Scottish Mountain Rescue faces split over urban support row

Scotland's mountain rescue organisation could be split over a major row caused by the increasing shift towards its volunteers providing urban support.

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Three of the country’s busiest mountain rescue teams have said they plan on leaving the Scottish Mountain Rescue (SMR) over the furore.

Teams at Cairngorm, Glencoe, and Lochaber said they had lost faith in the body as they believe there has been a shift from mountain rescue work towards urban support.

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Last year senior figures in the mountain rescue said the volunteer-manned service was coming under pressure over being asked “more and more” to support police, fire, and ambulance services in city areas.

Mountain rescue teams have found themselves being increasingly called on to provide extra support, which came to light during the search for toddler Mikaeel Kular in January 2014.

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SMR’s acting chairman, Steve Penny, said the teams’ membership decision would not affect rescue cover as every crew is a charity in its own right.

The groups wish to remain affiliated, but no longer plan on being full voting members.

But such a move would require changes to be made to the SMR’s constitution, which states than non-voting members cannot be considered mountain rescue teams.

A Scottish Government mountain rescue grant of £312,000 is normally divided up between the teams by SMR.

Spokesman for the three teams, Miller Harris, who is also secretary for Lochaber which receives the largest grant worth £24,000, said the groups accepted they would lose voting rights and a say in national issues.

He said: “All the hassle that goes with a strategic organisation is not worth it with the amount of money that filters down. We’re just fighting for crumbs.

“None of this will make one job of difference to what we do and how we deliver it. All three teams will continue to offer their resources.”

Mr Penny said mountain rescue remained the SMR’s primary concern and that he did not believe any rescue group would turn down a request for help.

He said: “I don’t believe that there’s a team in Scotland who would not turn out to support local communities if asked.

“It would be wrong to say we wouldn’t use our skills and equipment to support them.

“Teams have evolved into their areas to support local communities in lots of different ways. None of this will make a lot of difference to what we do and how we deliver.”