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Increased traffic expected on Caithness roads as restrictions eased today

By David G Scott

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As the message changes from Stay Local to travel being permitted within Scotland from today, Highland agencies remind everyone that facilities for overnight stays and many other visitor facilities are not open until April 26.

Partners urge people to follow current Government advice on movement and gatherings, and to follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code.

Convener of the Highland Council, Bill Lobban said: “It is important you plan ahead before making any journeys from this Friday. We look forward to welcoming tourists and visitors back to the Highlands from 26 April. However, before then, overnight stays away from home are not permitted and the usual tourist facilities are not open.

Vehicles negotiate the Berriedale Braes before lockdown. Picture: DGS
Vehicles negotiate the Berriedale Braes before lockdown. Picture: DGS

“We all have an important role to play in slowing the spread of coronavirus and as we begin to emerge from lockdown, we must not become complacent. We urge everyone to follow the current guidelines, respect the environment, and not put any additional pressure on the NHS or other emergency services at this time, especially given the heightened risk of wildfires at this time.”

A very high/extreme wildfire warning issued by the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) remains in place until April 17. This covers north-east, east and central Scotland and extends to western Scotland over the next few days. Many remote communities are hugely impacted by wildfires, which can cause significant damage. Therefore, SFRS has urged people who live within or who may enter rural environments to exercise caution.

Area commander Bruce Farquharson said: "We are asking the public to think twice before using anything involving a naked flame. Livestock, farmland, wildlife, protected woodland and sites of special scientific interest can all be devastated by these fires – as can the lives of people living and working in rural communities.

"These fires can also have a hugely negative impact on the environment and the release of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere.

"Human behaviour can significantly lower the chance of a wildfire starting, so it is crucial that people act safely and responsibly in rural environments, and always follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code."

Increased traffic is expected from today with the ease of restrictions. Picture: DGS
Increased traffic is expected from today with the ease of restrictions. Picture: DGS

Divisional commander chief superintendent Conrad Trickett said: "We are going to see increased traffic on our roads and if you are visiting beauty spots then I would urge you to please do so safely and respectfully – leaving no trace of your visit. Please also park responsibly to allow emergency access. I would also remind people that under the new restrictions, gatherings are limited to six people from six households meeting outdoors only.

"Our approach throughout the pandemic has been to engage with the public, explain the legislation and encourage compliance, but we will not hesitate to use our enforcement powers as a last resort. This approach will continue as restrictions continue to be eased over the coming months."

Visit Scotland has information about travel in Scotland on its website www.visitscotland.com/about/practical-information/covid-19-recovery-phases/

Latest Scottish Government guidance on restrictions www.gov.scot/coronavirus-covid-19/

Campaigners warn Caithness roads are 'lethal' and will get worse as lockdown is eased

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