The Five Miles

There has been much hoohaa in recent days over people breaking the recommendation not to travel further than five miles for their recreation. But while the images of weekend scenes at Balmaha and Arrochar are quite ridiculous, the politicians need to get of their high horses and lose that self righteous indignation, for the real problem is not with us people.

It has been clear from the beginning that the various do and don’t rules are being created by people living in some sort of an alternative reality cocoon. Take the, now thankfully abolished, 60min day exercise rule—no wonder the nation is experiencing an obesity epidemic if our politicians reckon that’s all we need.

And let there be no doubt, these are political constraints. At no point have we been presented with any evidence to back the restrictions on our outdoor activities other than the need to keep 2m distance: no explanation why 60min and not 90min, why once a day and not twice a day; the very fact that the restriction didn’t apply to walking a dog demonstration of its arbitrariness.

The latest five mile rule is no different, at best a number conjured up by a bureaucratic pen, at worst made up on the fly by Nicola right there behind the pulpit. For many, if not most of us, a five mile radius doesn’t encompass our ‘local area’: we can’t do our shopping within five miles, meet our closest friends, never mind reach a proper outdoor space.

Now, I understand why the Scottish Government are reluctant to ease the lockdown, they don’t have the epidemic under control. But by now we all know that’s mainly the case because the lockdown was introduced way too late and because contact tracing was abandoned when it mattered most. And on the top of it, for better part of three months the Scottish Government, as much as the English one, didn’t make any preparations for eventually getting us out of lockdown.

So forgive me if I, for one, am sick and tired of being patronised, of being told that ‘we understand people want to head in to the places they love, but they will still be there when it’s over’. This shows so little grasp of what outdoor recreation is about that I don’t know whether to scream or just cry quietly. For great many of us, we don’t head to the outdoors because we love it in some abstract platonic sense. We do so because we need to, because it’s the only way we know to maintain our sanity; and that’s why in turn we love these places. And by now, we are crawling up the walls.

If we are having a problem with controlling the spread of the virus, it’s not because we, the people, are being irresponsible, it’s because of the half baked guidelines coming to us from up on high. It is inevitable that when the official rules don’t make enough sense for real people living real lives, folk resort to making their own individual choices. And when we do, it becomes each one for themselves, and that’s the last thing we need.