The Ramblers praised Scotland's volunteer mountain rescue teams

The Ramblers praised Scotland's volunteer mountain rescue teams

A walking charity is calling on Members of the Scottish Parliament to get behind the nation’s volunteer mountain rescuers.

Ramblers Scotland urged the Holyrood Parliament to confirm its support for the teams ahead of a debate today, Wednesday.

The organisation’s director Dave Morris said: “At a time of public sector reform and public sector funding cuts, it is vital that the Scottish Parliament recognises the role of volunteers in Scotland’s mountain rescue services, and also recognises the need to maintain volunteer commitment and sound liaison arrangements with the police as the single police service is established.”

Scotland’s eight police forces are due to merge into one under Government plans.

The Ramblers also said mountain rescue must continue to be staffed by volunteers.

“The volunteer basis of most mountain rescue service is a core characteristic and this must be supported and secured into the future,” Ramblers Scotland said. “The volunteer basis for mountain rescue is one of the reasons why Scotland does not require insurance cover for those who participate in mountain activities. This must continue.”

Ramblers Scotland’s statements were put to Holyrood Parliamentarians ahead of today’s debate on a motion by Mid Scotland and Fife Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party MSP Liz Smith that says: “Parliament pays tribute to what it sees as the outstanding work carried out by Scotland’s 28 mountain rescue teams including Tayside Mountain Rescue, which it considers gives selflessly of its time to assist others; notes that Scotland’s mountain rescue volunteers went out over 500 times in 2011 to seek and rescue those in need of assistance, frequently in difficult mountainous terrain, poor weather conditions and often at night; recognises the pressure on what are largely voluntary funds and the new challenges facing Scotland’s mountain rescue teams in the face of public sector reform to emergency services, and would welcome a general public in Scotland that is educated about the responsibilities that it has to be well equipped and well prepared when heading to the hills.”

Ramblers Scotland said: “The Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 established public rights of access to Scotland’s land and water which are world class.

“Alongside this is a mountain rescue service which operates from seashore to mountain summit. It is also of world-class quality, based on decades of close cooperation between mountain rescue teams, the police and military search and rescue services.

“Ramblers Scotland welcomes this debate on Scotland’s mountain rescue teams.

“At a time of public sector reform to emergency services it is of vital importance that the Scottish Parliament reaffirms its support for mountain rescue services and recognises the essential contribution of volunteer personnel to mountain rescue.

“Equally important is the need to ensure that there is no reduction in the public funding which is currently available to support the training and equipping of mountain rescue teams and the associated police and military inputs.”

The Scottish Government currently contributes more than £300,000 annually to help the nation’s volunteer mountain rescue teams operate.

The Westminster Government plans to privatise the military search and rescue helicopters provided by the RAF and Royal Navy and replace them with something akin to the set-up presently run by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency with its helicopters run by commercial companies and crewed by civilians.

The Stornoway Coastguard Sikorsky S92 helicopter carries out frequent mountain rescue missions in north-west Scotland.

Scottish parliamentarians must resist moves to regulate mountain activities, the Ramblers said

Scottish parliamentarians must resist moves to regulate mountain activities, the Ramblers said

Ramblers Scotland also cautioned against any move to regulate mountain activities. The campaigning group said: “Ramblers Scotland notes that, from time to time, there are calls for greater regulation in the use of mountain areas, including requirements for insurance cover for those who go into mountain areas.

“We hope that the Parliament will resist any such suggestions, noting that the existence of a volunteer-based mountain rescue service provides part of a sound basis for rejecting proposals for insurance cover for mountain users.

“The presence of insurance cover for mountain users could also undermine the commitment of mountain rescue personnel to provide free, volunteer support thereby eroding the cornerstone of the present service.

“Similarly, any such insurance requirements would create unnecessary barriers or disincentives to encouraging more people to take healthy exercise and enjoy the experience of the mountain environment.”

Ramblers Scotland is the representative body for walkers in Scotland and recognised by sportscotland as a Scottish governing body of sport. The charity has about 6,500 members in Scotland and 118,000 across Great Britain, and 54 local walking groups in Scotland run entirely by volunteers.

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