The Land Reform legislation established access rights over most land in Scotland, but public rights of way can still be important. Public rights of way can exist over land where access rights do not apply.
There is no definitive record of public rights of way in Scotland. We have some records of claimed public rights of way, as does Scotways, but many routes are not formally recorded.
A public right of way must meet all of the following criteria:
- it must run from one public place to another public place – these are most commonly a public road or another public right of way
- it must follow a more or less defined route
- it must have been used openly and peaceably by members of the public
- it must have been used for a continuous period of 20 years
If it meets these criteria it is a public right of way whether it is recorded or not. A public right of way can however cease to exist if it has not been used in the last 20 years.
Please note that:
- Use of the route to access private property along the route does not count towards establishment of a public right of way. This type of access is usually known as a private right of servitude.
- Exercise of access rights under the Land Reform legislation, which came into effect in 2005, does not count towards establishment of a public right of way.
If you think a public right of way has been obstructed, you can contact us using our general enquiry form. We will firstly consider whether there is an obstruction to access rights under the Land Reform legislation and if the matter can be resolved accordingly. Where this is not the case, we will investigate whether the route may meet the necessary criteria for it to be a public right of way and, if appropriate, seek to have the obstruction removed.
If a claimed public right of way is disputed by the owner we may gather evidence of use from witnesses. We will issue questionnaires for this. We will then assess whether there is sufficient evidence to assert the route as a public right of way.