The final item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S5M-15678, in the name of Liz Smith, on the centenary of the death of Sir Hugh Munro. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.
That the Parliament recognises that March 2019 marks the centenary of the death of Sir Hugh Munro; acknowledges that he was a founder member of the Scottish Mountaineering Club, eventually becoming the club’s president; understands that Sir Hugh was the first person to publish a list of all of the mountains in Scotland with a height exceeding 3,000 feet in the club’s journal in 1891, which are now known as Munros; notes that it remains a popular hobby among hillwalkers to aim to climb every Munro in Scotland, and recognises that over 6,000 individuals have achieved this feat to date.
It gives me great pleasure to present this motion to Parliament this evening. I extend a warm welcome to the members of the Munro Society who are in the gallery, and congratulate them on the outstanding archive exhibition that they have mounted in the AK Bell library in Perth, which I enjoyed visiting on Friday and which accompanies the exhibition in Kirriemuir about Sir Hugh Munro’s life. I also thank the representatives of other groups on whom we depend for the preservation of our magnificent mountain scenery across Scotland, and I welcome to the gallery a special climber whose name, fittingly, is Hugh William Munro, and who is hoping to compleat in a few months’ time. I wish him well in that.
I was 14 when I was first told about Sir Hugh. I am not sure that I paid terribly much attention to him or to his mountains at the time, although I still have exceptionally vivid memories of walking the Lairig Ghru and seeing the great towering cliffs of Ben Macdui and Braeriach above it, which, perhaps subliminally, inspired me. I will say more about that inspiration in a minute.
Sir Hugh was born in London in 1856. He was schooled in Crieff, Winchester and Cambridge, but it was his early life around the family estate near Kirriemuir, with its scenic backdrop of the Angus glens, and then, specifically, a trip to Stuttgart to learn German, which he combined with a trip through the Alps, that sparked his lifelong love of mountains.
Sir Hugh spent some time in South Africa, working as private secretary to the governor of Natal, before returning to Angus to manage the family estate. Later in life, he worked as a king’s messenger, travelling to Asia, North America and Africa.
What members might not know is that Sir Hugh had a keen interest in politics, and he stood in 1885 as the Conservative and Unionist candidate in the Kirkcaldy Burghs constituency. It has to be said that he did not do so with terribly much success, as he polled precisely three votes for every Munro that he was later to identify.
It was in 1891, in the sixth issue of the journal of the Scottish Mountaineering Club, of which he was a founder member, that Munro published his original list of all the peaks in Scotland with a height of more than 3,000 feet. That list—the outcome of much painstaking research—was drawn up from Ordnance Survey maps of the time as well as from Sir Hugh’s vast knowledge, gained from his trips to the hills. At the time, it contained 283 mountains, something that came as more than a little surprise to many within the Scottish mountaineering community who believed that there were only around 30 Scottish tops over 3,000 feet, albeit that the definition of a separate mountain is much clearer today than it was in his time.
Of course, the list has undergone several revisions since—infuriatingly so for some of the baggers among us who found out that an additional Munro had appeared or that one that we had already climbed had disappeared. As things stand, there are 282.
Sadly, Sir Hugh never quite managed to complete his own list—three summits eluded him. Those were the Inaccessible Pinnacle on Skye—I do not blame him for that, given my own experience on that iconic rock—Carn an Fhidhleir, which is a long trail out into the wilds from Linn of Dee, Glen Feshie or Glen Tilt, and Carn Cloich-mhuilinn in upper Deeside, which, at the time, he believed to be a separate Munro from Beinn Bhrotain.
As well as celebrating his life, we should celebrate Sir Hugh’s legacy this week. We should celebrate his contribution not only to our mountains, but to Scotland in general, given the enormous popularity of Munro bagging both within the United Kingdom and abroad. He can have had little idea of the influence that he would exert on later generations of walkers and climbers. He would never have expected that his name would become synonymous with those mountains and he could not have foreseen the vast numbers of climbers who, more than a century later, would be using his tables as the basis for their leisure activities. He certainly could not have predicted all the books that have been written, the tourist trails that have been set up and the mythology that now surrounds our Munros.
