Outdoor groups warn a return to activities in phase one of Scottish Government's route map is not guaranteed
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Hiking, canoeing and outdoor swimming are among the outdoor activities mentioned in a possible first phase of lockdown restrictions being lifted.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon set out the plans in the Scottish Government's route map to gradually and incrementally release restrictions from as early as Thursday, May 28.
However, loosened travel restrictions in phase one would only allow people to travel "short distances" which the route map suggests as being "broadly speaking around five miles" from home.
The plans also say that people could meet members of one other household outside during the first phase, while continuing to maintain the two-metre social distancing rules.
The changes would only come into effect on the next review date, May 28, if the data surrounding the spread of coronavirus allows a relaxing of the current rules.
While the full lockdown remains in place until at least that date, the move has been tentatively welcomed in the outdoor community.
The Scottish Canoe Association said it was pleased that canoeing had been mentioned in phase one, but warned there was no guarantee that paddlers could get on the water from Thursday.
In a statement, it said: "During the lockdown the SCA has continued to work hard on behalf of paddlers, clubs, centres and providers to explain to key stakeholders how our sport can return, in a phased way, whilst observing all the Scottish Government rules.
"We have worked with the Scottish governing bodies of other outdoor sports, along with sportscotland, to put forward a plan for the phased return of outdoor sports. We continue to coordinate our work with British Canoeing, Canoe Wales and the Canoe Association of Northern Ireland, recognising that restrictions are being eased in different ways and at different times in each country.
The current key public health guidance remains to stay at home except for essential purposes
"SCA is now reviewing the Scottish Government’s route map and will issue detailed guidance prior to May 28 to support members and the wider paddling community with their safe and enjoyable relation to paddling.
"When the time comes for us to resume paddling, the SCA will be advocating starting with activities that are well within our capabilities – recognising that we will not have been on the water for some time."
Scottish Swimming also urged people to be cautious about the possibility of a return to the water.
It said: "We do recognise the importance of sport in people’s lives and the desire to get back to some sort of normality, and while we welcome the news about the easing of some restrictions, the default message remains that we should stay at home as much as possible for the time being, and not put any undue risk and pressure on the NHS and emergency services.
"In response to the first minister’s announcement, Scottish Swimming would like to offer some advice around open water swimming in the current climate. Scottish Swimming has been working with the RLSS, Swim England and Swim Wales, and would urge everyone to recognise the following:
- Social distancing guidelines still apply and we NEVER advise taking part in open water swimming alone
- If you are not used to swimming in open water, we strongly urge you NOT to start now
- Open-water sites including beaches and lochs are not currently supervised. There is no-one to help you if you get in trouble and emergency services may not be able to get to you in time
- Clubs should not be encouraging or providing training sessions even for seasoned open-water swimmers
- Levels of blue algae will not have been monitored in recent weeks so there is risk of illness
- While the weather has been good over the past few weeks, the temperature of the water remains cold. Cold water shock is real and wetsuits do not prevent it
- We must continue to support our frontline key workers by not making any unnecessary trips to pursue outdoor activities"
The Scottish Government's route map was published on May 21 and sets out a four-phase approach to releasing lockdown restrictions.
In phase one, it says, "we are planning to allow unrestricted outdoors exercise adhering to distancing measures and non-contact outdoor activities in the local area – such as golf, hiking, canoeing, outdoor swimming, angling – consistent with the wider rules and guidance applicable to any activity in this phase.
"You will also be permitted to travel short distances for outdoor leisure and exercise but are advised to stay within a short distance (broadly within five miles) of your local community and travel by walk, wheel and cycle."
Nicola Sturgeon reiterated: “The current key public health guidance remains to stay at home except for essential purposes, but the route map provides information about how and when we might ease our lockdown restrictions while continuing to suppress the virus."
Mountaineering Scotland said it would release a statement once it had discussed the implications of the announcement with the Mountain Safety Group, but warned not to expect that hiking would necessarily return in phase one.
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