoor recreation takes place is walking

  • Often privileging of particular kinds of walking

    • Romantic, quiet, contemplative, scenic etc …

  • Growth of alternative recreational mobilities :

    • new technologies

    • new ways of moving through & experiencing rural spaces

    • new identities

  • The new access legislation embraces this trend


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    Growing popularity of ‘adventure’ or ‘extreme’ sports globally

    • = potential disturbance of the claim of walking to rural spaces

    • mountain bikers pose a particular challenge because:

      • often seek similar affordances to walkers

      • fast-evolving technology

      • increasing policy legitimacy

      • increasing legal legitimacy


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    Carving space for new practices & entitlements

    • How are claims to recreational spaces asserted, negotiated and secured (or not) through ‘newer’ recreational mobilities such as mountain biking?

      • particularly given established normativities of recreation which privilege particular pedestrian forms of doing, being and experiencing in ‘the countryside’

    • Implications for the way rural space is performed, ordered & appropriated


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    Theoretical framing

    • Legal rights are socially situated

      • can only exist in a secure and meaningful way if they can be enforced by the broader collective

    • Legal rights have to be actively & continually enacted in and through practice

      • often involves corporeal practice & moral force

    • Must have moral as well as legal authority

      • requires power to assert – and communicate and persuade others of - the (il)legitimacy of a claim


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    Two methodological techniques

    • ‘go-along’: unstructured interview on-the-move

    • ‘headcam’ video ethnography: head mounted video camera worn by participant (with pre/post-outing interviews)

    for investigating walking & mountain biking in Aberdeenshire & Cairngorms National Park


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    Enactment unfolds through contested moral geographies of recreation

    • Mechanisms: various access claims compete for legitimacy through geographically contingent notions of entitlement and responsibility

    • Struggle to (dis)associate particular mobilities (& related identities, materialities, ways of moving & experiencing) with specific places & spaces


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    Privileging & undermining particular mobilities

    • Attempts to fix & resist the bounding of:

      • how landscapes ought to be experienced and enjoyed during outdoor recreation

      • where various recreationists ‘belong’ or are ‘out of place’

      • where/when/how such ‘bodies’ should move

  • Existing notions & hierarchies of rural entitlement can be disturbed, resisted or reinforced

  • Legal & cultural practices combine to privilege or undermine particular mobilities in particular spaces


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    Asserted moral ‘ownership’ by particular mobilities of:

    • particular spaces

      (e.g. these woods are “walkers’ woods” but those are “bikers’ woods”)

      b) particular types of space

      (entitlement tied to particular ascribed characteristics of spaces: e.g. ‘moorland’, ‘local’ or ‘remote’)


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    Domination of particular places by particular forms of recreational mobility

    • In most cases walking enactments continue to dominate

    • MTB enactments tend towards more marginal spaces & times

    • BUT in a minority of cases MTB taken over completely

    • Tend to be purpose-built, State-owned forest


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    Appropriation by particular mobilities of spaces constituted as of a particular kind or character

    • Serious resistance to MTB in areas deemed:

      • Remote, wild, open, mountainous or higher ground

    • Strong defence of superior or sole claim of walkers

    • YET precise geographical & temporal boundaries of appropriate & responsible (& therefore rightful) off-road cycling mobility are both performed & legitimated differently by different people.


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    Geographies of recreational enactments

    • Corporeal enactments

      • bodily presences/absences, comportment, facial expressions, social engagement

      • role of sensory & emotional experience

    • Normativities supporting or undermining legitimacy of various claims to recreational space


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    Normativities supporting or undermining legitimacy of claims

    • desired experiences & environmental qualities

    • environmental impact (damage or ambience)

    • presence & nature of infrastructure

    • technology & its construction as mundane (or not)

    • competence, skills and knowledge

    • prior claim

    • performance of social difference

    • effort & hardship


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    Environmental impact

    • “I wouldhave a huge issue if you were taking your bike up onto the Cairngorm Plateau and that’s just a completely personal view because I think it would be tough to argue that you were doing any more or less damage than the hundreds of pairs of feet that were going up there. I don’t know if that’s right or wrong, it feels wrong, and that’s why I’m not really into it but I don’t argue that from a factual base. It’s just more of a personal feeling”