The first recorded compleatist is believed to have been the Rev AE Robertson, who, in 1901, became the first person to climb all the Munros. However, a quite remarkable set of records now exists. Steven Fallon, from Edinburgh, holds the record for having completed 15 rounds of all 282 Munros, and Hazel Strachan from Bathgate holds the female record, with 10 rounds. The record for the fastest round of the Munros is held by Stephen Pyke of Staffordshire, who—without using any motorised transport—completed the round in precisely 39 days and nine hours.
I experienced my own conversion to outdoor education in my early teaching years and I learned almost all that I know about mountain craft from Ian Murray, who was a senior colleague and also a Munroist. It was during those early teaching days that I took part in numerous school projects at Loch Ossian, for which I have an enduring affection. Along with groups of pupils and colleagues, I made regular ascents of the 12 accessible Munros around Ossian, but it was not until the later stages of school projects that the Munro bug really captured me. I completed my round in 2012.
Over the years, that bug has taken me to some of the most wonderful places in Scotland, where I have met extraordinary people and tested my abilities—both athletic and mental—against all the challenges that the elements could throw at me. I have also had the privilege of good companionship, including that of two of my colleagues, Murdo Fraser and Miles Briggs, who will, I hope, also be compleatists—in the not too distant future, if their map reading gets better. [
I will finish my tribute to Sir Hugh by offering some thoughts on three important messages that we must take forward. First, we must do all that we can to pass on his great legacy to the young people of today—a generation for whom it is so tempting and too easy to stay indoors and ignore the great beauty of Scotland. We owe them our knowledge and wisdom when it comes to getting the best out of the great outdoors. Secondly, climbing Munros brings great enjoyment, but it also brings great responsibility—for ourselves, as we embark on challenging adventures in the wilds of Scotland, in weather conditions that can test our judgment at any moment, and for other people, as we guard their safety on the hills. The third message is to respect and assist all those who preserve and enhance Sir Hugh’s great legacy in caring for the environment: those who build and repair the paths, those who look after the mountain bothies and moors, those who rescue people who get into difficulty, and all those who support them. We owe them a huge debt of gratitude because without them, we could not enjoy Munros in the way that we do.
I will finish with some words from the great climber Edward Whymper, who, with his ascent of the Matterhorn, inspired Munro. He said:
“Climb if you will, but remember that courage and strength are nought without prudence and that a momentary negligence may destroy the happiness of a lifetime.”
Those are wise words, as we remember the legacy of Sir Hugh Munro. [
I thank Liz Smith for securing the debate and I join her and the rest of the country in celebrating the life and legacy of Sir Hugh Munro, who was the first person to compile a definitive list of Scotland’s mountains that are 3,000 feet or higher.
As Liz Smith expressed wonderfully in her speech, Sir Hugh himself was unable to complete them all as he sadly passed away before bagging the final three on his list. However, his legacy lives on, encouraging thousands of people each year to hike Scotland’s highest mountains, with the goal of one day bagging them all.
The legacy of Sir Hugh Munro is not just to encourage people to hike Scotland’s Munros; it is to encourage them to enjoy all types of hills and mountains in Scotland. Although my South Scotland region is not home to a single Munro—not a single yin—we have plenty of Corbetts and Donalds to make up for it. My staff member Ross Cunningham assures me that hiking Munros and Donalds with his dug, Dex, is so enjoyable and rewarding.
