This item was published during the term of a previous administration that ended in April 2007
International Year of Mountains
"Sports tourism and an appreciation of the magnificence of the Scottish countryside can play a major role in rural regeneration," Tourism and Sports Minister Mike Watson said today as he launched the International Year of Mountains.
He endorsed the initiative that is designed to enhance appreciation of, and visits to, the countryside, and said:
"Scottish culture and Scottish identity are inextricably linked with the beauty of the scenery that surrounds us. The splendour of the Scottish countryside and the welcome of its people are among the many factors which attract tourists to this country.
"Our mountains are an established attraction to those enjoying outdoor recreation. Sport and recreation now rank alongside more traditional activities such as farming and forestry as a major use of our hills.
"Visitors to our hills and countryside make a significant contribution to local and regional economies. In 1998 it was estimated that the overall walking market in Scotland generated around one million trips, almost 10 million bed nights and at least £438 million in revenue to rural areas. Hill walking supports over 6,000 full time jobs in the Highlands and Islands alone.
"The importance of Scotland's mountains and countryside were perhaps never more emphasised than during last year's foot and mouth outbreak. Scotland has now been declared disease free; so for the many attractions of the countryside it is business as usual."
Scotland is one of over 100 countries taking part in the International Year of Mountains. The year aims to ensure the present and future well-being of mountain communities by promoting conservation and sustainable development, increasing awareness of mountain eco-systems and promoting cultural heritage.