In recent years there has been a certain amount of aggravation between people who choose to shoot at geese on Findhorn Bay, and those who wish to birdwatch or simply walk in their Local Nature Reserve, so in 2019 Findhorn Bay Wildlife Watch reps decided to check the legal position with the local police.
The police confirmed to us that members of the public have the right to walk anywhere in the Findhorn Bay Local Nature Reserve, and to undertake any lawful activity, even if this takes them into close proximity to people who are shooting. The police reiterated that there is an onus on shooters to ensure that their activities do not endanger any other person, and that EVERYBODY is entitled to conduct any lawful activity on Findhorn Bay.
Nobody should feel threatened at any time of day or at any location. If people feel threatened by any activity that they believe to be unlawful, they can call the police at any time on 101 for non-emergencies and 999 for emergencies.
The police are of the view that members of the public may go out and enjoy the Bay whenever they like, as is their right under the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003, which comprehensively codified into Scottish law the ancient tradition of the right to universal access to the land in Scotland. The Act specifically establishes a right to be on land for recreational and educational purposes and a right to cross land. These rights exist only if they are exercised responsibly, as specified in the Scottish Outdoor Access Code. Access rights apply to any non-motorised activities, including walking, cycling, horse-riding and wild camping.
The Scottish Outdoor Access Code is based on three key principles:
• Respect the interests of other people
Acting with courtesy, consideration and awareness is very important. If you are exercising access rights, make sure that you respect the privacy, safety and livelihoods of those living or working in the outdoors, and the needs of other people enjoying the outdoors.
• Care for the environment
If you are exercising access rights, look after the places you visit and enjoy, and leave the land as you find it.
• Take responsibility for your own actions
If you are exercising access rights, remember that the outdoors cannot be made risk-free. Act with care at all times for your own safety and that of others.
The police added that the basic principle of peaceful co-existence must be respected by all users of the Bay and that no lawful activity takes precedence over any other lawful activity.
It was suggested that in the interests of safety, as regards members of the public who venture into areas of the Bay where shooting is or may be taking place, it would be sensible (but not obligatory) to wear high-visibility clothing. It is also sensible to stay a reasonable distance from anyone who is obviously participating in shooting. A reasonable distance would ideally be around 100m away, due to the distance that shotgun pellets may travel.
It should be noted that even though Moray Council has banned shooting on its land, which is located in the southeastern area of Findhorn Bay, shooting is still permitted on the public foreshore in front of this land (i.e. the sandflats). There is signage at the entrance to the Bay opposite Manse Road in Kinloss, which describes the areas where shooting is and is not permitted (and see the map above).