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Chamber and committees

Meeting of the Parliament

Meeting date: Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Agenda: Portfolio Question Time, Agriculture, Motion without Notice, Decision Time, Camping



The Deputy Presiding Officer (Liam McArthur)

The final item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S6M-07215, in the name of John Mason, on promoting the benefits of camping. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

The Parliament debated S6M-07215 in the name of John Mason—That the Parliament welcomes the Outjoyment Report conducted by Liverpool John Moores University and Sheffield Hallam University; acknowledges that the report, commissioned by The Camping and Caravanning Club, surveyed nearly 11,000 people to assess their attitudes toward the benefits of camping; recognises that the report found that 97% of campers said happiness was their top motivator for going camping, while 48% of campers reported feeling happy almost every day, compared with 35% of non-campers; further recognises that the report found that 93% of people go camping to enjoy being in nature, while 93% of campers value camping for the benefits it has for their health and wellbeing; notes the reported concerns raised by communities around Scotland that short-term lets, such as Airbnb, are changing the make-up of communities and their economies; reflects that, given these considerations, along with what it sees as the need to provide incentives to support local economies following the COVID-19 pandemic, the promotion of camping and its benefits are important; believes that promoting camping is also important in cultivating, especially in children, an appreciation for the environment and a passion to protect it; notes the belief that citizens across Scotland, including in the Glasgow Shettleston constituency, should consider the benefits of camping breaks for both their own health and Scotland’s local economy, and thanks Liverpool John Moores University and Sheffield Hallam University for what it considers this insightful report.


John Mason (Glasgow Shettleston) (SNP)

I thank all the MSPs who supported my motion and those who are attending or speaking today.

Personally, I get a better night’s sleep in a tent than I do anywhere else. There is something about being outside and sleeping in the fresh air that is just great. Of course, camping—with a tent, at least—means that there are usually fewer distractions, such as television or computers, and fewer chores, such as hoovering or ironing. I find that my pace of life slows down a lot, so camping really helps me to relax.

Camping can mean slightly different things to different people. Some would prefer a caravan or motorhome, while others are attracted by glamping. At the less luxurious end, wild camping means that people can go almost anywhere and get right away from other people. However, I prefer a campsite with decent toilets and showers.

That is because you are old.

Ignore the intervention from a sedentary position, Mr Mason.

John Mason

When I was younger, I tended just to turn up at a campsite, and there was usually a pitch available, but nowadays I tend to plan ahead and book in advance—for example, through the Camping and Caravanning Club, of which I am a member, or by using a website such as

Camping need not be expensive. Of course, people can spend a fortune on an all-singing, all-dancing motorhome, but they can also get a pretty decent tent for a reasonable price. Camping is a really enjoyable experience for me and for many others, and, as the summer approaches, I am looking forward to a weekend away in May and perhaps a longer trip to Ireland in the summer.

When Sheffield Hallam University and Liverpool John Moores University came out with “The Outjoyment Report”, I discovered that I had scientific research to back up my subjective feelings. As I said, I am a member of the Camping and Caravanning Club, which commissioned the report. More than 10,000 people took part in the survey, which is a good number of people. The facts and figures in the report include the following: 97 per cent of respondents said that camping makes them happy; 93 per cent said that they enjoy being in nature; 48 per cent of campers reported feeling happy almost every day, compared with 35 per cent of non-campers; 44 per cent of campers said that they have optimal mental health, compared with 31 per cent of non-campers; and campers are less stressed than non-campers.

We should perhaps note at this point that the report’s definition of camping is pretty wide. It includes static caravans and motorhomes as well as tents, whether on a campsite or for wild camping. I do not want to get into all the technical detail of the universities’ study, but it used the Ryff scale of psychological wellbeing, which measures self-acceptance, positive relationships with others, autonomy, environmental mastery, purpose in life and personal growth.

There are few better things in life than coming back to your tent after a day’s walking, visiting a museum or sightseeing and then sitting down in the sunshine, making a cup of tea, relaxing with a book and maybe, later, cooking a meal and having a beer.

