Thousand huts campaign gets Parliamentary backing

For immediate release 26 June 2011

Green MSP Alison Johnstone today backed Reforesting Scotland's 'Thousand Huts' campaign with a motion lodged today at Holyrood. The party believes that the campaign to boost ownership and use of huts across Scotland could bring substantial benefits to health and wellbeing, and also supports the campaign's call for barriers to the development of huts to be removed. Although Scottish Ministers commissioned research on the subject in 2000, no significant action to support hutting has since been taken.

Alison Johnstone MSP said:

"Many Scots have a soft spot in their hearts for their family's huts, whether at Carbeth or Carnoustie, but many more know next to nothing about this long-standing Scottish tradition. Huts and summer houses are commonplace across Europe, especially Scandinavia, and the benefits for people's physical and mental wellbeing are well understood there. Unlike second homes, huts aren't the preserve of the better-off, nor do they destabilise local economies. Huts are social, they're low-tech, and they get people out and about and in closer contact with nature.

"There's a lot that Scottish Ministers can do to promote hutting, including supporting existing hut owners and removing unnecessary obstacles in planning law. They could even identify suitable land they own on our behalf and make it available to people who want to build huts. The campaign launched by Reforesting Scotland calls for a thousand huts. That would be a good start, no more."

Ninian Stuart, Director of Reforesting Scotland, said:

"Reforesting Scotland have been overwhelmed by the early response to our campaign from all sections of Scottish society. The interest so far from heritage bodies, land reformers, landowners, craftsmen and those living in disadvantaged areas, who simply want a low cost hut of their own, shows that this initiative could really be a win-win for all Scots - as well as a great way of reconnecting people to the land and reviving forest culture."

Lesley Riddoch, journalist and research student, said:

"There has been resistance to cabins and huts in the Scottish landscape for centuries from some landowners. That resistance has now generated indifference and even hostility to nature amongst many urban Scots. Is it a coincidence that Scots have the lowest rate of hut ownership in Europe and the highest rates of problem drinking? How else can urban Scots “escape” the pressures of modern urban life?

"Across the world at our latitude, from the dachas of Russia to the log cabins of Canada, having a hut is normal - everywhere except Scotland. Forests in Scotland don't need to be sterile, empty places. The Forestry Commission of Scotland could revolutionise the family lives and health outcomes of this nation by offering small plots for rent or sale. All that's needed is a change of outlook."

The motion in Alison Johnstone's name reads as follows:
That the Parliament welcomes the Thousand Huts campaign launched by Reforesting Scotland on 15 June 2011; supports the campaign's aims - to celebrate, expand, protect and enjoy the use of huts in Scotland for living, working and relaxing in; celebrates the cultural heritage of hutting communities such as that at Carbeth; recognises that having access to a hut brings many benefits in terms of physical and mental health as well as spiritual and emotional well-being; notes also the recreational and play benefits that the experience of using huts brings, particularly for people on low incomes; backs calls for changes to the planning system to support hut-building; endorses the campaign's call for better security of tenure for existing hutters; deplores the eviction of hutters such as those at Barry Down, Carnoustie; and calls on the Scottish Government to support the aims of the campaign and to explore ways in which land owned by Scottish Ministers can be used to expand hutting.