Thanks also to the Glasgow Young Walkers who have given me permission to reproduce the following letter sent to Tom Franklin, CEO of The Ramblers
Proposed Ramblers Scotland Budget Cuts
We write on behalf of the members of Glasgow Young Walkers, a fast-growing walking group for people in their 20s and 30s, to express our concern and extreme disappointment over the proposed cuts to the budget of Ramblers Scotland.
We were astonished and disheartened to discover, through reports in the Scottish press, that the existence of Ramblers Scotland is threatened by proposals for a huge reduction in its budget for the next financial year. We understand that this might entail the closure of the Ramblers Scotland office at Milnathort, with the loss of most or all permanent full-time Ramblers Scotland staff, and with Scottish affairs being administered largely from London.
Whilst we understand that, in the present economic climate, the Ramblers is facing financial pressures due to falling donations, the proposed reduction of funding for Ramblers Scotland is both grossly unfair and short-sighted in the extreme. We would be interested to find out what strategy, if any, the Ramblers has to rebuild its base in Scotland when economic conditions improve, and how it would compensate in the longer-term for the loss of Scottish donations and subscription monies which would undoubtedly ensue should these proposals go ahead.
On what basis is it considered fair and reasonable to impose draconian budget cuts on Ramblers Scotland which appear to be grossly disproportionate to those in other areas of the UK? We would have to agree with the opinion of Dennis Canavan, convener of Ramblers Scotland, that this is a spectacular misjudgement and an insult to the people of Scotland. Further, it is an insult to the committed and hard-working employees of Ramblers Scotland, and an example of short-sighted disregard for the projects in which they are presently involved.
We have no doubt that such demise or decimation of Ramblers Scotland would be of great detriment both to the Ramblers as an organisation and to the interests of walkers and those who care about the environment in Scotland. Ramblers Scotland is held in high regard amongst the public and across the political spectrum due to its championing of walkers’ interests and campaigning work, particularly on the issue of access rights and the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003. The new access regime is at a crucial point in its evolution, and should these cuts go through, the likelihood of landowners succeeding in various legal cases challenging access rights will increase greatly. This would be greatly to the detriment of all of your members and indeed anyone who might wish to walk in Scotland, and not just those who live in Scotland. At the very least, this sends entirely the wrong signal about the fortitude and determination of the Ramblers to fight for the interests of their members and the wider public. It would also constitute a PR disaster for the Ramblers far outweighing any benefits of the recent re-branding exercise, and indeed the proposals regarding Ramblers Scotland are already attracting much negative publicity online and in the press.
These proposals cause us grave doubt as to whether it is properly appreciated by the Ramblers Executive that the organisation requires to work differently in Scotland, particularly given devolved government and the separate legal system. With all due respect to London-based Ramblers staff, there is little prospect of the Ramblers continuing to play a significant role in promoting the interests of walkers and those in Scotland who care about the environment without staff who have a detailed and nuanced understanding of both the issues affecting walkers in Scotland and the Scottish political and parliamentary landscape.
On a more group-specific level, Ramblers Scotland staff have provided invaluable assistance to our group since its inception in July 2006. We presently have 67 full members of the Ramblers who have paid subscriptions in good faith and would expect to see this continue to increase should the Ramblers continue to maintain a presence in Scotland, however we have serious doubts as to whether membership of the Ramblers would continue to be worthwhile and attractive for either new or existing members should the proposed cuts take place. These cuts, taking place against the background of the large sums recently spent on re-branding of the Ramblers raises major concerns over the Ramblers Executive’s ability to prioritise and to utilise funds productively and appropriately. It appears curious to say the least that, at a time when the Ramblers are seeking to reach out to people beyond the ‘stereotype’ of its traditional membership, you would be prepared to effectively disenfranchise walkers in Scotland and create a perception of an insular and London-centric organisation.
Ultimately, we may therefore have to reluctantly consider the option of severing ties with the Ramblers, and the possibility of combining with other groups to form a new independent organisation.
We would therefore urge you to re-consider your proposals as a matter of urgency. We trust that members of your Executive intend to visit Scotland to consult directly with Scottish Ramblers groups and members, and we would welcome the opportunity of a meeting to discuss our concerns in more depth.
We look forward to hearing from you by return.
Glasgow Young Walkers