A FRIEND who does voluntary work for the National Trust for Scotland told me a rather depressing, but all too familiar, story the other day.
He was taking part in a clean-up at Culloden. As he was working he was approached by three men, somewhat the worse for wear.
They asked him what he was doing and when he told them they replied: “Good on you pal. We love it here, brilliant place. Proud Scots - come every year. You’re doing a great job. Magic.”
But an hour or so later when my friend returned to where he had met this trio of patriots, he found they had left all their disused drinks cans lying around. And some of them had been used again. Their love of their country was so great that they felt nothing about leaving urine-filled cans for someone else to clean up.
It wasn’t so tragic it would be hilarious. How can you claim to be a proud Scot when you can’t be bothered to look after your own backyard?
It’s the same mentality of those who go along to international football matches and wave their flags in support of their country then leave them lying in the streets after the game. Yeah, you love your country so much that you are happy to see it looking like a rubbish tip? It doesn’t make any sense.
And it seems this blight is rife. A drive down Glen Etive after a weekend of sunshine is a real eye-opener; abandoned tents, piles of rubbish and the charred remains of camp fires littering the roadside. Never mind, someone else will clean it up.
It’s similar to the problem faced on Loch Lomondside a few years back. That was solved by a blanket camping ban. The camp site in Glen Doll was closed permanently after constant trouble with boozed-up youths running wild at weekends, terrorising other campers.
No one wants to see a camping ban in Glen Etive but something has to be done. We can’t just keep turning a blind eye, hoping that someone else will do the dirty work.
Some apologists have hit back saying there aren’t any rubbish bins available in the glen so what should you expect? That’s just ludicrous - it’s anti-social behaviour, pure and simple.
Volunteers in the Cairngorms have been faced with similar clean-up operations. Just a few days ago, it was reported that one team found a mountain of rubbish in Corrour Bothy.
Abandoned sleeping bags, towels, hoodie tops and tee-shirts, sodden socks and gloves. Gas canisters, cooking utensils and uncleaned mess pans, bottles, books and even a map. And then there was the food - jars, tins and packets of every variety, enough to feed a small army - just left behind, a lot of it unopened and unused.
Groups of youngsters were the likely culprits, carrying in far more equipment and rations than would be needed and then just discarding what they didn’t use rather than going to the bother of carrying it out again. What should have been a few days in the wilds learning mountain etiquette and respect for their surroundings ended up as just another messy party with no regard for anyone but themselves.
Our throwaway society has much to do with this problem. Leaving a tent behind is much easier when it can cost as little as £5 in some supermarkets. Witness the scene the day after T in the Park ended, a sea of rubbish and cheap tents making it look more like an abandoned refugee camp.
I remember having a great feeling of guilt when I realised I had left a pair of gloves on the top of Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan, especially as it was a wild day and I was not going back up for them. I can only hope they found a good home.
There has always been a litter problem on the hills. Mostly it’s the odd bottle or can and most of the time they will be picked up by other walkers. Crisp packets and paper tissues also have a habit of being blown away from despairing hands. But there’s no excuse for the discarded banana skins and orange peels which are a frequent sight at the summit of mountains, and the worst of all in my eyes - cigarette butts.
For some reason smokers never seem to regard them as litter - draw your last puff, then flick it away, seems to be the reasoning. I must have missed the meeting when they were declassified as trash.