Justice Secretary Michael Matheson has thanked the country’s mountain rescue teams, including that of the Cairngorms, for the hard work being done by their volunteers.
Mr Matheson said: "In the last week volunteer teams have assisted stranded motorists, emergency services and essential workers, as the recent snow has caused considerable disruption around the country.
"But, since December, teams have also been involved in a number of challenging search and rescues, assisting those in trouble in Scotland’s mountains, in heavy snow and strong winds, maximising survival chances and saving lives. As a former mountain rescue volunteer, I have seen the conditions they face first hand and am particularly grateful for their efforts this winter.
"I want to take this opportunity to remind anyone considering walking, climbing or taking part in any other activities in the mountains and hills, at any time of the year, to take proper care and follow best available advice, so that the lives of our dedicated volunteers are not put at risk unnecessarily.
"Although we are entering Spring, currently, conditions are such that anyone without an extremely high skill set, detailed knowledge of the terrain, and all the necessary equipment, should not even consider venturing out. To ignore best advice, and to set off regardless, can unwittingly put our dedicated volunteers lives at risk."
Scotland’s weather can be challenging, and very changeable, especially on high ground, yet simple precautions and good equipment could greatly reduce the risks of misadventure and accident.
Top mountain safety tips include:
•Check the weather forecast and avalanche information service, and change your plans if necessary. Relevant information can be obtained from Scottish Avalanche Information Service at sais.gov.uk, the Met Office and Mountain Weather Information Service
•Leave a note with details of your route and when you expect to return
•Have an alternative plan in case weather conditions worsen
•Have all the appropriate equipment, including ice axe and crampons if conditions demand it
•Carry a compass and map and know how to use it. Don’t rely on GPS
•Attend a winter mountaineering course to brush up on your skills
•Read up about the risk of avalanche and how to spot the warning signs.
Mr Matheson pointed out that this year the Scottish Government is providing a certain amount of funding to help ensure the safety of mountain users, namely a £312,000 annual grant for voluntary mountain rescue teams and £1,312,400 through sportscotland.