Many Scottish residents will still not have access to the hills. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Many Scottish residents will still not have access to the hills. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Mountaineering Scotland has welcomed the news of a slight easing of lockdown north of the border.

But it said the Holyrood government’s moves are just a small first step.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced that from today groups of up to eight people, including those from one other household, can meet outdoors in parks and private gardens, while maintaining two-metre distance and not sharing items such as picnic or barbecue wares.

She also said, as part of the phase one arrangements, people could travel for exercise, preferably by walking or cycling, but told the public they should limit this travel to five miles.

Mountaineering Scotland, the representative body for climbers, hillwalkers, mountaineers and ski-tourers in the nation, said it was more of an extension to the daily exercise guidelines than a restarting of sport and recreational activity.

It said: “With a key factor in the Scottish Government’s advice remaining that people should not drive any more than five miles to take their exercise, most people in cities and in the Central Belt will still be unable to access the hills and crags.

“Mountaineering Scotland has published detailed guidelines so that people can be aware of how the Government’s guidelines affect them and so that those who are within reach of hills and crags are aware of additional considerations they must keep in mind – and that many car parks and other facilities remain closed and unable to accommodate walkers and climbers.”

The organisation’s chief executive Stuart Younie said: “While welcoming this step forward, it must be stressed that an easing of lockdown does not mean a return to normal, and we urge everyone heading out to enjoy the outdoors to be mindful of how their individual actions reflect on the whole outdoor community.

“The key will be for individuals to take a sensible approach to their activities, use your judgement to manage the risks, and to consider the social responsibility we all have to each other, to protecting our emergency services and to minimise the transmission of Covid-19.”

Mountaineering Scotland said outdoor enthusiasts should remember that many car parks, toilets and other facilities will remain closed, which may affect any plans.

They should plan ahead and stay well within their limits, whatever their activity, to avoid the need for rescue and involvement of the emergency services, and they should be responsible and follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code at all times.

Mr Younie added: “We are aware that many will feel frustrated that they are still not able to access the hills and crags they love, but it is the first step on a journey that, if we all do our part to keep it on course, will see wider access returning more quickly.

“At phase one the government has recognised the benefits hillwalking, climbing, and access to the outdoors, have on our physical and mental health, and we will continue to press for as rapid a return to the hills for all as is safe and responsible in this pandemic.”

Mountaineering Scotland’s guidelines can be found at on its website.

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