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Police Scotland urges Highland residents to take care hill walking and around beauty spots

By Philip Murray

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Snowy scenes on Carn na Leitire. Picture: Philip Murray.
Snowy scenes on Carn na Leitire. Picture: Philip Murray.

A SPATE of mountain rescues has prompted a police plea for hill walkers and people visiting beauty spots to prepare for all eventualities and also stick to government Covid rules.

Over the past two months, Police Scotland has received 46 calls to search and rescue incidents across the country. A total of six fixed penalty notices have been issued and six people charged with culpable and reckless conduct.

The same period prior to the pandemic in 2019/2020 saw 55 such incidents recorded.

Recent Covid rule breaches have included four men from Midlothian who drove to Crianlarich on January 16 to climb Ben More before getting into trouble in the mountains. The men, aged 23 and 24, have since been charged.

Police have also had to increase patrols in popular walking areas everywhere from Lanarkshire to Aberdeenshire.

Assistant Chief Constable Alan Speirs said: “I fully appreciate that the restrictions affect how we live our lives and spend our free time, however, the best way to stay safe is to stay at home. To protect the NHS we also need to protect our volunteers and emergency service colleagues who, by the nature of their work, put themselves at risk each time they’re called to an incident.

“Particularly at the weekends we are seeing people travelling for leisure purposes out with their local authority areas and sometimes getting caught out by the change in weather conditions.

“We have been very clear that we will not be routinely stopping vehicles or setting up road blocks. However, officers may in the course of their duties come across people who are travelling from one local authority area to another.

“The Chief Constable has made it clear that our approach throughout the pandemic has not changed. Officers will continue to support people to follow the regulations and encourage them to take personal responsibility. The vast majority of people have stepped up to take responsibility and our determination and collective effort to tackle this virus must now continue through these difficult times.

“If you do find yourself in need of assistance because of being lost, injured, or in an emergency when outdoors, then phone 999, ask for police then Mountain Rescue. You will be helped.”

Police Scotland is supporting Scottish Mountain Rescue's #ThinkWINTER campaign which was launched in early December.

The #ThinkWINTER quick checklist includes:

  • Check the mountain weather forecast – pay particular attention to wind speed, temperature and cloud cover.
  • Take warm layers, waterproof clothing, hat, gloves and boots with good grip plus a headtorch with spare batteries.
  • Pack plenty of food and drink to keep you going, plus some extra just in case.
  • Build up your navigation skills and confidence with shorter, smaller days before taking on bigger hills and longer days.
  • Be prepared to turn back if the weather or conditions change.
  • Let someone know where you are going, what time you will be back and what to do if you don’t return when expected.
  • If you are injured or lost and can’t get off the hill call 999 and ask for Police and Mountain Rescue.

Scottish Government guidance on reasonable excuses to go out include:

  • local outdoor recreation, sport or exercise, walking, cycling, golf, or running that starts and finishes at the same place (which can be up to 5 miles from the boundary of your local authority area) as long as you abide by the rules on meeting other households

Related article:

Winter hill goers warned to stick to limits – and Covid rules

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