Hill res­cue teams get po­lice help

Re­sponse to copter com­plaint

The Press and Journal (Moray) - - FRONT PAGE - BY CALUM ROSS

Moun­tain res­cuers will be sup­ported by a po­lice he­li­copter in cer­tain cir­cum­stances af­ter they claimed their lives were be­ing put at risk.

Nicola Stur­geon re­vealed the move yes­ter­day as she praised the “vi­tal job” car­ried out by the res­cue teams and vowed to help them to “get the sup­port that they need”.

The first min­is­ter also said Scot­tish Govern­ment of­fi­cials had pre­vi­ously raised con­cerns about sup­port for the moun­tain res­cue teams (MRTs) with the Mar­i­time and Coast­guard Agency (MCA).

The SNP leader’s in­ter­ven­tion fol­lows a de­ci­sion by MRT lead­ers to speak out about the lack of avail­able he­li­copter sup­port since mil­i­tary air­craft were re­placed by coast­guard he­li­copters on such op­er­a­tions.

Mem­bers of Glen­coe, Cairn­gorm, Lochaber and Tay­side teams claimed there was an “un­will­ing­ness” of agen­cies to help re­cover bod­ies and to help get crew and their gear safely back to base af­ter an oper­a­tion.

Rhoda Grant, Labour MSP for the High­lands and is­lands, raised the is­sue at first min­is­ter’s ques­tions yes­ter­day.

Ms Stur­geon said: “I am aware of con­cerns raised by Scot­tish Moun­tain Res­cue about the cur­rent search and res­cue he­li­copter sup­port ar­range­ments.

“Scot­tish Govern­ment of­fi­cials have pre­vi­ously raised those is­sues with the Mar­i­time and Coast­guard Agency, fol­low­ing ear­lier cor­re­spon­dence with the teams.

“Po­lice Scot­land has leg­isla­tive re­spon­si­bil­ity for search and res­cue, but the levers for change around search and res­cue he­li­copter sup­port re­main at UK govern­ment level.

“Po­lice Scot­land is in­tro­duc­ing its he­li­copter to as­sist moun­tain res­cue teams as a last re­sort for body re­cov­ery. I know Po­lice Scot­land has writ­ten to in­de­pen­dent Scot­tish Moun­tain Res­cue about the changes and that the re­sponse has been pos­i­tive.”

While in­sist­ing “much of the re­spon­si­bil­ity lies with the coast­guard agency”, Ms Stur­geon added: “We will con­tinue to take ac­tion and make the ap­pro­pri­ate rep­re­sen­ta­tions to en­sure moun­tain res­cue teams get the sup­port that they need.”

The MCA pledged to dis­cuss the con­cerns with MRTs ear­lier this week.

Later, Ms Grant said: “I will be keep­ing track of this, es­pe­cially as we en­ter the win­ter months.

“I was to­tally shocked to hear of the lack of back-up from agen­cies con­cerned and that the ser­vice hasn’t lived up to the prom­ise of be­ing the same or bet­ter than what was op­er­at­ing be­fore.”

BACK-UP: Moun­tain res­cue teams have claimed there was a lack of sup­port from SAR agen­cies and now Nicola Stur­geon has vowed to help

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