The Scottish Mountaineering Club describes a Donald as a mountain in the Scottish lowlands that, at its highest, is 2,000 feet or higher. There are 89 Donalds, most of which are in Dumfries and Galloway, and the greatest of them all is the Merrick, which is the highest mountain in the south of Scotland. There are of course other beautiful mountains and hills in the south-west, such as White Coomb near Moffat, the lower slopes of which are home to the beautiful Loch Skeen and Grey Mare’s Tail, which is one of the finest waterfalls in Scotland and the United Kingdom.
The views from the summit of the Merrick are breathtaking; it offers panoramic views across the Galloway forest and hills and, on a clear day, as far afield as the Isle of Man and Northern Ireland.
I have been passionate about promoting the south-west and bringing more tourists to the region, because we have so much to offer visitors, particularly given the region’s role in the life of one of Scotland’s great icons, Robert the Bruce. I encourage any hillwalkers planning to hike the Merrick to take in Bruce’s stone at the foot of the mountain. It is a massive granite boulder with inscriptions commemorating Bruce’s first victory in 1307 during the Scottish wars of independence.
Someone who has walked the summit of the Merrick on many occasions is a weel-kent friend of Galloway, Steve Norris. He is an author and journalist fae Galloway and a keen hillwalker. Perhaps he is our south-west equivalent to Sir Hugh Munro. Born and bred in Wigtownshire, he has been climbing the Galloway hills since he was a wee boy. He wrote a series of articles on exploring the mountains in the south-west called “To the High Country”. The series prompted many requests from readers for him to write books about his adventures in the hills, and he has now begun those books. He describes the Galloway hills as a magical kingdom. The first titles in the “Exploring the Galloway Hills” series, “The Cairnsmore of Fleet range” and “The Minnigaff Range” have been published and three more are in the pipeline.
It is guid that Steve is inspiring people to explore and bag bonnie Galloway’s upland hills and, further afield, to bag the Munros. I follow his hikes and photos with his dug, Ruaridh, on his Galloway Hills books Facebook page.
I want to say thank you to Scotland’s mountain rescue teams. I am aware that many have been called out recently and been kept very busy. In the south-west we have the Galloway Mountain Rescue Team, which is a charity in Newton Stewart that provides rescue services in Dumfries and Galloway and South Ayrshire. It was formed in 1975 and has responded to more than 420 incidents, including one as recently as last weekend. Like other mountain rescue teams, Galloway MRT is a charity that is run by volunteers who give up their own time when called on, which can put their life in danger, to rescue those who are injured or in distress on our mountains and hills. I encourage everyone to visit its website to learn more about its work and read about how to keep safe in the hills, whether they are bagging the Galloway hills or the Munros.
On this centenary of the death of Sir Hugh Munro, whether people are climbing the Munros named after him or the Donalds doon in bonnie Galloway, our Scotland is the most beautiful country to explore.
I congratulate my colleague Liz Smith on securing the debate and on her motion, which I was very pleased to support.
There cannot be many individuals who have a whole sport or activity named after them, but Sir Hugh Munro falls into that category. The pastime of Munro bagging, which now attracts many thousands of people to Scotland and many thousands of Scots into the hills every weekend and at holiday time, is a direct result of his efforts in compiling a list of Scottish peaks over 3,000 feet.
As Liz Smith set out earlier in the debate, Sir Hugh was a native of Angus and grew up on his family’s estate at Lindertis near Kirriemuir. A few years ago, I had the privilege of attending the unveiling of a memorial stone to him in the centre of the town, where he is remembered as one of Kirriemuir’s greatest sons. I have not yet had the opportunity of visiting the Munro Society’s exhibition at the A K Bell library in Perth, but it is very much on my list of things to do in the coming days.
Sir Hugh never managed to complete the round of Munros himself, being driven off Skye by bad weather on more than one occasion, so he never made it to the top of the Inaccessible Pinnacle. In that respect, at least, I have one up on him, having completed all the peaks on the Cuillin ridge a few years ago. It was an unforgettable experience, and one far away from the perceptions that many have of Scottish hill walking just being about trudging over boggy moors that are infested by vicious midges—although a fair bit of the experience is about that, too.
