Highlands and Islands MSP, Edward Mountain said: “The Scottish Government appears not to have thought about how to open up the Highlands safely. They have been completely incompetent when it comes to providing any kind of strategy.
“Midway through the pandemic, I suggested that farmers should be encouraged to set aside some fields for a more controlled version of wild camping, with the planning requirements waived temporarily. They could have charged a small fee, provided basic facilities, and most importantly of all, they could have taken the details of who was in the area for the track and trace system. That was dismissed out of hand.
“As it is, things are rapidly degenerating into a complete shambles. There is no record of who is coming into these rural areas. There are not enough facilities. Many campsites and toilets are still closed or partially closed. Glenmore is a case in point. The Scottish Government owns that site but the company that holds the lease has refused to open despite the fact that the facilities there are vital for managing the situation.
“Campervans have nowhere to dump their wastewater - I have been lobbying for some time for the Cairngorms National Park to open a greywater facility in Grantown on Spey but there is currently nowhere in that area and, regrettably, some of the vans are dumping the contents of their toilet tanks in laybys. We need to be more clever about reopening toilet and waste facilities so that visitors do not get the wrong impression when they arrive in the Highlands.
“People are camping in small village laybys, overlooking people’s homes. I have constituents who phone me regularly saying their bedrooms and gardens are being overlooked by campervans. Nobody wants that."
“There are a minority of people who behave irresponsibly but the vast majority of people who come to the Highlands come with the best of intentions. Tourists contribute a lot to the local economy and we need them to come and to spend money in local businesses.”