Licensing scheme kept for adventure activities
The retention of a statutory licensing scheme for adventure activities in Scotland has been broadly welcomed by outdoor education specialists.
Scotland has gone its own way, by deciding not to follow the UK government's plans for a voluntary code of practice.
Many had feared that a more laissez-faire approach would undermine parents' confidence in their children's safety, and that providers would be less inclined to run riskier activities.
The decision to keep a licensing scheme for adventure activities, which are worth pound;500 million a year to the Scottish economy, has been widely endorsed.
"We feel that the Scottish government has recognised the need to retain a robust, credible and proportionate method of reassuring local authorities, youth organisations and, most importantly, parents that providers of outdoor activities are safe," said Nigel Marshall, chair of the Scottish Advisory Panel for Outdoor Education.
John Armstrong, of the Scottish Adventure Activity Forum, welcomed the announcement but said more work was "essential" to bring about a broader range of adventurous activities and make accreditation available to "any outdoor activity provider who may wish to take it up".
But Conservative education spokesman Liz Smith, who has just bagged her final Munro, argued that there was still "far too much use of cotton wool when it comes to the organisation of school outdoor education".
She added: "Too many young people never get the opportunity to take part because their teachers and leaders feel threatened by legislation and by all the health and safety regulations, some of which bear little relationship to common sense."
The Scottish government's decision followed a consultation exercise in response to the UK Government's plan to replace the statutory Adventure Activities Licensing Authority with a voluntary code of practice. The authority was established in 1995 to license caving, climbing, trekking and watersports operators, after four young people died while kayaking at Lyme Bay in Dorset in 1993.
Sport minister Shona Robison said: "It is clear that that there is a strong view, particularly from those in education and local government, of the need for a statutory scheme to provide the reassurance that parents require and more broadly to users, their families and the wider public.
"I've also noted the widely-supported view that sports clubs should continue to be exempted from licensing to ensure there is no adverse impact on participation levels."