I have stayed at many campsites over the years. Applecross is one of my favourites: it has fabulous views across to Raasay and Skye, great walking nearby and two excellent places to eat—the Applecross Inn and the Walled Garden. Other sites that I have especially enjoyed include Wick, Ullapool, Laxdale on Lewis, Stranraer, Invergarry, Coll, Roy Bridge—which has the advantages of a railway station and two eating places—Stromness and Lerwick. Outside Scotland, I have enjoyed Keswick in the lake district, Guernsey, St David’s and Galway.

On the issue of connecting with nature, I had long hoped to see a corncrake, although they are incredibly elusive birds, even when they can be heard just a few feet away. I was sitting outside my tent on a gorgeous sunny day on Tiree, near the edge of a field, when along came a corncrake, nonchalantly walking past my tent. That great experience is etched in my memory.

I think that Scotland could improve on having campsites near our cities. Inverness is probably the exception, but Glasgow’s nearest campsite is probably at Strathclyde park, and public transport from there is not easy. I know that the council has considered having a campsite at Pollok park as a possibility, but that has not happened yet. In contrast, Dublin has a campsite on a bus route, which makes it easy for campers to access the city centre by public transport.

Making camping accessible for wheelchair users is also an issue. An article in today’s Independent Living newsletter highlights the challenges and lists 10 wheelchair-friendly camping destinations, one of which is in Scotland, at Loch Ness Shores.

I thank Scottish Land & Estates for its briefing, which makes the valid point that some areas face the problem of dirty camping. I know that Loch Lomond has suffered from that, and I echo SLS’s call for camping to be in line with the Scottish outdoor access code, the principles of which include respecting the interests of other people, caring for the environment and taking responsibility for one’s actions.

I accept that there can be the odd drop of rain, or a midge or two, when camping in Scotland, and I have had my tent almost torn apart around me in a storm, but such experiences do not happen often and have certainly not put me off the huge enjoyment of camping in a tent.

Fellow members whose committee is heading off to visit somewhere exotic, such as Nairn, Islay or Mull, should not automatically decide to stay in a hotel when they could take a tent along and enjoy camping while still eating with colleagues and attending meetings. I did that when I was a member of the Equal Opportunities Committee and the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee, as Mr Mountain can testify. Sadly, the committees of which I am currently a member—the COVID-19 Recovery Committee and the Finance and Public Administration Committee—do not seem to visit interesting places to camp.

I thank all those who have listened to my speech, who will have gathered that I am hugely enthusiastic about camping. My especial thanks go to all those who were involved in producing “The Outjoyment Report”.

I look forward to hearing the speeches that are to follow.

Thank you, Mr Mason. I look forward to putting your idea to the next meeting of the Conveners Group.


Jenni Minto (Argyll and Bute) (SNP)

I would be happy if the Rural Affairs and Islands Committee came to Islay, because it would mean that I could stay at home. I can vouch for the really good campsite that we have there.

I congratulate John Mason on securing this debate on the benefits and joys of camping, and I welcome “The Outjoyment Report”. I hope that members will give me some latitude to broaden my speech to the joys of caravanning as well as camping. I will approach my contribution from three angles: my memories of being a girl guide, my life as an island dweller, and my experience of enjoying many caravan holidays.

The anticipation of heading off for a week under canvas as part of the 6th St Andrews guides is one of my childhood memories, many of which flooded back as I prepared my speech. We were literally flooded once, when a thunderstorm hit our camp near Montrose, and we were evacuated in the middle of the night into the grand hall of a nearby stately home, which was, of course, haunted.

My memories of those camps include jungle breakfasts, orienteering in the Trossachs, cooking pancakes on the fire, cycling to Forfar, climbing trees, midnight feasts, lots of laughter, some tears, and being driven the wrong way round a roundabout in Stirling.

