Quangowatch: No 3: Scottish Natural Heritage: A guide to those unelected quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisations that run our lives

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No 3: Scottish Natural Heritage

Budget: pounds 39.5m.

What does it do? It was set up in 1992 to advise on and manage wildlife habitats, conserve the landscape and, crucially, report to the Government on legislation affecting the right to roam the mountains. Scots have generally believed they have a right to walk the hills by whatever route they want. Landowners and grousemoor managers disagree.

Who is on the governing board? Nine of the board of twelve are landowners or connected to land management, claim the Ramblers' Association. They include the Earl of Dalkeith, son of the Duke of Buccleuch, one of the largest landowners in Britain, and Sir John Lister-Kaye, a farmer and landowner. Magnus Magnusson, of Mastermind fame, is the chairman and gets pounds 47,000 a year. A spokeswoman denied that the board was landowner-dominated. 'Sir John Lister-Kaye has a big back garden rather than rolling acres.'

Who appoints them? The Secretary of State for Scotland.

Controversy 1: Agreed to give a grant to the Mid West Association of Highland Estates to put up signs restricting walkers to valley paths in 250,000 acres of upland around Ben Nevis during the deer-stalking season. Walkers were to be told that 34 Munros (peaks over 3,000ft) were out of bounds. The decision has now been suspended.

Controversy 2: A member of its task force on access to the hills, Dr Robert Aitken, resigned earlier this year amid increasing signs that the board would ignore calls from his internal committee for the public to be given a statutory 'right to roam'. No final decision has been made, but Dr Aitken's recommendations were rewritten by the governing board.

Accountability: No elections, no public right to information. In a memo, Magnus Magnusson told all staff they must 'respect the confidentiality of deliberations, debate and decision-making in SNH and must not make any public statements without my prior consultation and approval'.

Is there any quango you would like to know about? Write to Quangowatch, The Independent on Sunday, 40 City Road EC1Y 2DB.

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