Countryside ranger service told to ‘prepare for staffing cuts’
A MOUNTAINEERING organisation has raised fresh fears about how possible cuts to staff could impact the nation’s health.
In recent weeks the Highland Council ranger service has been told to prepare for staffing cuts.
And in a letter to Mountaineering Scotland last week, the Highland Council indicated cuts in staff are possible.
The council’s budget leader Bill Fernie revealed last week that there were now plans to ‘ reduce rather than delete the Rangers budget and to examine the potential for moving this service to High Life Highland’.
But Mountaineering Scotland has expressed concerns about the impact this could have on people's health and the possible cost to the NHS.
David Gibson, chief executive officer with the mountaineering body, said: ‘ We appreciate councils have to operate within financial constraints and that difficult choices must be made, but we wonder how many more council-provided or funded services are at risk right now, being dismantled with no overview of what we are losing.
‘These services have introduced thousands of children to the outdoors over the years. That fine tradition and its infrastructure is under serious threat.
‘These services encourage and enable people to experience positive, life- changing opportunities. We’re constantly told of the importance of getting off the sofa and the benefits to physical and mental health which come from outdoor pursuits are well-attested.
‘A forward-looking, joined-up policy should be looking to expand such services rather than reduce them.
‘The cost of cuts to these services will result in additional pressure on the National Health Service and other social services from an increasingly unhealthy population.
‘We appeal to both councils and the Scottish Government to take a long hard look at this issue, to avoid cuts in the short-term and develop a coherent and forward-looking policy which protects and promotes such essential services as these.’