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Scottish mountain rescue teams get new state-of-the-art radios

By John Davidson

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A member of the Dundonnell mountain rescue team using one of the new radios on An Teallach. Picture: Dundonnell MRT
A member of the Dundonnell mountain rescue team using one of the new radios on An Teallach. Picture: Dundonnell MRT

A £1 million project to replace emergency radios used in some of the most extreme environments by mountain rescue volunteers has been completed.

It means that the 24 civilian teams operating under Scottish Mountain Rescue (SMR) have been able to bring the new state-of-the-art VHF radios into service.

SMR explained that the radios are a vital tool in mountain rescue, providing crucial communication between team members, bases and vehicles, as well as with other organisations such as the Coastguard.

The 2004 VHF radios used until recently have been key in providing years of mountain rescue but SMR explained that, with more than 10 years of use in severe mountain conditions alongside technological changes, there was a clear need for new radios for the teams.

The new radios provide the same key functions as the previous – communication, robustness, ease of use and range – and also use Digital Mobile Radio (DMR) technology. They also have the additional ability to relay signals via Single Frequency Repeat (SFR) and provide GPS data.

St John Scotland, Police Scotland and the Scottish Government helped to fund the project.

St John Scotland chief executive Angus Loudon said: "St John Scotland's support for Scottish mountain rescue teams over the past two decades has made a huge difference to their ability to carry out their duties safely. As a charity we are committed to saving lives and helping communities be resilient, and we know that Scottish Mountain Rescue volunteers do a vital job in supporting their communities and the emergency services.

"We hope that by having access to these state-of-the-art radios, the teams will not only be safer, they'll be able to help even more people who need them."

Sgt Peter Lorrain-Smith from Police Scotland said: “Police Scotland were delighted that their £101,000, added to other monies, has achieved full funding for new VHF radios. The new radios will help communications and improve safety for mountain rescue teams across Scotland whilst they are responding to lost, missing and injured hill-walkers and mountaineers.”

SMR said that the teams’ feedback on the new radios has been positive, with team members appreciating some of the new functions the radios provide.

Damon Powell, chair of Scottish Mountain Rescue, added: “This is another example of the hard work and dedication of our volunteers to make this project such a success. The radio working group members continue to put in long hours, on top of their roles as rescue team members, as well as their day-to-day jobs, to ensure that our rescue teams have the best radios to support their efforts in saving lives.”

Cabinet Secretary Humza Yousaf said: “Mountain rescue teams provide a fantastic, selfless, service that we clearly cannot do without. So, when SMR came to us for assistance to replace the teams’ ageing radio equipment, we came up with a collaborative plan which meant that, together with St John Scotland, Police Scotland and Scottish Government funding, in addition to a successful LIBOR bid, we raised the £1 million needed.

"We were also able to provide Scottish Government procurement expertise to SMR to help secure the best deal.”

SMR represents 24 of the 28 civilian mountain rescue teams in Scotland.

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