THEY may like to see themselves as outdoors types seeking the chance to enjoy nature in all its unexploited, undeveloped and wild glory.

But now, wild campers could find themselves barred from pitching up at certain spots and forced to use designated campsites after concerns about a rise in litter and antisocial behaviour.

The Scottish Parliament is being asked to consider new legislation which would enable councils to prevent wild camping in areas regarded as inappropriate or particularly sensitive areas after a surge in problems along the popular North Coast 500 route.

It comes amid rising concern over the mess some wild campers leave behind, including toilet waste, broken bottles and litter, plus their environmental impact – from damage to fragile landscapes caused by tyre tracks to chemical spillages.

In some cases, wild campers have been accused of chopping down trees to start campfires which in turn raises the risk of wildfires, parking their vehicles overnight on blind corners or in single-track road passing places, and scorching grass with camper van cleaning chemicals.

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Human faeces left by wild campers has been found in picturesque spots such as Balnakeil Beach near Durness and even in a church graveyard.

Now a petition launched by Highland SNP councillor Kirsteen Currie suggests legislation is needed to allow councils to create “no wild camping” zones in order to protect the environment and infrastructure.

She said the problem rests with a particular group of travellers who fail to respect the places they visit and can be aggressive when challenged.

She said: “People causing problems by roadside camping in really inappropriate, selfish places are not your ‘put on gaiters and go for a nice walk Munro-baggers’. They’re not hillwalking and outside types.

“They are people who don’t want to spend £5 or £15 to use a campsite. And when someone challenges them – such as someone I know who asked a family to pick up dirty nappies they had left behind on a beach – they are met with aggression.

“And it doesn’t matter how many Countryside Code leaflets you print out, they are not reading them. I don’t want to impinge on anyone’s rights to roam, I want to stop people having the right to make a mess.”

The petition says the impact of wild camping, particularly on the NC500 route, has been “considerable” and adds it has become “exceptionally problematic for local authorities and public bodies to deal with and at great expense to the public purse”.

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It points out that the problem isn’t restricted to the areas which line the NC500 route, with complaints about the impact of wild campers emerging from the Western Isles and other Scottish tourist hotspots across the country.

In it, Currie adds: “Informal encouragement has not been sufficient to stop the degradation of our infrastructure and environment.

“Even with an increased focus on responsible camping from public authorities and the NC500 organisation, the situation appears to be getting worse rather than better.

“The route of the NC500 is becoming totally unsuitable for small rural communities in the north of Scotland.”

The NC500 tourist trail has been credited with transforming tourism to Scotland’s northwest coast since its launch in 2015.

Most travellers opt to start at Inverness and take in a 516-mile loop around the northern tip of the mainland, before eventually returning to the Highland capital.

Part of its charm is the long distances travellers can cover without encountering the distractions of modern life, around one-fifth of it on narrow, single-track roads.

With accommodation limited to small B&Bs, inns and hotels, many visitors opt to travel the route in campervans or with tents for camping under the stars.

But while the route is said to have added at least £10 million to the region’s economy and brought over 30,000 visitors, people living in the area have become increasingly outspoken over the impact of tourism on their fragile environment.

Wild camping is legal in Scotland. However, campers are expected to stick to the Scottish Outdoor Access Code which suggests it should involve camping for just two or three nights at a time and be “lightweight”, with small numbers of people and no trace left on the natural surroundings.

According to the Holyrood petition, no camping zones would allow local authorities to encourage responsible tourism and encourage campers to use campsites and their facilities to dispose of waste properly.

It could see camping banned at increasingly popular wild camping sites near cities in areas such as Ayrshire, West Dunbartonshire, Fife, East Lothian and Aberdeenshire.

The petition does not set out to ban wild camping entirely, just from areas close to roadsides which are becoming overwhelmed with campers.

Wild camping has already been outlawed around parts of Loch Lomond.

But there are concerns about how stringently councils will impose the no camping rules which could affect mountaineers and walkers who want to pitch a tent during overnight expeditions.

Responses to the online petition have included comments which support the call and highlight individual problem areas. One claims that campervans park within 250 metres of a campsite in Tongue rather than use its facilities, while another said simply: “Done seeing bins overflowing in the middle of nowhere and people having a ‘number two’ outside their camping site.”

Another wrote: “Having visited the south side of Loch Tummel for nearly 20 years it has been devastating to witness the rubbish people leave behind when wild camping.

“Some of my favourite walking spots are now no-go areas due to human waste and view spots are ruined by rubbish.”

Others, however, spoke out against the idea of legislation with one commenting: “Eroding the rights of all citizens is not the answer.”

Another said: “Imposing complete bans totally ruins it for those acting responsibly and goes against everything the current outdoor access code stands for.”

Helen Todd, Ramblers Scotland’s campaigns and policy manager, said: “Sadly there are ongoing issues in hotspot areas with an antisocial minority who are damaging the environment, the reputation of campers and the outdoor experience for everyone who loves our countryside.

“The entire outdoor community shares the frustration of residents about these people, whose selfish actions impact upon communities, landscapes and the thousands of responsible people who enjoy camping away from formal sites across Scotland.

“We are calling for antisocial camping to be tackled through stronger enforcement of the existing laws, provision of facilities and more low-cost campsites, and investment in education on responsible access – rather than new costly and ineffective laws or by-laws, which themselves would need enforced.

“In many instances, responsible roadside camping away from houses is legal, legitimate and simply the best option.

“For example, winter climbers arriving late ahead of a pre-dawn start, cycle tourers, disabled campers who benefit from being near their car, canoeists and anglers at road-circled lochs and long-distance walkers.”

She added: “Rather than banning campers, the best solution is to try out various visitor management measures, such as investment in infrastructure like low-cost campsites, toilets and litter bins, and lots of education. This should be monitored and adjusted as time goes on to find out what works best.

“In addition, enforcement of existing legislation like breach of the peace, vandalism and littering can be carried out by the police in areas known to be hotspots.

“I don’t think anyone involved with setting up NC500 expected it to be as spectacular a success story in terms of numbers, but the infrastructure is not there. They put the cart before the horse. A lot of public money was spent marketing this route but there was a failure to provide an effective infrastructure for anyone using it.”

A spokesman for North Coast 500 said: “Litter is a problem associated with most human activities and it should be recognised that residents are as likely to be responsible as visitors for negligent waste disposal. We encourage all visitors to the North Coast 500 to travel with respect for the environment. We share top tips on our website and social media channels in order to reach as many people as possible, including visitors and locals.

“This information includes content on anti-litter campaigns, details of campsites around the NC500 route, and advice on how visitors should dispose of their motorhome waste in the correct manner. We work with organisations such as Keep Scotland Beautiful to educate and encourage responsible and sustainable litter disposal along the route.”