Unlike Liz Smith, I have not yet completed the round of Munros. On my last count I was on 193, so I now have fewer than a hundred to go. I hope that I will get there one day. Last summer, I was able to take my son, who was then aged 10, up his very first Munro: Ben Hope, in the north of Scotland. I am not sure that that experience inspired him to try to climb many others—when he got to the top, he asked me exactly what the point of the exercise was—but I hope that, one day, he will be bitten by the bug, as many other climbers have been.
Munro’s table sets out a list of peaks to climb, in a number that involves substantial effort, and which most people will complete over an extended period of time—perhaps a lifetime. However, for those who do so, there is not just a sense of great achievement; they will have experienced Scotland in comprehensive fashion, seeing all the different parts of the country, from the Angus glens and the Cairngorms in the east to the wild north-west, and they will no doubt experienced the extremes of weather and, on occasion, pushed themselves beyond the limits of what they thought they could accomplish. I know that some climbers can be rather snooty about Munro bagging, but it is a popular and challenging way to experience Scottish hills, and many who started climbing the Munros have gone on to greater exploits elsewhere.
We should not forget the tremendous contribution that the sport of climbing Munros makes to the Scottish tourism economy. There are now thousands of people on the Munro trail, as is evident from the well-trodden paths that lead to the tops of even the most remote peaks. The whole industry of providing hotel beds, self-catering, meals, drinks and outdoor shops has been built around the existence of Munro’s table. Finally, climbing Munros is about fresh air and exercise. It is a relatively inexpensive hobby that helps people to get fit—which we all need to do more of.
I am very pleased to support the motion, and I encourage those who have not had the experience of climbing Munros to get out there and do it. I am sure that we will all be celebrating Sir Hugh Munro’s legacy for many years to come.
I thank Liz Smith and congratulate her on having lodged the motion and securing this very enjoyable debate. I also congratulate her on being a Munroist. I take my hat off to her and to Murdo Fraser, for his impressive total of 193 Munros. I have to say that mine is slightly less than 50, but there is no less joy in that. I do not know whether I will ever complete them all, but it is certainly one of the most enjoyable pastimes that I have continued to experience since I was a young teenager.
It is a particular honour to speak in the debate, because I am a member for North East Scotland and represent Kirriemuir—Sir Hugh Munro’s birthplace. I hope to visit the exhibition in Perth before it closes later this year.
I was interested to hear Liz Smith mention Steve Fallon, whose Twitter feed gives me a lot of encouragement on dark mornings when I am on my way to Parliament, knowing that I will not make it out again during daylight. He tweets pictures of the beautiful light and gorgeous scenery across our country. I wish that he would do so even more regularly, because the pictures gladden my heart every time I see them.
I have spoken previously about the importance of access to the outdoors, and a few weeks ago both Liz Smith and I spoke in a debate on the importance of outdoor education. I feel particularly passionately about that, because there are so many children in Scotland today who are brought up in cities and have never even been to a beach, let alone up a mountain. The organisations across Scotland that are doing work to encourage access to the outdoors deserve to be marked today, and deserve our thanks and praise.
I want to mention in particular the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. I was not a participant in the organisation’s award because it was not available when I was at school, but the organisation is now making a concerted effort to go into communities that perhaps do not have as much access to the outdoors or the resources to fund and facilitate that. I express our thanks to it, and I hope that the whole Parliament will encourage it as it proceeds with that project.
I echo Emma Harper’s thanks to our mountain rescue teams. We saw just last week how important their service is. I also echo Liz Smith’s thanks to all the organisations across Scotland that maintain pathways and the infrastructure that we need.
I note Murdo Fraser’s point about the impact on the economy. I do not quite have the words to articulate this, but I will say that there are people who are a bit snooty about the Munro-bagging project. However, Murdo Fraser was right to point out that Hugh Munro really made it a thing, and when something becomes a goal for people to achieve, it becomes an accessible challenge for them. I do not think there is anything wrong with that, if it is about encouraging people into the outdoors.
