As has been adverted to on this here blog already, I have been busy of late putting the finishing touches to a book on public access to land. That book is now out, under the snappy title The ScotWays Guide to the Law of Access to Land in Scotland. You can read about it on the Birlinn website here.
To explain the back story to this text, land law generally has been a research interest of mine for a while, and within that wider sphere public access to land has been a particular interest. In a way, this is because of a quirk of legislation. The Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 was the topic I chose for my undergraduate dissertation. In Part 1 of that legislation you will find the right of responsible access, aka the right to roam. The focus of my dissertation, however, was on something else entirely, namely the community rights to buy located in Parts 2 and 3 of that legislation. Part 1 was something I found equally interesting though, but I only had so many words for the dissertation. I stored up my interest for another day.
After that exercise was complete, I found myself drawn a bit more to Part 1 and access more generally, writing case comments here and there, presenting on the topic to interested parties, and providing other coverage in places like Gloag and Henderson and a collection of annotated statutes. Perhaps as a result of this ongoing study (and also a referral from Professor Kenneth Reid – thanks, Ken) I was approached last year by John Elliot on behalf of ScotWays (the Scottish Rights of Way and Access Society) to pen a new law guide for them.
ScotWays’ previous guide, written by my friend and colleague Professor Roddy Paisley, was published in 2006. That was an important resource but it has gradually become out of date as more case law and guidance has emerged relating to Scotland’s right of responsible access. The new book addresses those developments, and also, I hope, shines a new light on the more traditional rights of public access that exist in Scotland. It endeavours to do this in a style that will be useful to both the lay reader and the access professional, providing two levels of text which first addresses the basic groundwork then provides more detailed analysis. So far it has been positively received; admittedly I have only had feedback from contacts in ScotWays, interested colleagues, and friends, so I await less invested feedback with interest.
There are a few people I need to thank for their help in getting me to this stage. Roddy Paisley of course provided a springboard for some of the book, allowing me to build on a very solid foundation. The book has developed something of a life of its own though and a number of people bounced ideas off me as the book completed its journey, with credit due to the core ScotWays team of John Elliot, Eleisha Fahy, Richard Barron, Alison Riddell and George Menzies. (Richard also provided the bonnie photo on the cover.) Thanks also to Muriel Robertson, the Chair of ScotWays, for her foreword. Special mention must go to the indefatigable Judith Lewis, who kept me right with the indexing process and much more, and Mairi Sutherland from Birlinn. Credit also to Douglas Cusine, who read the draft text and offered useful comments on it. I don’t want to make this all awards speechy, but at this point please imagine me bursting into tears as I thank my mum and dad and then tug at your heartstrings as I thank all the people who helped me still be here to finish this task: as a small token of gratitude for the latter, I donated my fee for the book to Friends of ANCHOR. Lastly, cheers to everyone else who has put up with me of late: if you said I was working too hard, I probably was. Thanks for your patience.
Anyway, what next? I hope to continue working with ScotWays in the future, to provide online updates about important cases that happen from time to time. In the more immediate future, Blackwell’s book shop in Old Aberdeen is hosting a book launch event on Friday 30 November at 17:00. Further information about that event is available here. It would be great if you can make it along.