Submitted to The National; 22nd February 2016
I fully agree with Carolyn Leckie that our Mountain Rescue should be properly funded, and that said funding should come from the government rather than the teams having to pass the hat round. Most years there will be a few stories in the press about people who go into the hills badly prepared for the journey they undertake, only to have to be rescued by mountain rescue, but these people are vastly outweighed by the many who take to the hills, well equipped and well clothed and who return with no fuss, and who barring their boot-prints leave no trace they were there. Even worse are those who call up for the mountain rescue to come and get them off the hill because they are tired or late. On occasion, on being given instructions in how to get off the hill safely, some have been known to dig their heels in and refuse, expecting instead to be collected by helicopter, as if it is a big yellow taxi. Situations like this have led to some people, even within the outdoors community, calling for anyone who uses the hills to have mandatory insurance. A Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team spokesman was quoted at the weekend as saying that we should donate to the MRTs and think of it as a “voluntary insurance”. While I donate to mountain rescue I think the idea of even suggesting voluntary insurance could, if you’ll pardon the pun, lead to the slippery slope of demands for compulsory insurance, and I am afraid that this is a very dangerous road to go down. Who gets to define what qualifies for a free rescue and what doesn’t? Should people like farmers and gamekeepers, who often live and work in remote areas have to pay extra because in all likelihood if they suffer an accident it will not be an ambulance which comes to their aid but a helicopter? What about in winter when places normally reachable by road are cut off and Search And Rescue helicopters are sent to respond? Should the people affected also have to pay extra premiums? I don’t believe they should. The SAR service is already paid for out of general taxation, so why on earth should people pay twice? I haven’t even touched on rescue on water either, which opens up another can of worms.
As the decision to involve mountain rescue is a police matter, it is my view that should the MRT think the call out is frivolous and unnecessary, they should perhaps recommend that those individuals be charged with wasting police time. But to ask all those responsible people who use the hills to have to insure themselves for rescue, while at the same time paying the tax which pays for that very service is just not acceptable. I wonder how people would react to the concept of privatising the ambulance service, or requiring that pedestrians all have insurance, as they sometimes cause accidents through carelessness or stupidity.
I echo Carolyn Leckie’s views on the benefits that hillwalking and climbing bring and the very small impact they have in the great scheme of things when compared to the costs to the state of other sports injuries, or of smoking, driving or drinking. That’s not to say that the impact on the individuals concerned is not great, quite the opposite, and for the continuing efforts of all the members of all these teams we can only be grateful.
Link to original article HERE.