The key representative body of Scotland for walkers and climbers has called on the Scottish Government not to restrict people from accessing the surrounding countryside for walking and other outdoor recreation in Level 3 and 4 areas.
Even access to country parks serving the city would be out of reach under travel laws for many in these areas, especially in western Scotland.
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The organization wants to ensure that Level 3 and 4 residents are not discouraged from accessing the surrounding countryside and says it is important for mental and physical well-being that people in these areas remain accessible for walking and other outdoor recreational activities.
In order to avoid congestion in urban parks, Mountaineering Scotland is therefore calling on the government to be more flexible and “share the load”
It comes as Loch Lomond and the Trossachs, one of Scotland’s most common national parks, had to alert tourists that two communal areas covering a large part of the national park would switch to Stage 4 safety.
The national park, covering 720 square miles, spans four separate regions of the local government, requiring some parts of the park to be close to tourists.
“Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park Authority Chief Executive Gordon Watson said, “I know that many people would be disheartened that such a large part of the National Park is moving to the highest level of security, but I would ask everyone to do their part by complying with these steps, especially when it comes to traveling to different areas, so that we can reduce the further spread of the v
@scotgov travel advice will become law beginning tomorrow. Unless for essential reasons (e.g. work/care duties), you should not travel into or out of Tier 3 or 4 protected areas. There are various tiers within the National Park, so please check before visiting.
– November 19, 2020, Loch Lomond & The Trossachs (@lomondtrossachs)
It is especially important that people are aware that within the National Park there are distinct community areas, so the levels are not the same everywhere, and that the travel advice is now lawful.
“Duncan Mills Memorial Slipway, including the slipway, office, parking lot and toilets, will be closed for three weeks from Friday to comply with the transition to level four in West Dunbartonshire. In the Level 4 areas, hospitality and visitor attractions will also be closed.
“Those who are still able to go out and enjoy certain areas in the lower elevation areas of the national park should plan and review their trips in advance and be aware that even in some lower elevation areas, many facilities such as public restrooms have been converted to winter hours.”
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Mountaineering Scotland, while welcoming the acknowledgment by the Scottish Government that outdoor fitness is so critical for the mental and physical well-being of people, cautions that the transfer of 11 council areas to Level 4 has increased inequality in access to the outdoors.
“We are dedicated to doing our part to fight the virus and understand that the government faces difficult choices, but it is important that people can continue to exercise their right to access nature responsibly and enjoy the physical and mental health benefits it brings,” said Stuart Younie, the organization’s CEO.
With over 2 million residents living in the most heavily populated areas of Scotland protected by Tier 3 and Tier 4 limits, even the closest rural areas are now out of reach for some of them.
“We hope the government will consider how it can take a flexible approach under the proposed legislation to allow people to travel to their nearest rural area without facing an offence, so they can continue to enjoy the undoubted health benefits of outdoor recreation while keeping themselves and others safe.”
Mountaineering Scotland advises its members and others who, under current guidelines, can travel to the mountains to be considerate of the people who live in these areas by driving, refueling, bevo, private transport whenever possible