The National:

IT has been a difficult eighteen months to put it mildly. But one of the most incessant demands of the tourist industry, aided by large parts of the mainstream media, has been to push for the resumption of holidays – sometimes seemingly irrespective of public health and safety.

Yet as pressure has built up, more and more examples have emerged of beauty spots, the length and breadth of Scotland and the rest of the UK, being inundated with people – with too many having scant regard and care for the place they are holidaying in.

Such attitudes appear to be a toxic mix of the plague of “over-tourism”, of “Bucket-listism” and 1001 Places to Visit Before You Die, and the rise of the experiential economy - all of which were evident pre-Covid. Now these tendencies appear to have become mixed with the expression of unrestrained freedom and relief after Covid lockdowns and the poison of excessive individualism which in some places has morphed into a defiant resistance and insistence on “the right to party” and holiday - and bugger the consequences for others!

READ MORE: 'An absolute disgrace': Artist's plea to Highland tourists after 'shocking' scenes

Nowhere is more iconic in Scotland than the Highlands and Islands, with its striking scenery, wildlife, and beautiful views. Yet as people still face restrictions on travelling abroad, many seem to have taken instead to the desecration of places of beauty nearer to home - such as parts of the Highlands and Islands.

The examples are becoming legion with excessive, heart-breaking anti-social behaviour in some cases. Scottish artist Hope Blamire this week took to social media to pen her thoughts on the lack of consideration of many tourists in and around the tiny villages of Arisaig and Morar – with the nearby coast described by Lonely Planet as having “gorgeous silver-sand beaches backed by dunes and machair, with stunning sunset views across the sea to the silhouetted peaks of Eigg and Rum”.

The National: An abandoned 'dirty' campsiteAn abandoned 'dirty' campsite

Hope talked with shock of “the 37 caravans and motorhomes parked on the fragile machair at the roadside of Traigh” with “dozens of cars and campervans parked so badly at the GREY sands of Morar, obstructing traffic and not having a care in the world about anyone other than themselves”.

There was much, much worse, as she commented on some campers “defecating on the beach, in front of people who have looked forward to staying in this picturesque part of the world for two years”.

She went on: “They came to walk the silver sands of Morar and they look nothing like what they had known or imagined. There are tents everywhere … our neighbour bumped into a female on the beach at the weekend, and totally unashamedly she said, ‘Oh I’m just off down the beach to have a poo.’”

There was of course a backlash against Hope.

Anthony Fox, location unknown, declared: “I call bull ... This is largely just hatred towards motorhome and campervan users”, to which Steve Perry from Huddersfield said: “Look at the bigger picture instead of jumping on your soapbox.”

More often though there was recognition that this blight was a widespread societal problem, and instead of bringing much needed tourist income was making people’s lives a misery across large parts of picturesque Scotland.

The National:

Tourism and the idea of getting away from it all is not a right to do what you want. Rather this attitude displays the ideology of conspicuous consumption and hyper-individualism – which are not only anti-social but which trash and degrade the planet.

Hope commented that more was needed than legislation and enforcement: “This wouldn’t be necessary if people behaved with decency. If campsites are full, you don’t just turn up and obstruct roads by parking where you want to park. You go somewhere else.

“If you want to wild camp, you don’t do so by the roadside. You climb a hill far away from anyone. You take away absolutely everything with you. You don’t throw a disposable BBQ, which hasn’t been properly extinguished, in a public bin and subsequently set it on fire.”

READ MORE: Planning your Scottish staycation? Here's how to be a responsible visitor

We need to have an ethical context for tourism; to debate “over-tourism” which is threatening the unique and precious in some of the most stunning places on the planet, and to even consider how we think about tourism, hospitality and the aviation industry.

There should be no no-go areas in this – with governments and policy makers having to bite the bullet and think of limits for the number of people who can visit some of the hot-spots globally, and even consider closing off locations at times to allow wildlife and greenery to recover from mass access.

Most of all in Scotland we have to accept that we cannot go back to the old ways pre-Covid – and even worse to a speeded-up catch-up version – and that there are limits to our own individual self-interest and instant gratification.

But that will require a bigger debate beyond tourism. It will require a debate about the nature of the society we live in and the vicious cannibalistic capitalism which we live under – which promises us the earth while it literally burns and trashes that very planet in all its fragility and beauty.