TRAFFIC heading towards Loch Lomond on the A82 was three times higher than normal at the weekend, according to the First Minister.

During her daily briefing on Monday, Nicola Sturgeon highlighted the large number of people who travelled from elsewhere to visit the area on the first weekend since the slight easing of lockdown restrictions – and repeated her plea to people not to travel too far from home for their exercise in future.

Police and the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park Authority had urged the public, prior to the weekend, not to put the health of local residents at risk by visiting the area.

But big crowds were reported in many areas, including Balloch, Luss and Arrochar, as the sunshine and warm temperatures tempted many people out of doors – even though facilities such as public toilets and car parks across the National Park were kept closed.

READ MORE: Loch Lomond authorities plead with public not to visit National Park as lockdown limits are eased

However, Ms Sturgeon said she did not believe most people who did not comply with the restrictions did so "deliberately or because they didn't care" and said the government had left some flexibility in the guidelines in order to allow people to visit family more than five miles.

Nicola Sturgeon said: "I know the vast majority of people stuck to the rules when having those reunions. My thanks to you for that.

"It's also clear that not everybody stuck to the rules and I am told by the police on Saturday alone there were 797 dispersals and that is people being moved on for not complying with the rules.

"That 797 is five times higher than the figure the previous Saturday.

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"People were driving more than five miles to beauty spots and in some cases people were staying overnight in caravans or motor homes.

"Some of the early statistics we have from Transport Scotland give us cause for concern.

"Transport was 70 per cent up from the previous Sunday and transport on Saturday was 60 per cent up from last week.

"On Saturday, on the A82 by Loch Lomond, traffic was around three times higher."

READ MORE: Council scraps plan to reopen Luss, Duck Bay and Arrochar car parks to cope with visitor numbers

She added: "I am going to be very blunt here. It is hard to see how all of that could have been caused by local residents or people travelling to meet loved ones.

"We will be considering all of this as we continue as we must do to analyse the impact of phase one changes."

Ms Sturgeon – who had said before the weekend that the government did not want to see people flocking to tourist hotspots – urged people to read the guidance issued by the government on Thursday, when it was confirmed that lockdown limits would be eased.

She added: "Just from the basic point of view of doing the right thing right now, please stick to the rules."

READ MORE: Warning that 'tougher lockdown will return' if Scots don't obey new rules

Health secretary Jeane Freeman said she felt some health workers would feel "disappointed" at the sight of beaches at popular tourist destinations and beauty spots being so busy – especially in the light of the widespread support for the weekly 'Clap for Carers'.

The First Minister's concerns were echoed by local MSP Jackie Baillie, whose constituency covers much of the Loch Lomond area as well as Helensburgh, Dumbarton and the Vale of Leven.

Ms Baillie said social distancing measures were "evidently ignored by many visitors to the area", and said she had asked Ms Sturgeon to reinforce the guidelines.

“It was disappointing to see that places like Luss, Arrochar and Balloch were absolutely heaving with visitors over the weekend.

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"There seemed to be very little effort to meet the advised social distancing guidelines and it was clear that people had travelled from far out with the area.

“I completely understand that it has been a long couple months under lockdown and everyone – especially those without access to outdoor space – are thrilled with the increased freedom that phase one has given us.

"However, I can’t stress how important it is for everyone to continue to follow guidelines.

"You must not travel more than five miles for leisure and exercise, you should only meet up with one other household outside and it is vital that you remain two metres apart.

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“Many of these smaller villages – with a predominately older local population – have managed to protect themselves from the virus up until now.

"Huge numbers of visitors from across Scotland will pose a considerable threat to the health and wellbeing of local residents.

“It is a fact that if these guidelines are ignored we will only see a reversal in the progress that we have made to beat this virus and we could experience a second wave of the coronavirus.”

READ MORE: Click here for all the latest news headlines from across Helensburgh and Lomond