As well as the fun, there was useful learning about how to get on with people and how to cope with being away from home, as well as learning about nature and Scotland. On a practical level, we learned teamworking, which included ensuring that the tent was properly put up; wood-crafting skills, such as making tripods to balance basins on; and finding suitable welly pegs. We learned outdoor skills including map reading and compass reading. I have already mentioned orienteering—we got lost—and there were also nature skills to learn, such as how to recognise trees, flowers and birds. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in the guides, so I can absolutely understand how the happiness of being in nature and improvements in health and wellbeing are motivations for camping.

I am pleased to see that John Mason’s motion recognises the impact of Airbnbs in communities and the need to incentivise the provision of better infrastructure in areas that attract campers—a “welcome frustration”, as my Westminster colleague Brendan O’Hara has described them. One successful infrastructure model is on Tiree, where the community took action in 2010. Visiting campervans must now book an overnight pitch in advance, which is checked by a ranger on arrival.? Tiree’s croft camping scheme?allows individual crofters to allocate a piece of land to accommodate a maximum of three vehicles. That means that the machair and sand dune habitats, which host protected rare species as well as providing grazing, are no longer damaged.

If I may, I will make some small requests of campers and caravanners. Please be responsible.? Take your litter home. Do not use public toilets to dispose of your chemical and grey water.? Find the proper location. Do not pack your vans full of supermarket food—eat local and spread the benefits. If you are causing a queue of traffic, please use lay-bys or passing places to allow others to pass. Finally, please understand that?Scotland’s wild camping rules?do not apply to motorhomes.

Our close family friends had a campervan and we had a caravan, and? at least twice a year we took to the road. Kirkcudbright, the lake district, Dornoch, Alyth and Killin were all destinations, and those trips were real highlights of our school holidays. We built gang huts, dammed rivers, toasted marshmallows, played Scrabble, climbed trees and made Angel Delight. Going to those places helped to make geography lessons come alive, allowing us to see misfit streams, corries and hanging valleys—and history lessons, too, when we visited Scottish castles and ruined cathedrals, or museums when it rained—which all added to our happiness, health, education and wellbeing.

This is where members need to use their imagination. Around 30 years ago, Matt, the cartoonist at The Daily Telegraph, did a series of cartoons titled “Matt gets a camper van”. It is framed in our friends’ home—my dad gave it to them as a present. There is one cartoon headed “Swiss Army Camper Van”, which shows all the mod cons that people can get in a campervan—a cooker, a bed, a toilet, a bath, a television and a seat—exploding from the van like the tools in a Swiss army knife. I would suggest a slight twist on that cartoon, with a new Swiss army tent, campervan or caravan. Instead of the mod cons, the tools would be emojis of trees, mountains, castles, beaches and happy faces, representing all the joys and benefits of caravanning or camping.

I call Murdo Fraser, who joins us remotely.


Murdo Fraser (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)

I congratulate John Mason on securing the debate. Like him, I read with interest “The Outjoyment Report” from the Camping and Caravanning Club, which makes some excellent points. As John Mason and Jenni Minto are, I am a happy camper and have a list of very enjoyable family holidays that we have had in a tent, when our children were a little bit younger, in many parts of Scotland, including some places that have been mentioned, as well as places south of the border.

On one particularly memorable summer holiday we travelled the north coast 500 with a tent, camping along the route, which was great in terms of flexibility. We were blessed with extremely good weather. There are some excellent high-quality campsites along that route, which I thoroughly recommend to anyone. I say gently to Jenni Minto that I think it would be better for the people who live along that route if folk took their tents, rather than tow caravans along some of the roads. It is great to see that camping infrastructure in place.

I have also wild camped on various climbing trips in the west Highlands. It is an entirely different experience, having to carry all one’s kit, often for several miles. In the main, the trips have been enjoyable, although there have been ups and downs. I remember one particular trip to Fisherfield forest in Wester Ross to climb some Munros, when we were plagued with the most abominable midges that I have ever experienced. I still break out in a cold sweat thinking about that particular trip, because of my experience with those midges. John Mason said that one of the joys of camping in the wild is that there are few distractions. Perhaps Mr Mason has not experienced the west Highland midges in the way that I have: they were—believe me—a big distraction, and I remember getting not much sleep at all that night as a result.

