One of the new radios in action. Photo: Dundonnell MRT

One of the new radios in action. Photo: Dundonnell MRT

Mountain rescuers in Scotland have completed a £1m project to replace their communication radios.

All 24 teams belonging to the Scottish Mountain Rescue umbrella organisation have been equipped with up-to-date sets.

The units are now in use by all the rescuers after collaboration between them and the Scottish Government, Police Scotland and St John Scotland.

A spokesperson for SMR, which represents 24 of the nation’s 28 teams said the project began in 2015. “Radios are vital in mountain rescue, providing crucial communication between team members, bases, and vehicles, even with other organisations such as the Coastguard,” the spokesperson said.

“The 2004 VHF radios used until recently have been key in providing years of mountain rescue and saving lives. However, over 10 years of use in severe mountain conditions, alongside technological changes, resulted in the need for new radios for the teams.

“Scottish Mountain Rescue designated a working group for the project, who worked with teams to find the best replacement option.

“The new radios provide the same key functions as the previous – first and foremost communication, also robustness, ease of use and range – but use digital mobile radio technology. They also have the additional ability to relay signals via single frequency repeat and provide GPS data.

“Scottish Mountain Rescue are deeply grateful for the support they received for this project. We would like to say a huge thank you to St John Scotland, Police Scotland, and the Scottish Government, whose funding contributions made the radio replacement possible.”

The teams’ feedback on the new radios has been positive, with members appreciating some of the new functions the radios provide. “Ultimately, the radio replacement has achieved its goal: providing crucial communication amongst teams in wild environments, enabling them to carry out search and rescue and save lives,” the spokesperson said.

Damon Powell, chair of Scottish Mountain Rescue, said: “This is another example of the hard work and dedication of our volunteers to make this project such a success.

“The radio working group members continue to put in long hours, on top of their roles as rescue team members, as well as their day-to-day jobs, to ensure that our rescue teams have the best radios to support their efforts in saving lives.”

St John Scotland chief executive Angus Loudon said: “St John Scotland’s support for Scottish Mountain Rescue teams over the past two decades has made a huge difference to their ability to carry out their duties safely.

“As a charity we are committed to saving lives and helping communities be resilient, and we know that Scottish Mountain Rescue volunteers do a vital job in supporting their communities and the emergency services. We hope that by having access to these state-of-the-art radios, the teams will not only be safer, they’ll be able to help even more people who need them.”

Sergeant Peter Lorrain-Smith said: “Police Scotland were delighted that their £101,000 added to other monies has achieved full funding for new VHF radios.

“The new radios will help communications and improve safety for mountain rescue teams across Scotland while they are responding to lost, missing, and injured hillwalkers and mountaineers.”

Scottish Government, cabinet secretary Humza Yousaf said: “Mountain rescue teams provide a fantastic, selfless, service that we clearly cannot do without. So, when mountain rescue came to us for assistance to replace the teams’ ageing radio equipment, we came up with a collaborative plan which meant that, together with St John Scotland, Police Scotland and Scottish Government funding, in addition to a successful Libor bid, we raised the £1m needed.”

Mountain rescue in Scotland is undertaken by about 850 skilled volunteers organised in local rescue teams that cover the whole of the country. There are also three police and one RAF team.

SMR said rescue is free at the point of demand and available any time, any day, and in any weather across Scotland. The organisation’s work includes national fundraising, organisation and delivery of national training courses and events, provision of insurance and supply of equipment, liaising with Police Scotland and Scottish Government and international rescue organisations and co-ordinating good practice.

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