The Scottish Government rules mean the mountains are out of reach for many. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

The Scottish Government rules mean the mountains are out of reach for many. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

The body representing hillwalkers and mountaineers has expressed frustration at the Scottish Government’s continued restrictions on travelling for exercise.

Mountaineering Scotland said many of its 15,000 members will have been disappointed at the latest coronavirus lockdown measures.

The Holyrood administration is maintaining the restriction that means outdoor exercise must be taken locally, with a recommendation of a five-mile limit of travel.

Many rural car parks remain closed during phase two of the Scottish Government’s exit from lockdown.

Mountaineering Scotland said the new guidance seems to allow more flexibility for travel for other reasons.

Its chief executive Stuart Younie said: “We appreciate the very difficult decisions which the Scottish Government are having to make to manage what is still a very serious health emergency, and we welcome the way it has championed the health and wellbeing benefits of exercise and being outdoors throughout lockdown.

“While a lucky few who live within five miles or so of mountains have been able to restart their activities in phase one, that option remains closed to the vast majority, especially those living in the Central Belt. We wrote to the minister for public health, sport and wellbeing asking them to consider some further relaxation of the travel restrictions in phase two, and we know many of our members will be disappointed this has not happened.”

He said that the outdoor community had so far taken a very responsible approach to the Covid-19 crisis in refraining from their normal activities and have played their part in helping minimise the spread of the virus, but the concern now is that where people fail to understand the rationale for some aspects of the guidance they are less likely to respect it.

All four chief medical officers in the UK’s home nations have agreed to lower the Covid-19 alert level from four to three. But regulations differ across the country, with a more liberal approach in England allowing unlimited travel for exercise.

Mr Younie said: “It’s difficult for our members, and other hillwalkers and climbers, to put these activities, which are so important for their physical and mental wellbeing, on hold whilst travel is allowed for other purposes.

“We look forward to more positive news as we move into phase three, and hope walkers and climbers will continue to be safe and responsible over the coming weeks, until that time.”

The Welsh Government said it may lift the ’stay local’ rules on 6 July and will review tourism regulations on 9 July, with any changes likely to take place on 13 July. At present, exercise in Wales must be taken locally, with travel to the nation from those outside it prohibited. Many footpaths and access areas in popular walking locations remain closed.

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