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16 March 2016, 11:07
A new radio system is to be introduced among mountain rescue teams to improve communication in remote areas.
The "radio reprogramming" is to be funded with £24,000 from the Scottish Government to ensure VHF radios used by teams on the mountains and in helicopters are up-to-date.
The announcement was made after a meeting between Justice Secretary Michael Matheson and Scottish Mountain Rescue chair Damon Powell.
The radio funding is on top of the £312,000 annual grant the Government provides to mountain rescue teams and £179,000 to the Scottish Avalanche Information Service.
Mr Matheson said: "Recent events on the mountains have demonstrated clearly that mountain rescue team volunteers provide a vital public service, assisting in difficult searches and rescues, maximising survival chances and saving many lives every year.
"Rescue teams provide an outstanding service to communities and those venturing into Scotland's mountains, hills and rural areas. That's why I'm delighted to award an additional £24,000 to Scottish Mountain Rescue to begin the logistically difficult, but necessary, process of future-proofing all of their VHF radios which allow vital communication between team members in remote areas as well as with helicopter support teams.''
Mountain rescue teams have been involved in high profile operations this year including the search for Tim Newton and Rachel Slater, who have not been seen since leaving to hike Ben Nevis on Valentine's Day.
The work of volunteer rescuers was also highlighted in the search for three men stranded during bad weather during a walk near Durisdeer in Dumfries and Galloway.
They were found, but two of the walkers - Geoffrey Stewart, 74, and George Crosbie, 73 - later died in hospital.
Figures for 2014 show Scottish Mountain Rescue assisted 608 people over a total of 552 incidents, committing nearly 22,000 man hours to assisting those in need.
Mr Powell said: "Scottish Mountain Rescue Teams are proud to provide a world-class voluntary search and rescue service 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year, free at the point of delivery.
"I am deeply grateful to all of the teams and other partner responders who continue to provide a vital public service for Scotland's local communities.''