I finish by drawing Parliament’s attention to a project in memory of Sir Hugh Munro that will be launched next week, I believe, by the University of Dundee. It is called the Munro table project. It will ask members of the public, including experienced mountaineers and people who have never climbed a mountain before, to sign up to climb one Munro by the end of the year and to remove a small bag of rubbish as they walk. It sounds like a good environmental project, and I hope that people who are listening to the debate will explore it further.
This is my second members’ business debate in two days on two topics that I am interested in—yesterday’s debate was on who owns the Munros, and today’s is on the Munros themselves.
My diary indicated that I was meant to be at an Institute and Faculty of Actuaries event this evening, but I had a meeting earlier with Murdo Fraser and he has offered me a place in his taxi. I ask him not to run away, so that we can both get to it on time.
When I was a new member of the Parliament, I was not sure who among our number would share an obsession with Munros. If nothing else, coming to the debate has revealed some of them. I am not a Munro bagger as such, although I have probably climbed more than 200 of them. As a teenager, I was a member of the Ochils Mountaineering Club, and members there were starting to complete the Munros. I climbed regularly with someone who was a 99th completer. At the University of Aberdeen, however, I decided to stop counting, because that was the cool thing to do. I was in the Lairig club, which is the university’s mountaineering club. I was president of it, in fact. There was another club called the exploration society, and we regarded its members as pond-life. They just went and walked, and they also went up Munros. It was cool, therefore, to distinguish oneself by not being a Munro bagger. If you were a Munro bagger, you were meant to be in the exploration society.
Nevertheless, I continued to enjoy, in winter and summer, wandering up hills both by less-strenuous routes and by some very strenuous routes, and I was content to keep climbing them. By that time, it had become too late to achieve a goal that I would quite like to have set myself. I think it was in Bob Scott’s bothy in the Cairngorms that I committed myself to being the first person not to complete the Munros. Of course, all bar 6,000 people have achieved that including, I imagine, many members in the chamber—in fact, everyone bar Liz Smith. My goal was to be the first to climb them but to stop 10 feet short of the summit. That was a rather bizarre goal, but I cannot achieve it now.
In recent years, my family members have been quite enthusiastic. I got my “Munro’s Tables” out, in which I saw all the pencilled ticks and dates, which petered out in the 1980s. As members have said, the outdoors have become much more popular over the past 20 years, which is, of course, extremely welcome. I was climbing Ben Cleuch—it is not a Munro, but it is a nice hill—a few weeks ago, and I was surprised and delighted to see so many young women out walking on the hills. When I started going to the hills—Liz Smith probably shares this experience—it was very much a male pursuit. Indeed, too many men went out of their way to discourage women and young people.
I find the modern obsession about Munros baffling, but also quite fascinating. I was delighted to read a recent blog on the “FionaOutdoors” website by Munro bagger Anne Butler, which was based on an article that she wrote for
The Munro Society Journal in 2016—I did not even know that there was a Munro Society, so I apologise for my ignorance. In September 2018, Anne became the first full-house finisher, a full house being the completion of not only the Munros but the Munro tops, the Corbetts, the Grahams, the Donalds and the Furths—whatever they are.
Anne is now planning to complete another full house as well as her sixth and seventh round of the Munros themselves. Her article was entitled “There are no rules”, and in it she asks some thorny questions about Munros that have to be reclassified and whether we need to go back up a hill that has been elevated to Munro status. She also drew our attention to the first person to have completed the Munros without a beard, who was a “J. Dow” in 1933.
She has a very interesting section called “How do you count yours?” about
“an age old problem ... that many would welcome a ruling on ... the on-going debate between Golfers and Bankers. The Purists, or ‘golfers’ as they are known, believe that you don’t start a second or subsequent round until you have finished the last ... Then there are the ‘bankers’ who apply the cumulative mode of counting and simply start the next round on whatever total of repeats ascents that have already been achieved.”