I did not sign Mr Mason’s motion, although I agree with most of it. The one part that I object to is the mention of Airbnbs and short-term lets. In many parts of Scotland, provision of short-term let accommodation for visitors is a really important part of the economy. Although there are a few places in Scotland where there is competition between short-term let accommodation and accommodation for local people, there are many other parts—in particular, in more remote areas—where that is not the case, and provision of short-term led accommodation is a significant part of the local economy that creates employment. We should not see it as an either/or situation.

Another issue, on which John Mason touched, is dirty camping, which is a phenomenon that has grown in the past few years. People dump their rubbish, leave their tents and human refuse behind and cause disturbance to locals. I led a members’ business debate on that issue three or four years ago. It has continued to be a major problem, although some councils have tried to tackle it head-on, including Perth and Kinross Council, with its ranger scheme. Dirty camping continues to be an issue, and I agree with what has been said about the need to tackle it.

We have the Scottish outdoor access code, which is now 20 years old, so it is probably time that we had another look at it. It is time to consider, in particular, whether the level of public education on access to the countryside and on the responsibilities of those who access it needs to be reinforced. Many people think that they can just turn up and do what they like, and do not realise that they are causing harm and damage to the environment and, potentially, disturbance to people in the neighbourhood.

I will mention one more issue briefly before I close. It is great to see new campsites being opened, but we need to look at our planning restrictions and consider whether they are perhaps too restrictive with regard to allowing land to be made available for small campsites. I was very taken with what Jenni Minto had to say about campsites being opened on the islands. Allowing a small campsite is a perfect example of farm diversification, so we need to look at how that can be enabled.

I thank John Mason once again for securing the debate. In the inimitable words of Sid James and Barbara Windsor, I encourage all members to carry on camping.


David Torrance (Kirkcaldy) (SNP)

I thank John Mason for securing the debate on a subject that is close to my heart.

The founder of modern camping was Thomas Hiram Holding. In 1853, Thomas travelled through the Highlands of Scotland with a canoe, and went on to write two books about his adventures. In 1901, he founded the first camping club in the world, which was called the Association of Cycle Campers, but it was not until after world war one, when Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the scout movement—a man whom I have spoken about many times in the chamber—became president of the Camping and Caravanning Club, that the establishment of camping organisations was fostered in a number of western European countries.

Camping has been my passion from a very young age and has stayed with me into my adulthood. Anyone who knows me well will tell you that I can frequently be heard extolling the benefits of camping to anyone who will listen, while gently trying to persuade those who may be a bit hesitant to try it for themselves. I find that many people who have never been camping have preconceived ideas and, perhaps, misconceptions about what camping is and what to expect from the experience. For many, however, once they take their first steps, they never look back.

Albert Einstein said:

“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”

I could not agree more with Einstein’s statement. Camping provides a host of benefits for body and mind, including improved relationships, opportunities to learn and develop new skills, connection with nature, reduction of stress, increased physical fitness and—which is important, these days—unplugging and getting away from screens. The list is endless.

I am a lifelong member of the Scout Association who was introduced to the wonders of camping at a young age. These days, as a scout leader, I am privileged to be able to carry on. There is something special about someone’s first camp, and I have been privileged to be able to witness that moment for scores of young people every single year. It gives them the opportunity to try new things, to conquer their fears and to learn skills for life, as well as building their self-confidence and self-esteem. They spend their days being physically active and living together in an environment of co-operation. Respect for others is key in sharing responsibilities and resolving disagreements where they can find out at first hand the importance of communication.

