Everyone loves Loch Lomond. Its principal access, the A82, is under huge pressure simply because the loch is so beautiful and because it is so accessible from Scotland’s Central Belt. Carrying six million vehicles annually, it is also the gateway to the country’s first and foremost National Park as well as to Argyll and the West Highlands.

Yet decades of neglect by the authorities (including Argyll and Bute Council’s bizarre refusal to install litter bins in the road’s laybys) did nothing to discourage the widespread toileting, littering and fly tipping which until three years ago were major problems along the road between Balloch and Tarbet. It was a case of “If no one else gives a damn, why should I?”

In the spring of 2021, with the post-Covid lockdown surge to the countryside exacerbating visitor management issues in many areas, the Government introduced its “Green Recovery” capital grant scheme. Some local authorities were quick to seize the opportunity to improve facilities at their visitor hot spots, but there seemed to be little inclination to do much about the A82. It was against that background therefore that Friends of Loch Lomond and The Trossachs stepped in with a Green Recovery-funded visitor management scheme of its own. By the June of 2021 Portaloos had been installed at Duck Bay and Arrochar and 20 large-capacity litter bins inserted into selected laybys between Arden and Tarbet.

The transformation has been remarkable. I am not saying you won’t find any litter or evidence of toileting in the laybys now, but with local business sponsorship for some of the bins and financial assistance from the National Park and Argyll and Bute Council, we have been keeping on top of the problem. Practical help once a week from Argyll and Bute’s excellent Community Service team has also been very useful, tidying up when crows and foxes have got at the neatly-bagged rubbish people sometimes leave beside bins which are at capacity. With the laybys essentially litter-free, fly-tipping has been reduced and people are throwing less rubbish out of vehicle windows, resulting in much less litter on the verges.

However, that is where the good news for the south Loch Lomond stretch of the A82 might end. Green Recovery funding is now long gone and neither the National Park nor Argyll and Bute Council seems inclined to continue financial support for a third year. In spite of the looming “Tourism Tax”, local businesses have said they are willing to continue with their bin sponsorships, but that will never be enough. Annual servicing costs for the 20 bins are around £30,000. The portaloos and their servicing cost another £40,000.

Early in the new year, unless the authorities have a change of heart, The Friends will have no option but to remove the bins and to discontinue the provision of portaloos. In all likelihood the A82’s laybys and road verges will quickly return to the squalid condition they were in prior to 2021.

John Urquhart is Chair of The Friends of Loch Lomond and The Trossachs, a long established conservation charity which works in and around the National Park to provide for the protection and promotion of the area’s valuable special qualities.