England is too different from Scotland to have right for roam, says Labour

Scotland has had a right to roam law in place for 20 years (Steve Parsons/PA)
Scotland has had a right to roam law in place for 20 years (Steve Parsons/PA)

Labour will not introduce a right to roam law in England because it has a lot more farmland than Scotland, the shadow environment secretary has said, suggesting that ramblers may hurt themselves by coming across agricultural machinery on their walks.

For the last 20 years, residents north of the border have had a lawful right to access and camp on most land and inland waters provided they follow basic rules, such as not damaging the environment or camping on farmers’ crops.

Campaigners want England to introduce a similar rule and the previous shadow environment secretary Jim McMahon had said Labour would follow their suggestions.

Mr McMahon’s replacement, Steve Reed, said Labour never formally had a right to roam in England policy and cited a need for “responsible access”.

Steve Reed
Mr Reed said Labour has never had a formal right-to-roam policy (Aaron Chown/PA)

Speaking at a conference organised by the Country Land and Business Association, he said: “The system of what works for Scotland isn’t going to work for England.

“I don’t want farmers to be worried about their valuable crops being damaged, I don’t want ramblers or walkers to be at risk of hurting themselves because they come across potentially dangerous machinery that really, is for those who know how to work it not people just wandering through.

“And I don’t want precious habitats destroyed by accident by people who walk straight through them. So there’s quite a lot of things we need to balance there.”

Steve Barclay, the Government’s environment secretary, also ruled out a right to roam law, also saying there needs to be “responsible access” and that the Government was instead giving £10 million towards protected landscapes and £2.5 million towards improving children’s access.

Steve Barclay
Mr Barclay said the Conservatives will always be the party of the countryside (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Mr Reed said his party would be setting out specific policies on improving access to nature in the coming months.

Their comments came after speeches to a crowd of rural landowners in which Mr Reed hailed them as “stewards of our environment and custodians of our countryside” and Mr Barclay said the Conservatives “will always be the party of the countryside”.

Mr Barclay promised to provide more funding for innovation and technology in the farming sector, such as AI, to improve productivity and food security.

His Labour counterpart in turn promised to speed up the planning process so that renewable energy projects can connect to the grid faster and set up publicly-owned Great British Energy which would help lower bills by providing more clean power.

Both politicians are seeking to win over the rural vote ahead of an an upcoming election next year.