The evening reception will take place at the Scottish Parliament. Photo: Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body

The evening reception will take place at the Scottish Parliament. Photo: Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body

Mountain experts will gather at the Scottish Parliament to impress on politicians the contribution of hillwalking and mountaineering to the nation’s economy and wellbeing.

Representatives of Mountaineering Scotland and Mountain Rescue Scotland will attend the Holyrood reception which was organised by MSP Liz Smith, herself an enthusiastic mountaineer.

The Conservative member for Mid Scotland and Fife has completed a round of the munros. She will be joined by parliamentary colleagues at the gathering in Edinburgh on Tuesday evening.

She said: “Without Mountaineering Scotland and the Scottish Mountain Rescue service our hills and mountains would be a lot more dangerous and it is only right that we celebrate their hard work at Holyrood.

“Scotland is one of the world’s most picturesque countries and visitors travel here to immerse themselves in the great outdoors and it is important that a safety net exists when things go awry.

“I look forward to learning more about both organisations and this reception is the perfect opportunity to celebrate their work and inform other MSPs about the challenges they face and how best to increase safety on Scotland’s mountains.”

Scottish Mountain Rescue is the representative and coordinating body for mountain rescue teams in Scotland, speaking for 23 voluntary teams involving more than 800 volunteers.

Mountaineering Scotland is the representative organisation for hillwalkers, climbers, mountaineers and snowsport tourers in Scotland, with nearly 15,000 members, and plays a major role in promoting safety in Scotland’s mountains, giving advice and providing subsidised training covering a range of essential mountain skills.

At the reception hosted by Ms Smith, more than100 members, supporters and partners of the two organisations will discuss with MSPs and their staff the contribution mountaineering and mountain rescue services make to the nation’s economy and wellbeing, as well as some of the opportunities and challenges the future holds.

Mountaineering Scotland chief executive David Gibson

Mountaineering Scotland chief executive David Gibson

Mountaineering Scotland chief executive David Gibson said: “We aim to enable and inspire people to enjoy Scotland’s mountains, while equipping them with a healthy appreciation of the risks and the skills required to stay safe.

“Through this evening we aim to give MSPs and their staff the chance to discover more about Scotland’s growing mountaineering community, the value of these activities to our visitor economy, the life-long health benefits they offer and the passion they generate among mountaineers for the natural environment and landscape.”

In 2012, hillwalking was included as an activity in an estimated 9 million visits to the outdoors for leisure and recreation by adults living in Scotland according to Scottish Natural Heritage figures.

Mountain recreation is also a major contributor to tourism in Scotland. With walking tourism generating £1.26bn for the Scottish economy in 2015 and long walks or hikes increasing by almost a fifth on the previous year, mountaineering activities are a multi-million pound growth market.

Scotland was named by Rough Guide readers as the ‘most beautiful country in the world’. Mountaineering and its related activities are set to grow, emphasising the value of access to the right training and advice, and the critical importance of the services provided by the dedicated volunteers of mountain rescue teams.

Damon Powell, chair of Scottish Mountain Rescue, said: “During 2016 our volunteers put in nearly 23,000 hours on rescue callouts assisting in a wide range of incidents – from mountaineering accidents to the search for missing persons. And that doesn’t include the huge amount of training that goes on or the work of many more volunteers which work away behind the scenes to keep the teams going.”

Cabinet secretary for justice Michael Matheson, who is expected to attend the reception, said: “Scotland is very fortunate indeed to be served by such dedicated mountain rescue volunteers and teams, who provide a first-class search and rescue service that is the envy of many countries across the world.

“We owe them, and those who support them, a huge debt of gratitude for the selfless attitude they demonstrate towards helping those in need wherever and whenever they are called upon.”

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