Police Scotland is today launching ‘Bothy Watch’ – an initiative to raise awareness of the issues surrounding remote bothies across the south of Scotland.
The multi-agency initiative includes partners from Forestry and Land Scotland, Mountain Bothies Association (MBA), Local Authorities and Mountain Rescue Team volunteers with a focus on reducing crime in outlying areas, keeping the bothies free from damage and allowing them to be used for the purpose they are intended for.
Eleven bothies maintained by the Mountain Bothies Association are spread across the southern part of Scotland. Bothies are typically situated in remote wilderness areas – the main purpose of these simple shelters is to provide warmth and shelter when our Scottish weather takes a turn for the worse or for an overnight stop on a long distance trek.
Reports of anti-social behaviour, vandalism and fire at bothies have raised concern over their use.
PC Samantha Briggs, who is leading the initiative and explains,
“For years these buildings have been a valuable and in fact quite a social resource for hill walkers and cyclists, with many reliant upon them on their long distance trekking routes.”
“Nowadays there is a wealth of information available online about their locations and as a result they have become generally more accessible. This trend for the bothy has attracted a different type of user and we are concerned that health and safety on the hills is compromised and the integrity of the bothy lost.”
“We are aware of a report that genuine hillwalkers were prevented access to a bothy full of revellers. They were forced to continue on in bad weather and subsequently had to be rescued off the hillside. This is a real concern for us and we want to raise awareness to the consequences of not using these shelters correctly.”
“The Bothy Watch initiative will promote sustainable and safe use of the bothies but at the same time I think it is vital to educate the new generation of users on the proper etiquette surrounding their use in order to reduce potential for anti-social behaviour.”
“By working together with our partners who regularly access these properties we hope to spread the message that bothies are not law free zones. Regular checks will be carried out to the buildings and monitoring of any vehicles parked in restricted zones.”
Peter King, MBA’s Area Organiser for Southern Scotland, said,
“We welcome this initiative by Police Scotland. The MBA has developed a Code of Practice for bothy users, based on respect for the building, the surrounding environment and other users. A copy of this “Bothy Code” can be found in each of the bothies that we maintain and also on our website www.mountainbothies.org.uk. We have also recently appointed an Education Officer tasked with considering what further action we can take to spread the message about responsible use.”
Any crimes involving the bothies can be reported using the Bothy Report section on Mountain Bothies Association’s website, or alternatively by phoning Police Scotland on 101 (999 for emergency calls). Information can also be passed via the independent charity CrimeStoppers by calling 0800 555 111 where anonymity can be maintained.