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Last Updated: Monday, 17 November, 2003, 10:00 GMT
More cash for rescue teams
The Braemar team brave the elements during a call-out
The Braemar team brave the elements during a call-out
Public funding for Scotland's mountain rescue teams is to increase four-fold, it has been announced.

First Minister Jack McConnell said that support would rise from 100,000 to 400,000 with immediate effect.

He said the extra cash would enable people to enjoy the country's mountains in greater safety.

The announcement was welcomed as a "significant financial contribution" by the Mountain Rescue Committee of Scotland (MRCofS).

Mr McConnell unveiled the additional funding on a visit to Ballater in Aberdeenshire.

More than 950 mountain rescue volunteers operating from 40 support bases around Scotland deal with about 400 call-outs each year.

Running costs

The country's police forces currently contribute 100,000 of support to the volunteer mountain rescue teams in their areas.

They must rely on fund-raising for the rest of their funding.

The teams say their budgets barely cover running costs and equipment.

They are also concerned about the introduction of national parks covering Loch Lomond and the Cairngorms.

As we move into another winter season the vital role that our volunteers play becomes increasingly apparent
Nick Forwood
MRCofS chairman
They say this will lead to more people on the hills - which will in turn increase the numbers who need to be rescued.

The Scottish Executive has agreed with the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland (ACPOS) and the MRCofS to set a minimum level of funding to be provided through the police.

The executive will inject 300,000 of new money each year to take the funding to 400,000.

The police will still be responsible for dividing the money.

However, the aim is to come up with a method to distribute the funds to the teams on an equitable basis.

'Dangerous places'

Mr McConnell said: "Scotland's mountains are one of our greatest natural assets and are enjoyed by many thousands of Scots and tourists alike.

"They play a vital role in tourism and in growing the economy of the Highlands and Islands - but they can also be dangerous places.

"That is why we are increasing the funding for the teams who regularly save lives on Scotland's mountains.

"They commit so much of their own time and money, often risking their own lives. It is only right that we support them."

Jack McConnell
Being able to recognise that conditions are beyond your limits is a skill in itself
Jack McConnell
The first minister said the new funding would ensure that rescue teams were better trained and have access to better equipment.

MRCofS chairman Nick Forwood said: "We very much welcome the fact that the executive has recognised the funding pressures that we face by making this significant financial contribution.

"It is particularly welcome that an agreement has been reached that will guarantee that the new funds will benefit mountain rescue teams in all parts of the country and that it will be available immediately.

"While this new money will help us meet many of our increasing commitments, we still remain voluntary organisations and as such continue to depend on support from the public.

"As we move into another winter season the vital role that our volunteers play becomes increasingly apparent."

Mr McConnell announced funding to upgrade the role of mountain safety adviser to a full-time position.

Correct equipment

He also issued the annual warning for people to take care on Scotland's hills and mountains.

"Above all, people should be properly prepared," he said.

"Take the correct equipment and take heed of the weather and local information.

"Being able to recognise that conditions are beyond your limits is a skill in itself. It is a skill that may be a life saver."


WATCH AND LISTEN
BBC Scotland's Andrew Anderson
"Rescue teams should be able to spend more time training"



SEE ALSO:
New rescue base to open
01 Nov 03  |  Scotland
Climbers rescued from hills
24 Jul 03  |  Scotland
Equipment warning for climbers
20 Jul 03  |  Scotland
Bid to save mountain routes
09 Jul 03  |  Scotland
Funding boost for rescue teams
09 Mar 03  |  Scotland


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