Our annual summer camp in the Ettrick valley is an eye-opener for less experienced scouts. Despite their being told beforehand that there is no cell signal for miles around, it always amuses me when they arrive and the realisation hits home that there actually is no signal. Strangely, my office manager also enjoys it when I am away at Ettrick; I am not sure why. Watching kids take a break from television, phones, social media and the internet, while rediscovering their creative powers and engaging with the real world, real people, real activities, real adventures and real emotion is an absolute joy.

I would like to share an experience that I had at one of the camps that has stayed with me for many years. A young scout, who I will call Johnny, came to his first camp. He was 10 years old and had a difficult background. He had not had many opportunities in life and was under the protection of social care. On his first afternoon, I looked across and saw Johnny standing at the edge of the field all alone and staring into the distance. I walked across to him and asked whether he was okay. He replied, “Yes—it’s just that I’ve never seen a real cow before.” I have never forgotten the look of happiness and contentment on his face at that moment, and I never will. He spent the rest of the week rolling about in the dirt, playing games with other boys and girls, and getting stuck into any and every task. The boy who returned home from that trip was far more confident and self-assured than the one who left home the week before.

Camping is a way of life that offers a sense of freedom and adventure. We are lucky to live in Scotland, a country that is brimming with natural beauty, with an array of majestic mountains, sweeping coastlines and stunning landscapes all on our doorsteps. For those who have not yet tried, it, why not give it a go? They might just end up loving it, as I do.


Michelle Thomson (Falkirk East) (SNP)

I was prompted to take part in tonight’s debate when it was discussed at the meeting. I said that I would like to take part, and my good friend and colleague John Mason looked at me in disbelief. He did not say it, but the obvious insinuation was, “You? Camping?”

I put on the record the fact that I have never been glamping and have gone wild camping only infrequently, so I am perhaps a middle-of-the-road campsite camper. As a youngster, I took my dad’s old tent. Members might remember those canvas tents that let in water and weighed a tonne when they were wet. Like many other families, we went camping with friends every year, and I would like to note some of my recollections.

First was the pitching of the tent. I concede that I am the type of person who does not like to ask for directions, so members can imagine how I would feel about being given help with pitching tents. I was always aware of the silent eyes watching my method, particularly if the tent was as big as ours was. I could hear the tutting and sighing and, “I wouldn’t do it that way.” It is all so much easier now with the colour-coded poles.

On the site, I loved the sense of community. Our children made friends easily and the little gangs formed quickly. There appeared to be an unwritten rule that everyone watched out for everyone else’s children. There was also something about cooking outdoors that made the food taste so much better. The wine did, too, but it always resulted in someone tripping over a guy rope on their way back from the toilet in the dark.

The simplicity of camping worked for me. All my life, I have been a voracious reader who can take up residence in a book and switch off. Very quickly, I found that so many of the possessions that I had were simply not needed. It is perfectly possible to have one set of crockery and cutlery; it is entirely possible to wear the same clothes for several days running and to go for a walk in your pyjamas. This quick, keenly priced and accessible route to freedom, and the peace and quiet and removal from the daily burdens of work, parenting and worry were always a gift. I have enjoyed Kenmore and various sites in East Lothian. I tend to veer away from the west coast because of the midgies—I think that we all have midgie stories.

Seriously, though, campsites provide accessible routes for tourists, too, and that is such an important sector for Scotland in bringing jobs and capital and, of course, promoting Scotland’s international brand. It is estimated that about 14 million people visit Scotland each year, with tourism contributing about 5 per cent to our gross domestic product and employing around 7 per cent of Scotland’s workforce. We know that the pandemic increased the number of staycations, but it also provided the opportunity for many Scots to see what a beautiful country they live in. The Scottish accommodation occupancy survey reports compare statistics of caravanners and campers, and show that, although touring pitch occupancy and whole park occupancy in 2022 were down from 2019, caravan pitch occupancy and tent pitch occupancy increased.

Following the pandemic, Brexit and the cost of living crisis, camping can offer a much more economically friendly way to those who are wishing to have a break, and the revenue that is generated stays in Scotland and in local communities.

