Will's Bothy in the Scottish Borders is one cared for by the charity. Photo: MBA

Will's Bothy in the Scottish Borders is one cared for by the charity. Photo: MBA

Police in the South of Scotland have launched a Bothy Watch scheme after reports the free shelters are being misused.

Increased awareness of the bothies’ existence and accessibility have led to problems and genuine outdoor enthusiasts prevented from using them because of groups of revellers.

Police Scotland said it plans to work with the Mountain Bothies Association and volunteers to tackle crime in the remote areas where the bothies are found.

It said the scheme, which includes members of Forestry and Land Scotland, local authorities and mountain rescue team volunteers, aims to keep the bothies free from damage and allowing them to be used for the purpose they are intended for.

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “For years these buildings have been a valuable and in fact quite a social resource for hillwalkers and cyclists, with many reliant upon them on their long-distance trekking routes.

“Nowadays there is a wealth of information available online about their locations and as a result they have become generally more accessible.

“This trend for the bothy has attracted a different type of user and we are concerned that health and safety on the hills is compromised and the integrity of the bothy lost.

“We are aware of a report that genuine hillwalkers were prevented access to a bothy full of revellers. They were forced to continue on in bad weather and subsequently had to be rescued off the hillside.

“This is a real concern for us and we want to raise awareness to the consequences of not using these shelters correctly.

“The Bothy Watch initiative will promote sustainable and safe use of the bothies but at the same time we think it is vital to educate the new generation of users on the proper etiquette surrounding their use in order to reduce potential for anti-social behaviour. By working together with our partners who regularly access these properties we hope to spread the message that bothies are not law free zones.

“Regular checks will be carried out to the buildings and monitoring of any vehicles parked in restricted zones.”

The MBA, which cares for more than 100 rudimentary shelters throughout Scotland, England and Wales, said it welcomed this initiative.

“A number of years ago we developed a code of practice for bothy users, based on respect for the building, the surrounding environment and other users. We have also recently appointed an education officer tasked with considering what further action we can take to spread the message about responsible use.”

Any crimes involving the bothies can be reported using the bothy report section on the MBA website, or alternatively by phoning Police Scotland on 101 – 999 for emergency calls. Information can also be passed via the independent charity CrimeStoppers by calling 0800 555 111 where anonymity can be maintained.

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