Scotland’s main representative body for hill walkers and mountaineers has urged the Scottish Government not to prevent people in tier 3 and 4 areas from accessing nearby countryside for hiking and other outdoor recreation.

For many in these areas, particularly in the West of Scotland, even access to the country parks that serve the city will be out of reach under the travel laws.

READ MORE: Explained: What are the travel restrictions in Scotland that come into force today?

The organisation wants to ensure that residents in tiers 3 and 4 are not prevented from accessing nearby countryside and says it is vital for mental and physical wellbeing that hiking and other outdoor recreation continues for people in those areas.

Mountaineering Scotland is therefore urging the Government to be more flexible and "spread the load" to avoid congestion in urban parks.

It comes as one of Scotland’s most beloved national parks, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs, has had to warn visitors that two local authority areas covering a significant area of the National Park will move to Level 4 of protection measures.

The National Park, which covers an area of 720 square miles, crosses over four different council areas - forcing some parts of the park to close down to visitors.

Gordon Watson, Chief Executive of Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park Authority, said: “I know many people will be disheartened that so much of the National Park is moving into the highest protection level but I would ask everyone to play their part by adhering to these measures, especially around travelling to different areas so that we can minimise the further spread of the virus.

“It’s particularly important that people are aware that there are different local authority areas within the National Park so the levels are not the same everywhere and that the travel guidance will now become law.

"To comply with the move to level four in West Dunbartonshire the Duncan Mills Memorial Slipway including the slipway, office, car park and toilets will close from Friday for three weeks. Hospitality businesses and visitor attractions will be also closed in Level 4 Areas.

“For those in lower level areas of the National Park who are still able to get out and enjoy certain areas please plan and check your travel in advance and be aware that even in some lower level areas many facilities such as public toilets have moved to winter opening hours.”

READ MORE: This is how social distancing is causing major damage to mountain footpaths

Mountaineering Scotland, while welcoming the Scottish Government’s acknowledgement that outdoor exercise is so important for the mental and physical wellbeing of the population, has warned that the inequalities of access to the outdoors have been further exacerbated due to the move of 11 local authority areas to tier 4.

Stuart Younie, CEO of the organisation, said: “We are committed to playing our part in helping to tackle this virus and understand the Government are facing difficult decisions, but it’s important that people can continue to exercise their right of responsible access to the countryside to enjoy the physical and mental health benefits it brings.

“With over 2 million people in the most densely populated areas of Scotland under Tier 3 and 4 restrictions, for some even their nearest rural areas are already beyond their reach.

"We hope the Government considers how, under the proposed legislation, they can take a flexible approach to enable people to travel to their nearest rural area without the threat of being charged with an offence, so they can continue to enjoy the undisputed health benefits of recreation in the countryside whilst keeping themselves and others safe.”

Mountaineering Scotland’s advice to members, and to others who under the current guidance are able to head for the hills, is to have consideration for the people living in those areas by travelling where possible by private transport, filling up before leaving their own local authority area, and avoiding mixing with people in the communities they are passing through.