Lastly, we should give some thought to the small and medium-sized enterprises that are providing camping facilities. The weather is seasonal, but risk management is not. Typical risks that need to be managed include weather events such as floods; infrastructure, such as septic tanks, needs to be maintained; and guests bring risks and their pets do, too. Cash flow and overheads are always a consideration, and that is all after considerable up-front costs. If we value our camping sector, we need to value the SMEs that provide the facilities. I know that I do.

I call Edward Mountain. You have around four minutes, Mr Mountain.


Edward Mountain (Highlands and Islands) (Con)

I fear that I will not take four minutes, Presiding Officer. I was inspired to stay for the debate in order to listen to John Mason talk about his camping experiences, and I was not disappointed because, of all the lovely places that he talked about waking up in, most were in the Highlands and Islands. What he said was entirely true. Committee business has provided a perfect opportunity to visit the Highlands and Islands, and I can vouch for the fact that, when he was on the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee, he always came in happy in the morning, even when he was on Mull and it had been pouring with rain. He did not look too bedraggled. I do not know whether he used the facilities that the rest of us used in the hotel, or whether he ate the breakfast. However, he was happy and we did not have to sit upwind of him, so it was all good.

My experience of camping came later in life. I missed out on the experience as a child, but for 12 years the Army gave me great experiences of camping, usually on the back of an armoured vehicle that was oily and smelly, but warm. I was taken all over the world, and I have some happy memories. At one stage, when I was in the deep bush in Uganda, I thought that I might end up sharing my camp bed with a hyena that thought that my bed was the appropriate place to be. I was not quite so keen on that. I have less than happy memories of being in Canada, which makes our midges look positively tame. We spent most of the final hours of daylight collecting cow poo, which we then burned and slept downwind of, because it was the only thing that kept the mosquitoes away. Those were happy times and I did enjoy camping. After that, I have to say that my camping has been limited to taking my children out to places. I tend to go earlier in the year before the midges come out. However, I have had great fun and have many happy memories.

I will pick up on one of the points that have been a theme through the debate. I live in the Highlands and have a farm. I am always glad to see campers out enjoying the countryside, because it is a place that I enjoy, but it is also a place that I and others work in, and where wildlife lives and survives. Therefore, it is important that, when people go camping, which I am delighted for them to do, they respect the animals and the other people who use the area.

It is also important, as Murdo Fraser said, to note that the Scottish outdoor access code, which was published in 2005, is in desperate need of review. I have been working on the minister in that regard, but he is less keen on the idea. I would like it to encourage camping on the understanding that people carry in and carry out, and that they do not just camp on the edge of the road or in honeypots. It should be very clear that people should take away what they bring in and—not to put too fine a point on it—do not leave it in a bag hanging on a bush, as too many of us see in the countryside.

I would like to encourage camping. I am delighted that John Mason has brought this motion to the chamber for debate. I am annoyed at Murdo Fraser for stealing the punchline that I guess we all wondered whether we could use but doubted whether we would get away with: carry on camping. I will not use it. Instead, I will make one comment. Those people who have spent a night out around a campfire will always know that that is the best pace of life. It is very good around that campfire, and it generates memories that we will treasure for ever.


Christine Grahame (Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale) (SNP)

I, too, thank John Mason for securing the debate, although I leave to others the question of whether the statistics stand up to scrutiny.

My speech comes with a health warning. For me, the benefit of camping is to bring back sharp memories of the 90 per cent of my camping experiences that were determined by the elements—I say to John Mason that I am talking about less of a drop than a deluge. I will exemplify by describing two camping experiences, but there were others.

The first comes from when I was a child, when, on warm sunny days—yes, in childhood, there appeared to be some—we would plead with my mother to fetch two blankets, peg them to the washing line and pull them outwards to provide a makeshift tent. We would add a bit of carpet inside and nestle down with comics and juice, and we were in a world of our own.

