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Hill walkers and climbers call for clarity on future travel restrictions for outdoor activities

By John Davidson

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Hiking is one activity that could be allowed in phase one, but there are still uncertainties around the continuing restrictions on travel.
Hiking is one activity that could be allowed in phase one, but there are still uncertainties around the continuing restrictions on travel.

Mountaineering Scotland is calling for more details on what travel restrictions will be in place during the early stages of easing lockdown.

On Thursday, May 21, the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon outlined a route map which included allowing more outdoor activities such as hiking, canoeing and outdoor swimming.

But the Scottish Government's route map said that travel for leisure activities should still be over short distances, which it defined as "broadly speaking" around five miles, and preferably by bike or on foot or wheels.

On Friday, May 22, Ms Sturgeon said that distance was not fixed and there would be some flexibility allowed, adding that the guidance is aimed at avoiding people congregating at tourist hotspots.

Mountaineering Scotland, which represents hill walkers, climbers and ski tourers, said it was pleased to see hiking referred to in phase one, so it could start planning a safe and responsible return to the hills.

In a statement, it said: "The relaxation of the guidance to include a wider range of outdoor activities is welcome news for many outdoor sports, although these opportunities will continue to be limited as a result of the travel restrictions in the early stages.

"We are seeking further clarification on this advice and what is acceptable in terms of travel at phase one and phase two of the route map.

"Mountaineering Scotland will continue to work with the Mountain Safety Group to publish detailed guidelines next week for hillwalking and climbing in preparation for the move to phase one."

Ms Sturgeon said on Friday that she hoped all of the changes outlined for phase one of the route map would come into effect on Thursday, May 28, or within a day or two of that date.

She added: “People will be able to travel, preferably by walking or cycling, to a location near the local community for recreation, but here we are asking you to stay fairly local.

“Five miles is not going to be a strict limit but it is intended to give you a guide, because what we don't want in this phase is for people to congregate at tourist hotspots because crowds of people – even if they are trying to socially distance – brings more risk that we don't judge it is safe to take at this time.”

Stuart Younie, CEO of Mountaineering Scotland, said: “We understand the government is having to make some extremely tough decisions and the need to be cautious about easing lockdown.

"Whilst the document has some good news in it and we can start to prepare for a return to the hills, the next few weeks are going to be hard, particularly for our members living in the central belt and larger cities. They have had limited opportunity to enjoy the outdoors during lockdown and further clarity is required.”

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