CONTROVERSIAL proposals to reopen car parks near Loch Lomond this weekend have been scrapped.

The facilities at Duck Bay and Luss, along with two car parks at Glen Loin in Arrochar, will now remain closed in line with advice given by the First Minister.

Argyll and Bute Council, which owns all four car parks, had confirmed it intended to open them to cope with an anticipated increase in visitor numbers, subject to the latest guidance on the easing of lockdown restrictions.

In response to a question from a journalist at the press conference which followed Thursday lunchtime's briefing, Ms Sturgeon said it was her expectation that car parks and other visitor facilities in the country's National Parks should remain closed.

READ MORE: All the latest coronavirus news from around Scotland in Friday's live blog

She told the media, and the public watching the televised press conference, that people should not be travelling long distances, and should be avoiding popular beauty spots and crowded places, adding that "crowds bring more risk than we judge is acceptable or safe at this point".

Several hours later, in a statement published on the council's website just after 6pm on Thursday, and on its Facebook page half an hour later, the authority said: "The Scottish Government has announced they are entering phase one as lockdown restrictions start to ease.

"Following national guidance, our car parks at Luss, Duck Bay, Arrochar and Kidston Park in Helensburgh will remain closed.

READ MORE: Six things you can and can't do in Dumbarton and the Vale as phase one of lockdown easing begins

"Whilst some restrictions have been lifted including access to outdoor recreation, the guidance remains clear: stay home as much as possible; do not travel more than five miles from your local area; keep a two-metre distance from people; avoid beauty and tourist hot spots; and if it looks too busy, it is too busy – go somewhere else."

The council's earlier plan to reopen car parks near Loch Lomond sparked a furious response from Lomond North ward councillor George Freeman, who accused the authority of being more interested in parking revenue than public safety and warned that reopening car parks would put village residents at increased risk of contracting Covid-19.

Separately, the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park Authority has announced that all of its visitor facilities – including car parks – will remain closed despite the easing of lockdown limits.

READ MORE: 'Please DON'T visit Loch Lomond this weekend' says national park boss

The park authority's chief executive, Gordon Watson, says the area is "not ready, nor is the time right, for large numbers of visitors to arrive at popular places, many right on the doorstep of small rural communities".

Mr Watson warned that large crowds in the area would put increased pressure on the emergency services.

The Duck Bay, Luss and Arrochar car parks have been closed since before Easter to discourage people from visiting the area.

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