THE proposed introduction of parking charges by Highland Council along the route of North Coast 500 is an absurd approach to visitor management along this specially promoted driving route (“Coining it: Concern at plans to install meters along the NC500", The Herald, January 25). It is new facilities, not parking charges, which are needed, funded by a tourism tax or from the local profits (£22 million per annum and counting) being generated by NC500, a project mostly funded through generous donations from outwith the Highlands. Furthermore, those promoting these parking charges need to be reminded that UK traffic legislation, for obvious health and safety reasons, permits vehicles to be parked up to 15 yards from the carriageway for reasonable rest purposes. That means vehicles can be parked, overnight if necessary, on any verge or farm or forest gateway in any part of the Highlands, without payment. Parking charges will simply displace vehicles to these locations. The landowner has no power to stop this, other than to go to court to try to obtain an interdict to stop the long-departed driver returning to that particular location. I know of no landowner who has wasted their money on such a futile challenge.

Lessons need to be learned from the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park whose efforts to control campervans through camping by-laws have been a complete failure, at great public expense, once they were informed about traffic law.

Lessons must also be learned from other European countries. During each of the last three years I have travelled to and from Norway by campervan, through Holland, Denmark, Germany and Sweden. Only in the far north, in Tromso, was payment made to stop overnight, on a campsite with good café, shower and laundry facilities. Everywhere else money was spent in local communities on food, fuel and visitor facilities, but not for parking. On mainland Europe all other countries appear to have better roadside facilities than Scotland. And one only needs to look at the pathetic laybys, a few feet away from the main carriageway, which are now under construction along the new A9 dualling, to realise that we are still decades behind the rest of Europe. Why is it that we can drive across mainland Europe, knowing that there is a multitude of stopping places available, free of charge, in every country, well set back from the main carriageway, but in Scotland we have minimum provision? The time is long overdue for all our councils to use their compulsory purchase powers to force reluctant landowners to give up land adjacent to our road network. Only then will we see decent parking spaces provided, free of charge.

Dave Morris, Kinross.

I WRITE in response to your recent article referring to “wild campers” and proposals by Fife Coast and Countryside Trust to introduce charges for camper vans and motor homes ("Wild campers face £10 nightly fee to stay at popular beauty spots across Fife", The Herald, January 22). The trust is clearly wrestling with how to manage an issue which is being faced by many communities across Scotland.

There is no doubt camper vans and motor homes offer a wonderful way to explore our country but this issue should not be confused with the right of people to exercise their legal right to “wild camp” using tents, and following the guidance provided by the Scottish Outdoor Access Code (SOAC). This is a completely separate matter and clearly defined on the website

“Access rights extend to wild camping. This type of camping is lightweight, done in small numbers and only for two or three nights in any one place. You can camp in this way wherever access rights apply...”

Given this article is clearly about an issue impacting on motor home and campervan users I would question the use of an image of a tent to illustrate the article and any suggestion that “wild camping may become a thing of the past in Fife”. Wild camping refers specifically to camping in a tent in accordance with the SOAC. For other forms of overnight stay outwith organised camping or caravanning sites the term “informal camping” avoids confusion.

Unfortunately, the use of the term “freedom camping” in this context only serves to confuse the matter further. Are we to imagine Scotland is a popular place to come and visit which is a positive on many levels, however this popularity has placed increasing pressure on a fragile tourist infrastructure which has been unprepared for the massive growth in camper vans and motor homes. Understandably communities and organisations are looking for a solution which I would hope is ultimately about providing a better quality of visitor experience.

So in defence of all those who exercise their right to pitch a tent and enjoy a genuine “wild camping” experience, and undertake those rights responsibly following the guidance of SOAC, can we please be clear about what we are talking about?

Stuart Younie, Chief Executive Office, Mountaneering Scotland, Perth.