Outdoor Access Code, Freedom/Right to roam, Tresspass, Civil and Criminal Offences

All photographers entering the Competition should be familiar with and adhere to the Scottish Outdoor Access Code when going about the countryside taking photographs.

We are increasingly receiving emails from photographers under the impression that the “freedom to roam” gives them the right to “do and go as they see fit”, and that “there are no tresspass laws in Scotland”. Please be advised that these are misconceptions which may result in a civil or criminal offence being committed.

Freedom/Right to roam

The freedom to roam does allow the right to access most land in Scotland for recreational purposes – e.g photography.

The right to roam does not allow access to lands where there are buildings, sheds, locations that provide a person with shelter such as a tent or caravan, gardens around houses, schools playgrounds. Entering any such lands is considered tresspass.

There are “no tresspass laws in Scotland”

WRONG. There are Tresspass laws in Scotland, constituting both civil and criminal offences.

Civil –  The Trespass (Scotland) Act 1865 defines Tresspass as “the process of entering another person’s property or land without permission”.

If you are asked by a land owner to leave their land and you refuse, this can become a criminal offence.


  • Aggravated Tresspass  –  section 68 of Criminal Justice and Public order Act 1994 .
  • Collective Tresspass  – section 61 of Criminal Justice and Public order Act 1994 .

Aggravated trespass is a criminal offence, which means you can be arrested for it.

You commit aggravated trespass when you are trespassing and intentionally obstructing, disrupting, or intimidating others engaged in their own ‘lawful activities’.

Photography example – we have heard many instances of photographers exhibiting the following behaviour – going onto land (or are taken there by a group or workshop) and encountering people & pets enjoying a picnic within a composition you would like to capture. Should you (the group, workshop) exhibit behaviour such as shouting at, throwing stones, crowding out, menacing stares, pointing cameras at the people to the extent that the people feel intimidated and forced to leave, then you are committing a criminal aggravated tresspass offence.

The full list of offences is set out in Annex 1 of the outdoor access code.

Entrants should make themselves familiar with such restricted places at all times. Examples of places the public may not access are:

  • any land with a house, tent or caravan, gardens and land with non-residential buildings and associated land
  • fields in which crops are growing
  • schools land, land used by the school or next to the school
  • airfields, military bases, railways, working quarries, construction sites or any land designated as a construction site
  • visitor attractions or stately homes which charge an entry fee

Entrants should note that any images depicting an activity that may have caused alarm to a property owner, livestock (e.g. drone shots) or cause damage to crops will result in disqualification from the competition and may also result in criminal charges. Examples of activities that are not permitted are:

  • light painting on any property type excluded in the act
  • wire wool photography
  • photography within fields growing crops