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    Prior claim / infrastructure / env damage

    • “mountain bikes have a place that I don’t feel is a trip down the side of a mountain where it hasn’t been …[…]… its going to be doing more damage then possibly walking I may be wrong on that but that’s my perception of it …[…]… I’ve got no evidence whatsoever, but I just feel places like that isn’t, isn’t really what mountain biking or in my view is about …[…]… I would sort of cycle in as far as you could to point of you know you’re still on a path, a track whatever, but once that runs out I just sort of think you know this is the time you leave the bike rather than sort of saying we’ll still try and go along here, but you know you’re chewing up through, or you feel like you’re chewing up through”


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    ‘feeling’ / atmosphere

    • “I’d be really uncomfortable seeing a mountain biker at the top of Ben McDhui but it would be entirely possible to ride a bike up there, and actually with very minimum harm, because you could take a path from the car park at Cairngorm, up to the Cairngorm summit, down over the plateau and you’re not really going to be causing any damage. But I would find that quite sad, because for me like I said the experience is about the bleakness and the remoteness of it, and a bike to me detracts from that, but to other people it probably wouldn’t at all”


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    Environmental attunement

    • “Once you hit seven hundred metres you’re getting into an environment that’s a lot more fragile, not only that it’s a lot more hostile as well, and by that point you really need to know what you’re doing before you really go on up there …[…]… I think it’s more I don’t equate mountain bikers with people who necessarily understand all that”


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    Social attunement

    • “it’s just an ability or an inability to relate to people that…I don’t know. I see another walker and you know you’ll probably stop and pass the [time of] day a bit and so on. You don’t necessarily get that with a biker for a very good reason because they can’t stop or it’s inappropriate or whatever …[…]… because if it’s a walker you’re sharing the experience aren’t you, whereas with a biker you’re not. If I was on a bike and I met a biker it would be completely different. I’d be chatting about; ‘oh how did you find the terrain?’; ‘what’s in store for me?’, and all that kind of stuff”


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    Effort & hardship

    • “how are they going to feel if you are on top of the Munro, and they have walked about six hours to get there, and the other group are bikers?”


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    Prior claim / customary usage of walkers

    • “you don’t really want to see a mountain bike or a group of mountain bikers up there …[…]… they have got equal rights, but there is a difference between rights and being sensitive to other people … I might have a right to take my bike up to the top of Lochnagar, but I am not going to, it’s not really nice to anyone. …[…]… I know they are allowed, and it is not necessarily a problem, because very few people do it, and I don’t even know if I would mind if I did see a mountain bike, or a group of mountain bikes at the top, I would probably be startled and amazed. Wow! They must be fit, or something …[…]… it is more that walkers got there first”


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    • Access right enactments of various recreational mobilities are spatially and temporally bounded

    Struggle to fix & resist boundings (dis)associating particular mobilities with particular spaces & places


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    In the case of mountain biking

    • Enactments of access rights are still largely circumscribed by previously established cultures of access

      • e.g. there are places that mountain bikers can legally go – but dominant moral norms make it difficult or uncomfortable

    • Yet in a small number of – highly commodified - spaces there are new cultures of access where the opposite is true


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    Appropriation & moral ‘ownership’ by particular mobilities

    • of particular places

      •  ‘walkers paths or ‘bikers paths

    • of particular types of space

      • Mountain biking claims particularly circumscribed on mountains


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    Enacting access rights

    • Some evidence that recreational practices are informed by new legal arrangements

    • Taking access is not just about legal rights

    • Also depends on:

      • (pre)existing cultures of access

      • embodied practices & experiences of access

        …that influence which claims are privileged or undermined in particular spaces

    • Current legislation figures in these claims to legitimacy in various ways & to varying extents


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    This work will deepen our understanding of:

    how the specific mobilities through which rural spaces are performed & experienced relate to the control and appropriation of them


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