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Council is called on to get tough on dirty campers while helping visitors with better facilities including potential investment in public toilets


By Scott Maclennan

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Thousands descended on the Highlands after the lockdown was lifted.
Thousands descended on the Highlands after the lockdown was lifted.

Highland Council has been urged by some of its own members to get tough on tourists who flout rules and make life difficult for locals through dirty camping.

Two of the measures considered are bans on overnight parking and by-laws prohibiting alcohol consumption in certain areas.

The lack of public toilets was also raised amid support for more investment from a senior council officer.

Following a wave of complaints about bad behaviour ranging from inappropriate parking at cemeteries and passing places to severe littering and in some cases defecating local have demanded a response.

So at this week’s tourism committee members considered some of the options to deal with the blight of dirty campers in the region.

Among the options that were hotly debated was a blanket ban on alcohol for dirty campers combined with possible fines for those who were too intoxicated to move because they had had a drink.

Councillor Andrew Baxter believes that too many at the council were becoming a soft touch and demanded an appropriate response to unacceptable behaviour.

“I think we are being too charitable and we are pussy-footing around when it comes to the behaviour of some visitors to the Highlands," he said. "I am going to underline that I think the vast majority of visitors are responsible and extremely welcome.

“But there is a small minority who are spoiling it for everyone else.

“I have communities that support the prospect of alcohol by-laws to sort part of this problem and the stumbling block was the procurator fiscal’s office who were not prepared to support these cases coming to the sheriff court.”

In what appears to be a change of position, council leader Margaret Davidson she voiced her apparent support for investment in public toilets despite backing closures in 2018 that were hugely unpopular.

Two years on Cllr Davidson said: “We have got a new executive chief officer in charge of community services and she is a breath of fresh air.

"She actually told me – ‘do you know what your toilets are just now, about closing them or giving them away? We actually should be refurbishing them, perhaps rebuilding some and doing what we can for Highland tourism because they are that important.’

“But how do we do that because we can’t do it without money, we need to put our hands in our own pockets and when we get to looking at the capital programme and the revenue budget that we are aware of what we need to put in there to support the ambitions we have.”

Tourism committee chairwoman Cllr Maxine Smith welcomed some creative suggestions to engage landowners to provide space for Air B'n'B style service for campervans.

She said:“The council is also open to hearing from landowners who are interested in providing simple short stay facilities known on the continent as Aires.

"Primarily these provide short overnight basic stopping facilities for people on longer journeys that bring economic benefit to local businesses from those overnighting at an Aire.

"It may be that you are a farmer with a spare field or someone with an extra-large garden, but we need to start thinking more commercially as well as trying to alleviate any issues caused by motorhomes.

"We welcome tourists in the Highlands, but we need to make sure we have the right infrastructure in place for them.



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