The second example was when I was the girl guide patrol leader of the daffodils—can you imagine it, Presiding Officer?—and our troop went camping from Edinburgh to faraway North Berwick. We lugged with us sailors’ kit bags—mine belonged to my Uncle Dod, who had been in the merchant navy, so it bore the ravages of time. It was heavy and awkward and entirely inappropriate, but it was my pride and joy. At our destination, we had to erect heavy-duty bell tents, which slept a patrol of eight or so, hammering the tent pegs in ourselves and then building from twigs and branches a rack for the centre to lift our kit bags free from the damp ground. Although I had a real groundsheet, I had no sleeping bag—few working folk had them—but, as part of my guide training, I had been taught how to overlap blankets as a substitute. By the way, the overlapping unscrambled itself in the night, leaving me pretty chilled.

One night, complying with tradition, we had a midnight feast in the tent at 8 pm, as we could not wait for dark, let alone midnight. As we consumed smuggled cold baked beans washed down with Creamola foam—I will provide a glossary—we thought that we were living the high life. Ah, the simplicity of youth. We were allocated tasks in rotation. My patrol started on cooking breakfast, which it vaguely resembled, although the scrambled eggs were somewhat idiosyncratic. Another patrol was sent to dig latrines and so on—I say to Mr Mason that there were no mod cons for us.

However, soon after we completed our wee settlement, the skies opened and, over the next few days, the rain varied only in quality and quantity. Bell tents began to sag, as did our spirits. One touch of the canvas and water poured in. Even groundsheets lost their efficacy.

Finally, our guide leader announced that we had to leave the sinking ship—an appropriate term, given the water surrounding us. A few of us, including me, were handpicked to stay behind and sleep overnight in a local school hall and, the next day, loosen the guy ropes and let the tents blow dry in the predicted wind. That day, like the cavalry over the hill, came a troop of North Berwick boy scouts to rescue us and our equipment.

So it came to pass that I met my very first serious boyfriend, whose name—unluckily for him—is not lost in the mists of time. Where are you now, Colin Campbell? I hope that he is still alive and kicking. I was 14 and he was 18 and, from my perspective, he was a man. We had only one date after that. When we were strolling down Princes Street, my shoe—embarrassingly—fell off. That mortified me. However, that is another story. I got over that, but he was the first boyfriend of a selective few, so he was a big marker in my life and definitely a benefit of camping.

Thank you, Ms Grahame. There was a creative use of parliamentary privilege there.


The Minister for Business, Trade, Tourism and Enterprise (Ivan McKee)

I thank John Mason for bringing the motion to Parliament and helping to promote the benefits of camping, which the motion does in its own way.

It is interesting to note that only two parties are taking part in this debate. Three parties have decided that it is not worth their time to take part in a debate on the topic. I do not know whether that says more about them or more about the two parties that are taking part.

The debate has certainly been hugely entertaining, and some very important and valid points have been made. We have had a tour of Scotland and further afield from Edward Mountain, quotes from “Carry On Camping” from Murdo Fraser, and the reality of “Carry On Camping” from Christine Grahame.

In Scotland, we are fortunate to have a unique natural environment that can play a key part in improving the health of everyone in the country. It is important that we continue to encourage and support people to use that amazing resource to be more active and to spend more time outdoors to improve their physical and mental health. It is not just people’s physical and mental health that benefit from outdoor activities such as camping and getting closer to nature. Such activities can help with loneliness and other mental health issues.

In 2021, the Scottish Government launched the communities mental health and wellbeing fund for adults. That has provided £36 million over two years to help to tackle social isolation and loneliness and the mental health inequalities that have been made worse by the pandemic and the cost crisis. That has benefited a diverse range of initiatives, including initiatives focused on nature, sport and exercise, social spaces, art and therapeutic approaches, with a strong emphasis on prevention and early intervention.

