IT is good to see that one of your readers, R Russell Smith, has been enjoying our wildlife and fresh air, having “walked over fields and alongside the burn close to home, enjoying the sunshine and company of lambs gambolling” (Herald letters, May 5).

We should all be doing this, exercising our statutory rights of public access to walk through Scotland’s fields.

The Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 established public access rights around every field margin for non-motorised users, including walkers, runners, cyclists and horse riders, and any person with mobility constraints who requires an appropriate form of motorised assistance.

The Act also required the production of a Scottish Outdoor Access Code and its approval by the Scottish Parliament. The records of the Scottish Parliament explain why MSPs decided that public access rights should apply to all field margins, even where these had been planted with a crop, as well as the “tramlines” or tractor tracks which traverse the fields, as well as any uncultivated ground between vegetable and fruit crops.

Seven pages of the Code explain how to take access in fields and how to manage that access.

Responsible behaviour by land managers is described as follows: “leaving uncultivated margins can help people to exercise rights responsibly and help to support wildlife so it makes sense, wherever possible, to do this”.

Fifteen years after the Act and Code came into effect, it is difficult to find evidence of any farmer following this advice around all their field margins. The majority continue to plough and plant right up to the fence line or bottom of the hedge.

This situation will change in the near future. Professor Sir Ian Boyd, a university academic at St Andrews and a former UK Government Environmental Chief Scientific Adviser, has indicated that up to half of UK farmland will need to be converted into woodland or natural habitat in the next few years to meet biodiversity and climate change objectives (The Herald, January 3).

The Chief Executive of Scottish Natural Heritage, Francesca Osowska, has reinforced this message by emphasising that we have “to deliver nature-rich solutions to the climate change crisis” and, as we emerge from the horrors of Covid-19, to spend time in our green spaces, accelerating progress to a society which recognises the interdependency of social, economic and environmental resilience (The Herald, May 4).

Scottish farmers must play their part, firstly by meeting their legal obligations under the 2003 Act and secondly, by helping in the design of future public funding support so that they can manage field margins in the best ways possible to meet biodiversity and climate change objectives.

A plan to do this should be in place before Scotland hosts the COP 26 international climate change conference next year in Glasgow.

Dave Morris,