It was at the weekend as I have mentioned I was asked to speak at the Mountain Rescue Conference, I met many old friends and it was great to see so many young people involved so full of enthusiasm. That chat/ lecture was to celebrate 50 years of Mountain Rescue and I found it was very hard to put together and I spent a long time on it. I was given great help from many others with use of their photos and thoughts and tried to put a view across that covered much of the history and some of those who put together this great organisation.
I spent the best part of 40 years in the teams, mostly it was with the RAF Mountain Rescue where I held a full-time position for many years. In the RAF we had few worries the gear and equipment was supplied by MOD and though at the time we moaned we achieved a great thing but we also gave a so much in return. Few in the MOD hierarchy appreciated what they had until a Lockerbie or another aircraft disaster occurred and I unfortunately went to many in my time. In the later years MOD bureaucracy took over and though I love the RAF Mountain Rescue it has changed beyond all recognition. As it times as with the military you ended up with more Bosses than troops. Yet those in the three RAF Teams that remain are the same type of people and get on with the job. It is so similar to what I joined all the years ago and I am very proud of what they do, despite having so many hoops to jump through.
Change is never easy and must come but it must be managed carefully by those in charge?
I have watched the Civilian Scottish Mountain Rescue develop as well over the years and managed to play a small part, during my spell with the Executive helping developing the idea of government funding and the incredible sponsorship by the Order Of St John. It is hard to believe that a few were against it at the time but the rewards especially for the casualty ( and that is what it is all about) is there for all to see. The benefits are are a more professional service and the SAR world has moved on so much. I wrote at length in my Blog about this a few days ago.
I was approached by many at the Conference who are really worried that Mountain Rescue in Scotland may be reaching a crisis. Things have changed one-third of the incidents that the teams are involved on are on – mountaineering looking for vulnerable people who societies changes have brought to every town and village in Scotland. In my view this is an important part of a caring society that Scotland is and who with all the training the Mountain Rescue has could refuse a search for a lost child or vulnerable person from your locality? The Police sadly do not have the resources and the Teams and SARDA have filled this vacuum for many years, so many are alive today thanks to these efforts. There seem to be a thought that Mountain Rescue is losing its way but to me it is a natural progression as times change. Teams have always helped in natural disasterS such as snow and weather blocking roads, people stranded, train crashes in remote areas and floods, it was accepted by all that Mountain Rescue would help and is now called “Resilience” by the Government. Mountain Rescue plays a big part in these plans.
Teams have taken Government Funding nowadays and though not a lot £312000 ? in 2013 is a great help especially to the smaller teams with little local population. Teams like Assynt, Torridon and others rely on this as do many of the others in the Borders and all over Scotland. Few teams have huge financial support and everything is raised by fund-raising and of course the great work of the Order Of St John the main sponsor.
Change is never easy to manage and as Mountain Rescue changes so must attitudes. Mountain Rescue is an incredible brand in the modern world. It is made up of unpaid volunteers a unique and a proffesional bunch of people who risk their lives often for people they do not know. The 27 teams despite the many differences all have unique areas all with specific problems and areas of expertise. Yet united the Mountain Rescue Teams offer an incredible service to the public, this has been built up over the years by so many incredible events and the best asset is our team members. I hope any decisions taken at the next Mountain Rescue Meeting are to improve the system for the future and for everyone involved. Each Teams area of expertise is so important. It could be your son daughter, grandchild, relative or friend that needs help in a mountain, difficult terrain or in a rural environment. The teams have excellent training and resources fought for over the years by many to make a huge difference and help others. In this society that at times cares for little but themselves it is a wonderful attribute to have saved so many lives. These are changing days but what impressed me was the thoughts of many of the audience at my chat was the younger members who just want to help the casualty and help others. Things do not change. It was a privileged to speak and pass on my personal thoughts.
Maybe I should not have written this piece as I am no longer active in Mountain Rescue but I do care deeply for this unique system. Be careful what you wish for and I hate to use the slogan “but you are stronger together” and what you have worked so hard for over so many years by so many please do not throw it away.
As the old saying goes all that matters is the casualty, we must never forget that.
I would appreciate any comments and hope if you can you share my thoughts and views.