By Bill Heaney
The chief executive of the Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park says there was “mass non-compliance” with coronavirus guidelines as thousands of people flocked to beauty spots at the weekend.
Gordon Watson maintained that many people were travelling more than five miles for recreation – against Scottish government guidance when lockdown restrictions were eased last week.
He said parts of the national park saw “dangerous” parking on fast stretches of road and groups much larger than two families gathering together.
Controversially car parks, public conveniences and other national park facilities remain closed.
“In some places [locals] are afraid to leave their homes because they’re surrounded by large groups,” he said.
Meanwhile, better management and enforcement of current lockdown regulations are needed after a weekend of “horrendous issues” for “absolutely swamped” beauty spot communities like Balloch and Luss, the chair of Friends of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs claimed.
James Fraser thinks Scotland will have “lost the plot” if people are allowed to go on flouting of the guidelines and tougher measures to stop them are not introduced from the government.
“The majority of people were social distancing and being responsible, but who can say no to a family who had been under lockdown in a tenement flat in Glasgow and all they want to do is take their wee ones to the loch shore for a paddle and a mental health lift,” he said.
One woman told the BBC that the temperature in her Govan high rise flat was 34 degrees at one point.
Mr Fraser added: “But we can’t have a repeat of last weekend, when there were miles of snake like queues on both sides of roads.
“There are honeypot spots where there needs to more co-ordinated agency effort and more people on the ground to manage the situation.
“The police did a fantastic job, but with car parks closed, toilets closed, inevitably there were going to be problems.”
Mr Fraser believes that, with different guidance in England than Scotland, telling people to stay close to home but allowing activities like fishing and hiking, it was predictable that the response to the mixed messages was “like letting a genie out of a bottle”.
“All the messages were there – don’t come – but people were past the don’t come stage,” he added.
Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop has been discussing the impact of the coronavirus crisis on Scotland’s businesses, workers and the economy with MSPs.
Justice Minister Humza Yousaf told Good Morning Scotland that most people were complying with Scottish government guidance around the easing of lockdown restrictions and making good judgements.
He said, however, that First Minister Nicola Sturgeon took “no pleasure” in warning people that guidance may become law as some sections of the Scottish public which had shown a “great degree of patience and resilience” over the past 10 weeks had let their hair down too far at the weekend.
Mr Yousaf said there would not be a “knee-jerk” response from the government to the scenes at the weekend, and ministers would look at the data for the next few days as well to judge how people were complying.
“Perhaps what we just saw was the first weekend out of lockdown, frustrations that people had understandably, mixed with good weather and perhaps that’s why we saw so much flouting of the guidance,” he added.
He was particularly concerned about the five-mile travel limit on recreation being breached and the ignoring of the cap in gatherings to no more than eight people from two households.
Mr Yousaf said the Scottish government was anxious to avoid people flocking to beauty spots but wanted to leave “flexibility” for people who had not seen a loved one for ten weeks.
He added ministers would now take a view from Police Scotland as to what is enforceable, and that flouting guidelines could mean return to ‘phase zero’ lockdown as some people go “demob” happy.
But Mr Yousaf said there was “really little headroom” in relation to infection rates of Covid-19.
“We’ve only just begun to have the trajectory going in the right direction in relation to hospital admissions, ICU admissions,” he said.
“We’re still reporting people dying every day because of this virus.”
He said the “inevitable” consequence of repeated flouting of the guidelines would be for the Scotland to go back to full lockdown.
Meanwhile, today Argyll and Bute Council is urging people to act responsibly and follow national guidance following a busy weekend at popular beauty spots.
Councillor Robin Currie, the council’s policy lead for roads and infrastructure said: “It is disappointing that some people chose to ignore national advice and clearly travelled more than five miles to visit. We cannot be complacent whilst the risk of infection remains. The reckless actions of a few may impact us all. Ignoring advice to stay local will simply delay our recovery and have a further impact on the economy.
“We understand that people are desperate to enjoy being outdoors but we still need to exercise caution and help protect our rural communities. Our car parks and toilets remain closed so please think very carefully before making a journey.
“Our local economy depends on the tourism industry and we are just as keen as everyone to welcome people back to the area, but only when it is safe.”
The council will continue to work closely with Police Scotland to monitor antisocial behaviour and are dedicating extra resources to popular sites including Luss this weekend, by having more wardens on site.
Police working with councils to ensure no repeat takes place of weekend flouting of guidance. Pictures by Bill Heaney
National guidance remains:
- Stay at home as much as possible
- Stay local (5 miles)
- Avoid busy and popular beauty spots
- Keep two metres apart
Read the latest Government advice https://www.gov.scot/coronavirus-covid-19/
The RAC says it’s “truly shocking” the number of motorists being caught driving at more than 100 miles per hour during the early stages of lockdown.
Twenty police forces across the UK caught people driving at dangerous speeds as lockdown measures resulted in dramatically quieter roads.
Police Scotland said it found one motorist going at 128 miles per hour.
The RAC figures were compiled from data in Scotland, England and Wales.
Scotrail says people should only travel if they have to. The train operator says it’s seeing an increase in the number of people travelling for non-essential purposes.
A spokesperson added that day trips to Balloch and Ayr beach to enjoy the sunshine are not considered essential – “Please help us keep everyone safe by only travelling if you absolutely have to.”