Outdoor events under threat due to police cuts

Scotland’s new police force has been accused of penny-pinching for axing insurance cover of mountain rescue teams covering outdoor events.

The Glen Rosa hill race has fallen victim to the cuts. Picture: submitted
The Glen Rosa hill race has fallen victim to the cuts. Picture: submitted

Rescue teams had regarded such cover as training exercises, but Police Scotland say they will only insure personnel for emergency call-outs and official training.

The Mountain Rescue Committee of Scotland claims they will have to pay between £30,000 and £40,000 to insure members covering major events.

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The refusal by police to pay insurance costs is being blamed for the cancellation of the Glen Rosa hill race on Arran, with mountain rescue members pulling out at the last minute – leaving the event without safety cover.

Highland MP Charles Kennedy, whose constituency covers Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team, said: “It is a service that deserves to be lauded and it is extremely disquieting that it is being subjected to such a contemptible display of penny-pinching on the part of Police Scotland.”

Miller Harris, secretary of the Lochaber team, said: “Normally we would be covered for events, but now the police are making this illogical differentiation about what is classed as training.

“We see these as legitimate training exercises.

“We can’t send volunteer members out if they’re not covered.”

The costs of up to £40,000 a year to cover insurance would be about 13% of the annual £312,000 block grant from the Scottish Government to the Mountain Rescue Committee of Scotland.

Chairman Jonathan Hart said: “We’ve had discussions with the Scottish Government about using the block grant.

“It is not an ideal situation but it is better than if we had carried on in a situation where there was a misunderstanding about insurance and something serious happened.”

Chief Inspector Delyth Cunnah, of Police Scotland, said: “Privately run events fall outside the scope of this insurance and it is a matter for the event organisers to ensure appropriate cover is provided for stewards or marshals working at their request or, alternatively, for the teams themselves to ensure they have the appropriate insurance cover when not operating at the request of the police.”