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Lazy dog owners blamed for mess at Culloden Battlefield

By Val Sweeney

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LAZY and careless dog owners have been accused of "insulting" the dead for failing to clear up their pets’ mess at a mass war grave.

Culloden Battlefield – location of the last pitched battle on British soil in 1746 – is also the final resting place of hundreds of Highland clansmen who gave their lives for the Jacobite cause as well as soldiers on the government side.

But dog fouling is becoming an increasing problem, according to the National Trust for Scotland (NTS) which owns the site.

The organisation is so concerned it is seeking advice from Highland Council to see what can be done to tackle the issue and is also putting up more dog waste bins in a bid to encourage owners to be more responsible.

"Culloden Battlefield is open for anyone to visit," an NTS spokesman said.

"While most people who come to walk their dogs act very responsibly, there is a minority who abuse the right of access.

"While it is inappropriate in any historic spot to allow dog fouling, it is doubly so at a place of such significance as Culloden.

"Our charity has to bear the costs of the clearing up after people too lazy or careless to pick up their dogs’ mess.

"This is unfair on the people who donate funds to NTS for conservation purposes and it’s unfair on our staff and volunteers.

"Most of all, it is an insult to the memory of those who fought and died at this place."

The spokesman said there was clear guidance on dog walking on the signs at the location and on its website, while staff also tried to be as vigilant as possible.

The team at Culloden is now putting up more dog waste bins because of the growing problem.

"We have had similar problems elsewhere and there does seem to be a minority that it is very difficult to get through to," said the spokesman, who pointed out the NTS had no power to fine owners.

He understood any course of action would lie with Highland Council and, while he acknowledged the local authority was under intense budgetary pressure, if it were possible to have dog wardens concentrate attention on Culloden for a period it would be appreciated.

Visitors to the site have expressed their shock at the amount of dog mess.

David Stewart, a former community councillor from Lossiemouth, recently visited the battlefield where he witnessed owners allowing their dogs to foul the area around the grave markers and did not bother to remove the mess.

"This is a grave site," said Mr Stewart, who was so incensed he has raised the issue with battlefield staff as well as his local MP, Douglas Ross, the Conservative representative for Moray.

"Someone has to stop this happening. We have to get the message out there that people have to be respectful. If they take their dogs there, they have to clear up after them."

George Kempik, of the Group to Stop Development at Culloden, is passionate about preserving the integrity of the battlefield which he visits regularly.

"To take dogs on there and not keep them on a leash and to allow them to foul the area and not clear up after them is unacceptable," said Mr Kempik, of West Lothian.

"There are big signs up there saying it is a war grave. It is ridiculous that people are allowing their dogs to foul there."

A council spokeswoman said: "The legislation (Dog Fouling (Scotland) Act 2003) applies to any public open place so would cover Culloden Battlefield.

"Legislation doesn’t require corroboration. Our environmental health service would follow up any complaints from the National Trust for Scotland about dog fouling the same as from any member of public, councillor or community council."

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