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Covid: looking ahead with optimism

Friday 19th March 2021, 9:25am

Mountaineering Scotland has welcomed the First Minister’s announcement on Tuesday 16th March of the timetable for easing Covid restrictions in Scotland as a positive step, enabling us all to start looking to the future with some optimism.

Although it was encouraging news that travel restrictions are scheduled to be lifted on 26th April, all the dates in the timetable are dependent on the suppression of the virus and the continued rollout of the vaccine. We would like to thank all our members for their support over the last year and also for continuing to play your part in our collective efforts to move out of lockdown restrictions.

This has been a very challenging time for everyone in the mountaineering and outdoor community as many of the freedoms we take for granted have been taken away or severely constrained. 

Limiting the movement of the population by restricting non-essential travel has been a cornerstone of the Government’s policy in suppressing the virus and limiting transmission. This has been particularly tough for those living in the central belt and in the larger cities across Scotland who have had limited access to the outdoors.

We wrote last week to the new Minister for Public Health and Sport, ahead of the announcement of the revised framework this week, requesting additional flexibility at Level Three in the framework to allow people to travel out-with their local authority areas for outdoor recreation. We also took the opportunity again to highlight the inequality of access many have lived through during this lockdown, and the impact it has had.

Brian Shackleton, President of Mountaineering Scotland said: “Whilst it’s great to see an end in sight for the travel restrictions, many of our members, especially in urban areas, will continue to be constrained where they can go for a further six weeks. And we know it will be hard for many to see any logic from the Covid risk standpoint in allowing some indoor commercial venues to re-open early while continuing to deny travel further than five miles beyond their local authority boundary to safely access the outdoors.

“We can, however, see an end in sight and start to think about our return to the hills and mountains.”

The Mountaineering Scotland staff team are already planning the delivery of online events to help us prepare, and are delighted at the prospect of getting back to delivering climbing and mountain skills training face to face once again.

We also hope many of the Scottish climbing walls will start to reopen from 26 April, and have been continuing to work closely with the Association of British Climbing Walls, BMC and Mountaineering Ireland to take a UK wide approach to supporting the sector to get back up and running.

Given our experiences and what we have learnt as an organisation over the last year, we have also been pleased to work with our partners in the Scottish Outdoor Recreation Alliance and this week launched our joint “Manifesto for the Outdoors” ahead of the Holyrood elections later this year. A key ask in the manifesto is that Scottish Government appoints an Outdoor Recreation Champion who can better represent the interests of the sector across Government departments and agencies.

Read more about the manifesto here.

Over the coming weeks we’ll all be busy be doing our kit checklists, getting the maps and guidebooks out, and looking forward to planning an adventure or two, and we look forward to seeing our members - and hopefully many new members - out there again very soon. 

COVID guidance for hill walkers and mountaineers

Mountaineering Scotland is the representative organisation for Scotland's hill walkers, indoor and outdoor climbers, mountaineers and ski tourers, with over 14,000 members and 160 affiliated clubs.

Become a member and support our campaigns on the issues that matter including access, conservation of mountain areas and mountain safety.

Membership is excellent value at less than Ł3 a month for adults, and includes insurance, a range of member discounts and offers, access to great value mountain skills courses, quarterly Scottish Mountaineer magazine and more. 

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