Mountain bothies in Scotland remain closed for now
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Mountain bothies in Scotland are to remain closed despite the recent switch to level zero across the country.
Scotland has now moved to the lowest level of Covid restrictions, which means more people can meet indoors.
However, the Mountain Bothies Association (MBA) said the continued limitation on numbers meant the mountain shelters could not reopen in Scotland.
The rules are different in England, and bothies are now available for use.
Mountain bothies, which are generally used by hill walkers and climbers, have been closed for public use since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, although many have remained unlocked.
The MBA charity maintains 105 bothies and two emergency shelters, with 86 of the sites in Scotland, 12 in northern England and nine in Wales. There is no charge to use the basic shelters.
Under Scotland's level zero rules, up to eight adults from four households can meet indoors at home, and up to 10 can meet in a pub or restaurant – with no need to pre-book a two-hour slot.
In England, there are now no limits on how many people can meet indoors.
The MBA said in a statement: "Following the lifting of statutory restrictions and with the agreement of bothy owners, the bothies that we maintain in England will reopen for responsible use from July 19.
"In Scotland and Wales some statutory restrictions remain in effect – in particular limitations on the number of people from different households who can meet in an indoor space. Bothies will continue to be unavailable for public use."
The Scottish Government has said it hopes Scotland can move beyond level zero from August 9 – the point at which the government aims to scrap most legal restrictions. Nicola Sturgeon is expected to give more details about this on Tuesday.
The MBA said it expected that bothies in Scotland and Wales would be able to reopen "in the near future", but warned users that Covid-19 "had not gone away".
The statement added: "Bothies are unregulated spaces and you should always make your own risk assessment before deciding to visit. If you do decide to visit then we ask that you exercise personal responsibility and always take a tent to sleep in if others are present."