§ 23. Mr. William Hamilton
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland to what 409 extent the public are denied access to the foreshore and seaside beaches by virtue of private ownership of such land; and what steps he intends to take to remedy this situation.
§ Mr. Ross
Public rights to the foreshore in respect of navigation, white fishing and recreation remain even where it is privately owned. But it is in the public interest that these rights should be fortified by ownership of the foreshore remaining with the Crown. I hope that an Amendment recently made to the Conveyancing and Feudal Reform (Scotland) Bill will assist the Crown Estate Commissioners to protect their ownership rights in the foreshore.
§ Mr. Hamilton
The answer is all very well as far as it goes and is welcome, but will my right hon. Friend undertake to exempt the terms of a lease granted by the Fife County Council to a private developer in North Queensferry, which has had the effect of excluding not only local residents but also tourists from the only accessible part of the foreshore? Is this not intolerable in Conservation Year?
§ Mr. Ross
I would be happy to examine any relevant matter my hon. Friend sends to me. I am interested in this matter from the point of view that we have noticed a loss to the Crown of foreshore rights by relaxations made a long time ago in respect of prescription. I look forward to seeing this particular lease.
§ Mrs. Ewing
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that a variety of landlords of all types are restricting the access over their land and so preventing the use of the foreshore? Is it not time that a Labour Government in particular seriously considered giving the residents of the Highlands a right to fish in rivers without all the bother to which they are put?
§ Mr. Ross
The last part involves another question altogether, but the question of access is important to Scotland. I have no evidence to suggest that this is a major problem, but I should be glad to look at any such evidence. The hon. Lady will be aware that we have set up the Countryside Commission to ensure the extension of access not just to beaches but elsewhere to the public generally.