We can see how that gentle obsession can occupy people in many hours of entertaining conversation, which is perfectly delightful.
Scotland is blessed to have had Hugh Munro and his famous tables, which have set generations of folk a very demanding target for what otherwise might be a less demanding pastime. A good friend of mine from university was Andy Nisbet, who tragically died a few weeks ago. He is a good example of such people; he had completed his Munros by the time he was 19 and through his wide experience of the hills developed the interest, skill and the talent to go on to become, arguably, Scotland’s most prolific and successful winter climber, with more than 1,000 new routes across the country.
May folk from Scotland, the UK and across the world continue to enjoy all that our hills have to offer. Much of that will be found on Munros, although a good deal will not be.
I am delighted to be here and to have the opportunity to close the debate tonight. It has been one of the best-natured debates that I have sat in on in the past while. I thank Liz Smith for her motion and for allowing us the opportunity to celebrate the life of Sir Hugh Munro, and all that he achieved and his lasting legacy in Scotland.
I am excited to do that particularly because of the Angus connection. I do not quite represent Kirriemuir, which is in Angus South and is home to quite a few famous sons. Between Hugh Munro, Bon Scott and J M Barrie, Angus is quite the home for talent.
I welcome the visitors in the public gallery, although I was really disappointed to hear about Willie Munro not quite completing the challenge yet; I look forward to hearing when he has completed it.
I thank Liz Smith for all the background and history that she provided. I did not realise that Sir Hugh Munro had been a Conservative candidate and had stood for election. There are jokes in there about Tories and elections, but I will not go there tonight; the debate has been relatively good natured, so I will leave that well alone.
I really looked forward to this debate, because I am passionate about our Munros, our hills and the wider landscape. My constituency of Angus North and Mearns is home to Scotland’s most easterly Munro, Mount Keen, which I go to often; if it is visited from the Glen Esk side, people pass the Queen’s well, which is a crown-shaped structure that was built in granite to commemorate the site where Queen Victoria passed by on an outing from Balmoral.
I like to think that I have ambitions to be a Munro bagger, although it seems quite competitive, given the numbers of Munros that people have told us tonight that they have scaled: Murdo Fraser has done 193, Liz Smith has completed them all, and Jenny Marra has done around 50. Andy Wightman could have done 200 or he could have done them all, but he is too cool to count, so who really knows. [
.] They make my paltry eight sound a bit pathetic, but I have done some of them a lot more than once.
Some of the most special and memorable moments of my life have been the days when I have been up climbing the hills, especially when on my own, although I am something of a spring-time walker and only really do it in the good weather. That is when you can see the whole of Scotland laid out before you. It really makes your heart swell when you see what a fantastic and incredible landscape you live in. One of the most memorable moments of my life was when I was climbing Mayar and Driesh and the snow came down. I lost my car key at the top and only discovered that at the bottom—sorry, it was my mum’s car key, because I had borrowed her car. I had to go back up with a metal detector two days later, only to get a phone call at the top from the ranger based at the bottom to tell me that someone had sat down next to the car key that day and brought it back down. That was a bit of good luck. That is enough about my personal attachment.
It is important that we take a moment to reflect on how far we have come in Scotland since devolution. One of the Parliament’s early successes was the National Parks (Scotland) Act 2000. Our two national parks, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs and the Cairngorms are thriving areas that showcase the best of natural Scotland. The Cairngorms also has some of the highest Munros in Scotland, if one takes a walk up through Ballochbuie forest to Lochnagar, or up to the west side of the Lairig Ghru to Cairn Toul. By the side of Loch Lomond is the most southerly and one of the most often-climbed Munros, Ben Lomond, which now commemorates at the Ben Lomond national memorial landscape those who died in the first world war. It is a poignant reflection that Sir Hugh Munro himself lived just long enough to see the end of that war. There is no doubt that he would have seen the Ben Lomond national memorial landscape as a fitting tribute to the death and suffering of so many at that time, having served with the Red Cross himself.
