Council under fire as hotel boss decides to close down

Alistair Moody is closing in inn on the banks of St Mary's Loch.
Alistair Moody is closing in inn on the banks of St Mary's Loch.

A rural hotel, which employs 10 seasonal staff, has closed for good because of antisocial behaviour at a nearby picnic area.

Alistair Moody of Tibbie Shiels Inn at St Mary’s Loch said he made his decision following an incident last month when a firearm was allegedly discharged by people camping overnight at Oxcleuch Haugh – about 100 yards away on the banks of the smaller Loch of the Lowes and managed by Scottish Borders Council.

“On the same night my cat disappeared and has never been seen again, leaving me to contemplate the possibility it was shot,” said Mr Moody.

“Even it that was not the case, it’s the latest in a long line of unsavoury incidents which my staff and guests have had to endure.”

He claimed he had been involved in three “violent confrontations” with revellers from the Haugh this summer.

“There have been further incidents of people from the picnic area coming onto my licensed campsite through the night and frightening campers.

“The calm, peace and security of our legitimate business and the tourism experience of many visitors to this beautiful area are being ruined.

“I’ve now closed the bar and kitchen permanently and I’m advertising our ensuite rooms as holiday lets. I have pre-bookings for our campsite up until the New Year, but it, too, will close after that.”

Run as a picnic area by SBC’s ranger service under an agreement with Wemyss and March Estates, Oxcleuch Haugh has a large sign proclaiming “No Overnight Vehicular Parking”.

Mr Moody claims this ban is regularly ignored with people taking their vehicles onto the site, lighting camp fires and, on many weekends, indulging in noisy parties.

He said that when he raised his concerns at a meeting with council officers on May 1 this year, he had been assured SBC would consider installing CCTV, improving signage and raising verges to deter vehicle access.

A spokesperson for SBC said Oxcleuch Haugh was a popular site and that, under the Land Reform Act, the public had a right to camp there “responsibly”.

He said the council had agreed to investigate installing security cameras but had since been advised it could not do so on land it did not own.

He admitted the parking ban was “difficult to manage” but stressed that the Anti-Social Behaviour Unit within the Scottish Borders Safer Communities team had received no formal complaints about antisocial behaviour.

“The team says local police have not raised concerns about this area,” said the spokesman.

Mr Moody poured scorn on that response.

“All my complaints have been directed at SBC’s ranger service because they all relate to the area for which it is responsible,” he told us.

“Citing the Land Reform Act is a joke when the council knows full well it can prohibit camping on a designated picnic area, that campers are accessing the site by car and not by foot, horse or bicycle and when their behaviour is anything but responsible.”