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A regulation too far?

Posted 2 March 2012
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A regulation too far?
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When it comes to adventure, many people love to head up to Scotland, whether it is with a climbing rope, walking boots or, in winter, with crampons or ski pants.

Of course, there can always be a risk involved. Slips and trips, falls and avalanches are part of the hazard. Some might respond that being away from towns and cities, there is less chance of suffering in other ways such as road accidents, while pointing out the health benefits of getting active in the outdoors.

So attempts to impose any kind of health and safety regulation are bound to encounter controversy. Many walkers and climbers will insist they are doing things at their own risk. And while those in charge of others, such as on outdoor activity courses, may bear some responsibility, the need for common sense is widely recognised.

The Scottish government's consultation on adventurous activities has waded into these murky waters and the Mountaineering Council of Scotland (MCoS) is not happy with what it has heard. The administration in Holyrood wants to develop a system that the MCoS regards as amounting to a licensing scheme for its activities. 

It said it believes "a licensing scheme for mountaineering club activities is unwarranted and unnecessary and [has] urged member clubs to respond individually to the consultation".

The MCoS went on to suggest there is no justification from Mountain Rescue statistics for any regulation and said the mutual reliance of outdoor group members is what really makes people safer, suggesting that the number of incidents has fallen while more people are taking to the hills.

And it argued that such a system would deter people from volunteering to be part of such organisations.

While the Olympics in London may be used as one driver for efforts to get people taking part in sport more and living increasingly active and healthy lives, so the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games are being used in the same way.

And contrary to the beer and fried mars bar stereotype, many people from Clydeside like to leave the city behind and head for the hills, with the southernmost Munro of Ben Lomond being a favourite first 3,000-foot ascent.

But if the MCoS fears are founded, such outdoor participation may decline, snared in too much red tape to climb high.