Campaigners representing access and outdoor recreation today marked the fifth anniversary of the closure of Edinburgh's Radical Road by calling for Historic Environment Scotland (HES) to "see sense" on their management of the iconic path and the once-popular bouldering venue beside it.
HES shut the 200-year-old path in September 2018 due to concerns about rockfall. Running below the dramatic escarpment of Salisbury Crags, the route was formerly one of the most popular ways up the urban mini-mountain of Arthur's Seat, a major attraction for visitors and local residents alike. The closure has also affected South Quarry, for many decades a favourite city centre bouldering venue.
Five years from its original closure the Radical Road remains blocked by metal fencing, under bylaws that exempt Holyrood Park from access rights enjoyed elsewhere in Scotland.
But ScotWays chair Katharine Taylor is concerned at the process under which the path was originally closed, and the precedent this might set.
"The Radical Road is a recorded right of way" she said.
"There is a process which should be followed before closing a right of way, but this path was blocked unilaterally without using formal procedures and there has been little engagement since. We acknowledge that HES has an obligation to ensure public safety, but landowners and managers in Scotland also have a legal duty and responsibility not to obstruct or deny public access unnecessarily. It is very disappointing that a national agency has closed a popular right of way in our capital city, right next to our Parliament building. If it can happen here, what protection is there for other, less well-known rights of way?"
Groups including Ramblers Scotland, Cockburn Association, Edinburgh Geological Society, Mountaineering Scotland and ScotWays are urging HES to make a 'more holistic' assessment of risks, weighing the low risk of rockfall injury against the harm the closure causes to the economy, landscape, tourism and people's health and wellbeing.
Leaders of these groups met at the path today to call for urgent HES action and to discuss options. They agreed to begin running their own process to consult those affected by the closure of Radical Road, to which HES will be invited.
"It is farcical that Historic Environment Scotland has failed to reopen the Radical Road, following half a decade of missed deadlines and broken promises" said Ramblers Scotland director Brendan Paddy.
"It is a national embarrassment that the body tasked with caring for and promoting Scotland's historic environment has left this iconic 200-year-old path shut away behind ugly fences for five years, with no end in sight. HES must immediately see sense and stop managing this world-famous geological feature like a crumbling historic building. Residents and tourists should be advised of the risks then allowed to make informed decisions, like everywhere else in Scotland."
During meetings in summer 2022, HES committed to publishing a park management plan by autumn 2022 and to keep communicating with stakeholders. Since then, there has been no update to the campaign partners.
HES' own risk assessment fails to mention that outdoor recreation is enjoyed at people's own risk across Scotland every day, point out the groups. This includes popular sites where signage is used to advise of potential risks such as cliffs, tides or forestry and farming.