Camping must be done responsibly. Wild camping is part of Scotland’s world-leading rights of responsible access to land, as set out in the Scottish outdoor access code. It is important that we distinguish between true wild camping as defined in the code and the recent increase in what we might term congregational roadside camping in motorhomes or tents. Most people behave responsibly, of course, but we are aware of recent pressures that have been placed on rural communities by irresponsible behaviour from a small minority in respect of littering, human waste disposal, environmental damage, lighting fires and car parking. Jenni Minto highlighted that point very well in her contribution.

A key strand of our visitor management strategy work is marketing and awareness. That work aims to inform visitors and locals of their rights and responsibilities in the code. NatureScot’s radio campaign in August last year reached 1.3 million listeners across Scotland, and increased face-to-face interaction by Scotland’s ranger services makes among the largest differences. We will therefore again provide £3 million of funding in this financial year to take on more than 220 seasonal rangers. I was delighted to see the great work that they do on my visit to rural Perthshire last year.

There are countless educational benefits in encouraging our young people to engage with outdoor activities, nature and camping in a sustainable and responsible manner. David Torrance highlighted that very well in his contribution. For example, NatureScot has worked closely with Young Scot to develop new resources to promote the Scottish outdoor access code. With its help, they have produced a series of 12 short animations to help to engage and educate that target audience as effectively as possible.

On teaching the code in schools in particular, the curriculum for excellence provides teachers and other educators with a flexible framework that can be adapted to meet local needs, and learning for sustainability and outdoor learning are important cross-curricular themes.

The Scottish outdoor access code can therefore support learning and teaching in relevant areas. With support from Education Scotland and teacher groups as well as other outdoor learning providers, NatureScot has redesigned the Scottish outdoor access code education pack to create a more interactive online resource with clear and explicit links to the formal curriculum.

Promoting camping aligns with the Scottish Government’s national strategy for economic transformation and the Scottish tourism sector’s “Scotland Outlook 2030” priorities. That tourism strategy highlights as a priority “Our passionate people”—the sector employs 3,000 people across Scotland. Another priority is “Our thriving places”—camping is a great way for visitors to see at first hand our amazing natural beauty, and the third priority is “Our diverse businesses”, because camping is great for business, too. A 2019 report commissioned by the UK Caravan and Camping Alliance estimated that visitors to holiday parks and camp sites in Scotland spent more than £770 million in 2018. That spending and the supply chain activity and wage spending were estimated to support 14,000 full-time equivalent jobs across Scotland.

The strategy also highlights “Our memorable experiences”. Camping, be it on organised sites or wild camping in the Highlands and Islands, or down to Dumfries and Galloway and the Scottish Borders and all points in between, is a great way to see some breathtaking Scottish scenery and have some memorable encounters with our natural habitat, which is a point that Edward Mountain made. That can only be a good thing for Scottish tourism, too—positive word-of-mouth advertising from visitors who have had some great memorable experiences is the best advertising we can get.

The Scottish Government’s rural tourism infrastructure fund has played its part in the promotion of camping through several funding awards. A number of our awards have included improvements to camping provision or facilities for campers. For example, the fund provided £201,000 for the provision of a campsite adjacent to Gigha ferry terminal for camping pitches as well as car parking with recycling and waste disposal units, along with toilet, shower and laundry facilities.

In addition, to help to relieve on-going visitor pressures, we provided £260,000 for infrastructure improvements at the Point of Ness camping and caravan site.

As minister for tourism, I very much welcome the findings of “The Outjoyment Report”. The positive results can only be a good thing for Scotland’s tourism economy. Subject to my still being the minister for tourism following the impending reshuffle, I will get the opportunity to see at first hand the benefits of camping when I visit a campsite next month, which has been organised by the trade association the British Holiday & Home Parks Association.

If members have not already been camping, I encourage as many of them as possible to give it a go—responsibly, of course. From the report, we know that 93 per cent of campers value camping for the benefits to their health and wellbeing. Therefore, my message is—I am sorry to say this, Deputy Presiding Officer—carry on camping.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

Thank you, minister. I am sure that you will be welcome at that campsite whether you are the minister or not.

That concludes the debate, and I close this meeting.

Meeting closed at 17:27.