Today the media broke the news that Scotland’s three busiest mountain rescue teams have said they intend to leave the body which has co-ordinated the service for 50 years.
“The Cairngorm, Glencoe and Lochaber teams said they had according to the media “lost faith” in Scottish Mountain Rescue (SMR) as their representative body.” BBC News These are three great teams where I have many memories working over many years and still friends in the teams who I respect and are still there to this day. This decision would not have been taken lightly?
There will be much written on this over the next few days in the media and I was aware what was happening for a few months. I spoke at the Mountain Rescue Conference in November at Glenmore Lodge and stated that in my view the teams would be “better together” and hoped that the dispute could be sorted. Yet changes may be needed within the organisation and change is never easy. I was part of the executive of Scottish Mountain Rescue for over 20 years serving as the Chairman/ Vice Chair and Statistician. There was no need for me to be involved personally as I was part of the RAF Mountain Rescue Service and wanted to assist the overall civilian organisation. We in the RAF MR had great gear and funding from MOD and I was always amazed at how the civilian teams coped with limited funds all raised locally. I was one of the first who sowed the seed for public funding despite many who felt that this could be difficult as it may come with political pressure. Yet many of the smaller teams really struggle financially to this day for funding away from the popular and populated mountain areas, this funding however small is crucial to them and they needed government financial assistance. Is this is the time for a leader to come forth and ensure that any changes are beneficial to all concerned.
Without a doubt in my mind it is time for change and hopefully there will not be a huge fall out between teams, that is not what Mountain Rescue needs or is about. In the end as we all are aware it is the casualty that comes first and I am sure that those in trouble in the wild places will still be looked after by all the teams involved, no matter what politics are happening behind the scenes.
The Police are in overall charge of Rescue as we all are aware maybe it is time for them to take a lead and hopefully advise on the way forward. This may ensure those who love the mountains and have spent much of their lives involved with Mountain Rescue that there will be limited effect in these troubled times. Too many in the teams will not effect them as they are the work horses who just get out and on with the task whatever it is. Politics are thankfully not their worry. When Public money comes in to the equation as the government £312000 funding has done then things can change. Yet in my mind the three teams involved have never stated that this is the problem as they have huge fund raising profile though they have to work at it.
Mountain Rescue has changed dramatically and approximately one-third are now Non – mountaineering incidents involving searches for vulnerable people, missing children, and many urban and rural searches. Mountain Rescue personnel are heavily involved in these aspect as many occur in their local areas. The financial restraints of recent years have effected many services and Police man power and financial pressures by the government would never cope if these responsibilities were not covered by Mountain Rescue Teams. The task has changed dramatically over the years and this can involve huge man – hours by teams. Is it time for a re -appraisal of Mountain Rescue and the tasks they do for the public?
It should never be taken for granted, that these are unpaid volunteers who give their time to help others and often huge personal time. There may be difficult times ahead but change is never easy maybe things may happen now, I am sure that a solution is out there?
Should the Politicians get involved?
So many questions, how many answers?