Then came the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003. I have no reservations in saying that all our Munro baggers must be grateful for that ground-breaking legislation, which brought Scotland’s access rights into the 21st century. The access rights from which our climbers and walkers now benefit are world leading in terms of their extent, scope and clarity. The Scottish outdoor access code leaves a legacy of inclusion of which—I like to think—Hugh Munro would be justly proud, and our core paths plans provide access closer to where people live.
Later, the Planning etc (Scotland) Act 2006 secured our best landscapes as the suite of national scenic areas. They are secured special protection within the planning system to ensure that they will always remain attractive to our global visitor markets.
Even those who do not go on to become full-blown mountaineers can get huge physical and mental health benefits from getting outdoors and challenging themselves, including by walking our Munros. As Emma Harper highlighted, it is about not just the Munros but getting out and about in general and enjoying our scenery across Scotland, including the Corbetts and the Donalds.
The Scottish Government has a vision of a Scotland where more people are more active, more often. Physical activity is about getting people moving. Walking in Scotland’s natural environment is free, and we know that being active outdoors is good for both physical and mental health. Emma Harper mentioned Ross Cunningham in her office, who has talked about the subject recently and has done pieces about it with the BBC.
In 2017, the Scottish household survey showed that recreational walking has consistently been the most common type of physical activity in which adults participate. Participation has risen from 57 per cent in 2011 to 70 per cent in 2017. We are working with partners to promote green exercise, support local green health partnerships, and maximise investment in green infrastructure.
Playing, learning and having fun outdoors helps to improve wellbeing and resilience, is associated with a wide range of health benefits in children, and allows children to use the natural world to help to develop curiosity and science skills. A growing body of research shows a positive impact on educational attainment. The right to play outdoors everyday has been enshrined in the Scottish Government’s national health and social care standards and we are a signatory to Scotland’s outdoor play and learning coalition position statement.
Liz Smith was absolutely right, towards the end of her speech, when she talked about the three great lessons that we should heed, the first of which is to pass on Sir Hugh Munro’s legacy to our young people and encourage that spirit of adventure. Murdo Fraser should not worry that his son has not picked up the Munro bug yet. I say that as somebody who feigned illness to get out of their bronze Duke of Edinburgh award. The bug hit me only later in life, and I am very much addicted to it now.
That takes me on to the vital point that Jenny Marra made about the work of the Duke of Edinburgh award and what it is trying to do with our young people; she also talked about a current environmental project, which is happening in Dundee. We should probably set such a challenge for people across the chamber. I hope that climbing one Munro by the end of the year should not be too much for anybody to manage.
We heard about the massive impact on tourism, and 50 per cent of respondents to VisitScotland’s visitor surveys cite Scotland’s scenery and landscape as their top reason for visiting. It is the number 1 reason for visiting Scotland for people in all markets, whether they are resident in Scotland or elsewhere in the UK, or are European or long-haul visitors.
Nature-based tourism, which includes activities that are based on Scotland’s landscapes and wildlife, makes a substantial contribution to the tourism sector, with tourist spending on nature-based activities being worth nearly 40 per cent of all tourism spending. Its value to Scotland’s economy is £1.4 billion per year and it supports 39,000 jobs.
Scotland’s natural environment is a huge asset and our Munros are a key part of that, so I thank Liz Smith for bringing the debate to the chamber this evening to give us the chance to celebrate and remember Sir Hugh Munro. Unknowingly, he created one of the great challenges to hillwalkers in Scotland, the UK and around the world. I encourage people within and outwith the chamber to get outside, to explore and to enjoy Sir Hugh Munro’s fantastic legacy to Scotland.