AN APPEAL has been issued to the public, particularly dog walkers, to be responsible when out walking during the lambing season.
Colin Smyth, South Scotland MSP and Scottish Labour’s rural economy spokesperson, Rachael Hamilton, Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire MSP
and shadow cabinet secretary for rural affairs, and Gemma Cooper, NFU Scotland’s head of policy, have all receivedreports from concerned farmers.
Mr Smyth revealed he had had a growing number of complaints from farmers that more people were choosing to take their daily exercise in fields and, in some cases, through busy farmyards, causing additional stress to livestock.
He is urging dog walkers to keep their pets on a lead and away from sheep and lambs during walks.
He said: “I know more people are trying to get out for daily exercise, especially in good weather, but everyone needs to be responsible.
“There is no excuse to take dogs off their leads near sheep or lambs. If a dog scares a sheep or attacks one, it is likely the lamb will be lost.
“I have had cases reported to me of mis-mothering because the stress caused to the sheep by an increase in walkers.
“People should also avoid walking through busy farmyards which are dangerous working environments.
“I have had calls from some farmers’ groups to urge the government to suspend the right to roam laws. That would take legislation and penalise people who are being sensible.
“I’ve written to Fergus Ewing, rural economy secretary, urging the government to step up messaging on the need for people to be vigilant and if they see
irresponsible behaviour, report it to the police.”
Mrs Hamilton added: “When walking or cycling, people must be mindful that the countryside is a ‘working’ landscape.
“It’s important to remain on footpaths and other walkways, especially during calving and lambing in fields.
“Exercising regularly is important but people should not be unnecessarily accessing areas of the countryside away from their home against government advice on non-essential travel.
“If we work together and follow advice, we can reduce the number of animal worrying incidents which remain an issue.
Ms Cooper said: “We understand that more people will want to make the most of the fresh air and green space but the impact of increased access-taking has been immediate and acute for many farmers.
“It’s clear that many people are unaware of their responsibility when walking or exercising dogs on farmland.
“Members are reporting problems, including littering, gates left open, crop damage, uncontrolled dogs and access to fields of newly-lambed ewes and newly-calved cows.
“Farmers are reporting access through farm steadings and other buildings and finding the public in farmhouse gardens.
“It is important for the public to understand that farming activities are food production and must continue in the crisis.
“We’re asking them to follow the Outdoor Access Code and ensure their behaviour does not make farming any more difficult than it already is.”