Coun­try­side ranger ser­vice told to ‘pre­pare for staffing cuts’

The Oban Times - - News -

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.’

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