Highlands & Islands

Campsites not opening 'unacceptable' says Fergus Ewing

Loch Lomond Image copyright PA Media
Image caption Two of the three sites involved are at Loch Lomond

A Scottish government minister has criticised a company's decision not to reopen three woodland campsites.

Camping in the Forest (CiTF) leases its sites at Glenmore in the Cairngorms and Cashel and Cobleland at Loch Lomond from the government.

The company has said it will not open the campsites this year and is only taking bookings for 2021.

Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing said CiTF's decision was "totally unacceptable" and harmed tourism.

CiTF said it taken an "extremely difficult" decision not to reopen any of its 15 UK sites for the rest of this year.

It said safety and wellbeing was its primary concern and it would not be able to offer its customers the experience they would expect while adhering to social distancing measures.

Mr Ewing's comments come amid further easing of Scotland's lockdown restrictions, including the five-mile travel limit for leisure.

Scottish government guidance allows for campsites to reopen for users that have fully self-contained facilities, such as caravans and campervans.

Separate from CiTF's decision, Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park campsite and camping permit areas remain off limits, despite the easing of restrictions.

'Unique challenges'

Forestry and Land Scotland, which manages woodland on the government's behalf, is looking at how the site's at Glenmore, near Aviemore, and at Loch Lomond could be reopened.

Mr Ewing said: "At a time when tourism is so important to Scotland, this decision by CiTF is not acceptable in any way shape or form.

"We will soon be asking tourism businesses to open up again and I would expect CiTF to do the same."

He added: "With all the challenges we are facing due to Covid-19, this decision is robbing people of the opportunity to holiday in Scotland.

"Having access to these sites is important for people's wellbeing and in providing the opportunity to enjoy all that our forests have to offer."

CiTF said it had been in touch with customers to offer its sincere apologies. The company said automatic refunds will be provided in full to all who have a booking.

In a statement, it said: "Safety and wellbeing will always be our primary concern and from an operational position, Camping in the Forest sites pose unique challenges in the current circumstances, which has meant we would be unable to meet our high hygiene standards and adhere to government guidance on social distancing and gatherings, together with new measures for the running of campsites.

"The very nature of Camping in the Forest campsites is to offer the freedom to pitch up wherever holidaymakers want on the site and to always provide campers with the best possible experience in a truly safe manner - that is something we feel we would be unable to deliver in the same way this year."

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