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Mountain safety in focus at Scottish Parliament

Friday 31st January 2020, 11:34am

The mountain safety work done by Scottish Mountain Rescue and Mountaineering Scotland was in focus at the Scottish Parliament this week.

Our two organisations were invited to a parliamentary reception at Holyrood to meet with MSPs and others to discuss the work being done and the potential for future projects and developments.

About 120 people attended the event on Tuesday evening, including representatives from a number of Mountaineering Scotland as well as volunteers and professionals from many other organisations.

Liz Smith MSP, who hosted the reception, welcomed guests and said there was a need for the Westminster and devolved parliaments to work more closely together to deliver the policies which would allow development of the services provided by the two organisations and others in the community.

And she said MSPs were keen to hear what Parliament could do to increase public awareness.

Stuart Younie, Chief Executive Officer or Mountaineering Scotland, spoke of the importance of activity and adventure tourism to the economy, and of the considerable physical and mental health benefits enjoyed by people resorting to the outdoors.

He said: “One of our core objectives is to promote safety and self-reliance.” Mountaineering Scotland already works through provision of safety courses, support for climbing and walking clubs, safety lectures and media and social media activity, and cooperates with partners in the Mountain Safety Group.

But, said Stuart, “We want to look forward and build on our successes and to work with the Scottish Government.”

Ian Sherrington, Head of Training at Glenmore Lodge, spoke of the value of training courses which empower people to make informed choices for themselves and to keep themselves and others with them safe. He mentioned, too, the Mountain Training UK qualifications, such as Mountain Leader, saying: “One person trained as a Mountain Leader might work with 250 different people in a year – that’s 1250 people helped over the space of five years.”

He said social media was also being used for sharing safety messages, especially through the #ThinkWINTER campaign, now in its second year, which aims to provide a trusted voice amidst the huge quantity of not always accurate advice available.

Damon Powell, Chairman of Scottish Mountain Rescue, used a rescue on Ben Cruachan to highlight not just the practicalities and difficulties of mountain rescue, but also the considerable contribution made by family members as well as the volunteers themselves.

He said there was a need to look to other countries, such as New Zealand, where a deeper understanding of the types of people who walked and climbed in the mountains allowed more effective messages to be delivered on safety and self-reliance.

Maree Todd, Scottish Government Minister for Children and Young People, praised the work of the mountaineering organisations in getting people active in the mountains. “Spending time outdoors is associated with so many benefits,” she said.

“Scotland has an exceptional outdoor environment and we want to support people to get out there and enjoy it. That would not be possible without all you here. We greatly appreciate the fantastic, selfless work of mountain rescue and partner organisations and we will continue to provide support wherever we can.”

Staff from Mountaineering Scotland and Scottish Mountain Rescue outside the Parliament building before thye reception

Welcome from Liz Smith MSP, who hosted the reception

Mountaineering Scotland CEO Stuart Younie addresses guests