Mountain deaths double in three years: Minister rules out 'red tape' curbs for Highland climbers and walkers

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The Independent Online
THE NUMBER of walkers and climbers killed in the Highlands of Scotland has doubled in the past three years, according to a survey published yesterday, writes John Arlidge.

But Sir Hector Monro, the Scottish sports minister, ruled out calls for legislation to restrict access to the mountains and for the introduction of compulsory personal accident insurance.

A total 54 walkers and climbers died last year, the highest ever annual figure.

Speaking at a mountain safety conference in Dunblane, near Stirling, Sir Hector said: 'It is imperative that we achieve a reduction in deaths and I am determined that the Government will play its part. But I do not think it makes sense at this stage to consider any form of solution which sees the outdoors obscured by red tape.'

Framing and enforcing legislation to stop people taking to the hills or to force them to take out insurance, would be 'greatly problematic' and an 'unreasonable intrusion in private individuals' freedom of choice and action'.

The Scottish Mountain Rescue study, commissioned by the Rescue Committee of Scotland, shows that between 1964 and 1990 about 15 to 20 people died each year in accidents in the Highlands.

From 1990 to 1993, the figure rose to more than 50, with the proportion of incidents resulting in one or more deaths up from 9 to 16 per cent. The highest number of deaths occurred in the Glencoe area, where almost 25 per cent of accidents were fatal. Slips and poor navigational and climbing skills were to blame for most accidents.

The survey supported anecdotal evidence that visitors, unfamililar with the harsh winter conditions in the Grampian and Cairngorm mountains, were underestimating the dangers on the peaks. English people accounted for more than half of the casualties on Ben Nevis

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