THEY may be many miles from congested city streets patrolled by ticket-happy wardens.
But the Forestry Commission Scotland has pulled in just over £2 million in the past three years from charging people to park at some of our most popular beauty spots.
In the same period, motorists who didn’t buy a ticket were also hit by fines totalling about £75,000.
The figures – obtained via a Freedom of Information request – have led to right of way campaigners and outdoor organisations calling for a national debate on the charges.
Nick Kempe, national park campaigner, said: “This is a disguised access charge to park on land that everyone already owns, then fine them if they are slow to pay up. It is insulting.
“This is also not a good look we are giving to tourists.”
He also voiced concerned that more than a third of these remote car park locations don’t have card machines and only accept coins.
“It is unacceptable that people drive to an isolated spot and are then faced with a pretty hefty fine because they don’t have the right change for the parking machines,” Kempe said.
Ramblers Scotland director Jess Dolan said her organisation was not opposed to charges at the most popular car parks.
“But it needs to be clear that all the money raised will be invested in facilities like paths, signage and toilets.”
Until May, for three years Forest Enterprise Scotland (FES) had employed national firm Parking Eye to impose and collect fines from motorists. The enforcement contract is now with Spur Information Solutions, based in Hampshire.
From 2014 to March this year, figures reveal an income of £2.08m from 45 FES-operated facilities which charge up to £4 a day per car. Included in that figure is £75,648 collected in late payment fines.
Last year, 1232 parking charge notices were issued at popular spots such as Alt Mor and Hayfield in the Highlands, Rowardennan at Loch Lomond and Glen Affric, near Loch Ness.
The FES insisted proceeds gathered from car park charges are used to offset the cost of providing recreational facilities and services on Scotland’s national forest estate, with money received invested locally.
“Around 85% of our car parks are free and any money we raise through the charges goes back into running these recreation facilities for the public to enjoy,” a spokesperson said.
“These bring in £110 million a year to the Scottish economy.”