Ben Nevis should be officially recognised as Scotland’s national mountain, according to the charity which looks after the iconic landmark.
Standing 1345m tall, Ben Nevis is the highest mountain in the UK and attracts more than 400,000 visitors each year.
But the Nevis Landscape Partnership has issued a warning over the long-term future of the beauty spot without funding to support the growing popularity of the mountain.
The mountain was first officially conquered in 1771 by Edinburgh botanist James Robertson, but visitor numbers have doubled in the last 20 years.
Areas designated as national parks – such as, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs and Cairngorms – receive government support to promote access and care for the area.
But the Nevis area does not receive such help as it’s not officially recognised.
The charity has now called for the mountain and surrounding glen to receive national recognition and financial support to help preserve the local environment.
Nevis Landscape Partnership chair Mike Pescod, said: “We are blessed in Scotland with abundant natural resources to rival the best in the world, and it is clear that the Scottish Government recognises that we have a duty to protect and enhance these assets as essential to our economy, culture, way of life and the well-being of future generations.
“However, for the Nevis area this is a critical moment.
“If we are to continue to welcome everyone who wants to explore the Nevis area and take advantage of the well-understood benefits to health and well-being, we need to have a long-term structure in place that will care for our visitors as well as for the landscape and the nature that thrives in it.
“We need to develop a framework for a move towards a carbon-neutral circular economy which directs funds raised from visitors to Ben Nevis and Glen Nevis into visitor and environmental management of the Nevis area.”
Work to increase provisions in the area has already begun – including establishing a new car park with toilets and other facilities.
But many of the charity’s bigger plans depend on further funding.
Mr Pescod said: “Ben Nevis and Glen Nevis benefits people, our local communities, it drives our visitor economy and plays an important role in reaching CO2 and global warming targets.
“However, to ensure the Nevis area can be sustainably enjoyed by future generations we need to put in place new, secure, long-term resources to care for this unique national landscape.
“At the same time we must also be aware that Glen Nevis has internationally acclaimed cultural and natural heritage assets.
“In balancing economic drivers we must be careful not to detract from the very qualities which make Ben Nevis and Glen Nevis a unique place to live and to visit.
“We believe that, as well as national parks, there should be a companion designation for specific and discreet areas of national importance with direct access to Scottish Government funding.
“It is time to recognise Ben Nevis as Scotland’s national mountain, with the beautiful Glen Nevis at its feet.”