With lockdown restrictions being eased in Scotland, people enjoy new rules on travelling between council areas and meeting outdoors.
The Scottish government remarked that the changes were intended to help reunite families and close friends.
People will now be able to travel out of their local area for non-essential reasons, and six people from up to six households will be able to meet up outdoors.
While the relaxation had not been due to come into action until 26 April, the government said the changes were being made before to lift people’s mental health and wellbeing.
Nonetheless, significant restrictions still stay in place.
People are not permitted to stay overnight outside their council area, even in a tent or caravan.
And the recommendation to shop within own council area unless there are no practical alternatives remains in place.
While six people can now meet up outdoors, the advice is to minimise meetings, maintain 2m distancing and “use common sense”.
Mountaineering Scotland has greeted the relaxations but advised people heading for the hills this weekend to ensure that they are properly prepared and ready to be adjustable in their plans.
Scotland’s leading medical officer Dr Gregor Smith told Good Morning Scotland that people may be unclear about using another household’s toilet during a meetup, but that “pragmatism” was vital.
He said, “Of course there might be a risk going into someone’s house but if people are very, very careful and they make sure they’re taking precautions, washing their hands afterwards, nipping in to use someone’s toilet is not something I think anyone would frown on.”
“What we don’t want to see is people using that as an excuse to nip inside for a cup of tea with people and sitting in unventilated areas.
It’s the ventilation aspect that’s important just now.” “We know at this point of time in the year with the circulating virus, that outdoors environment where we’ve got that free circulating air is a much much safer environment for people to be meeting in.”
Famous destinations are assumed to be very busy, meaning walkers and climbers roving by car may have to set off early or plan to go elsewhere.
Mountaineering Scotland’s Stuart Younie mentioned, “The last 12 months have demonstrated how important outdoor recreation is for our physical and mental wellbeing and as things start to ease it will play an important role in our economic recovery, particularly in rural areas.”
Hundreds of visitors rushed to the Stirling area when lockdown limitations were eased last summer, which the local council pointed led to “significant issues with illegal parking and littering”.
With regards to the latest easing, Stirling Council chief executive Carol Beattie said, “There’s every chance this weekend will be the busiest of the year so far, and we need people to be responsible for their actions. Our car parks and public toilets will be open, but our strong message to those planning to visit the area is – plan, and if it’s already busy, Stirling will still be here for you to visit another time.”
The next important easing of restrictions on 26 April should allow all shops and some hospitality to reopen.
At that time, someone visiting a friend in another part of the country will be able to book into a hotel or bed and breakfast for the night.
Additionally, all remaining shops and close contact services like nail salons are due to reopen on 26 April.