Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Legislation I Would Approve


Nine hillwalkers, including six teenagers, were rescued yesterday from one of Scotland's highest mountains.

Grampian police, a mountain rescue and a Royal Navy helicopter mounted a search and rescue operation which resulted in the nine being airlifted to safety from the Ben MacDui area of the mountains. The group are all said to be unharmed and healthy after being caught in the snow overnight.

For the past week snow has been forecast for higher ground in Scotland. Anyone with a modicum of common sense would realise that means the mountain areas and if they had done any forward planning whatsoever, they would realise the mountains of Scotland are notorious for their rapidly changing conditions.  At times the weather is unpredictable but advanced weather warnings for this week were highlighted throughout the media.

These people were either foolish or ignorant - maybe a bit of both - to attempt hillwalking when heavy snow was forecast.

Regular readers will know that I seldom approve of hastily prepared legislation but for many years I've advocated legislation which ensures the taxpayer is refunded when people take to the hills in such circumstances.  The mountain rescue service are against charging fees for recovery because they want their service to be free for all, but surely, if rescue fees were charged, they would be a deterrent to those who think they can conquer the hills when advised against it.

Yesterday's rescue had a happy ending but it's not always the case. Legislation which ensured the foolhardy paid a financial fee for their rescue could help swell the coffers of the mountain rescue service and make many think twice about the chances they take. Not only do they risk their own lives in such situations but the lives of their rescuers.

22 comments:

JRB said...

Oh, SR, I don’t think I can entirely agree with you on this one.

The hills and mountains of Scotland are the crown jewels of this magnificent country, beautiful and spectacular to look at, and utterly exhilarating and breath-taking to be atop.

Those who form the rescue teams, give willingly of their time, energy and expertise to help those in difficulty.

Yes, an inexperienced, walker may need someone to help them down off the hill.
But equally, an over confident advanced mountaineer may have an accident in the most inaccessible spot resulting in a major rescue incident.

From the totally inexperienced walker to the most advanced mountaineer, accidents can befall us all. And who is to determine to what extent any individual was contributory in their own accident.

The only way to ever prevent any accident occurring is to prohibit all from setting foot on the ground. You can view from afar but must not get any closer. That surely must be wrong?

There is much that can be done to improve safety on our hills; and of all the things that could be done, legislation must surely be the last consideration.

RMcGeddon said...

Legislation would be the usual dogs breakfast SR.
It would be introduced under an EU directive but apart from that I can't see it happening.
Tourism would reduce as walkers would be wary of visiting in case they fell and got into financial difficulties.

Brian said...

Rosie,

The original role of Mountain Rescue teams and SAR helicopters was the recovery of crashed aircrew. It took many hundreds of preventable deaths before the services took their duty of care seriously. Fortunately, improvements in training, navigation and aircraft means that many, many fewer aircraft crash nowadays.
Rescuing walkers and climbers is an excellent way of exercising the skills and is built into the teams training routines.
In addition SAR helicopters are used to airlift urgent medical cases outside flying ambulance conditions - should a pregnant woman pay the same as a walker in flipflops with a sprained ankle?
In theory, group insurance could be bought relatively cheaply by the Ramblers Association or the Mountaineering Councils for their members but I shudder instinctively at the idea of having to join an organisation to allow one to experience the freedom of the outdoors. It's just too Kraft durch Freude.
I take the view that the government taxes us enough already and should use those taxes here instead of sending them abroad to be remitted to numbered bank accounts. Sorry for digressing to the topic of corrupt international aid.

pa_broon74 said...

Have to agree with the commentary above. As a lapsed hill walker myself, the whole point of this kind of thing is the challenge involved.

I don't think its wise to start legislating against accidents, it might set an unfortunate precedent.

Apogee said...

Hi SR, Have to say that I agree with all the above comments.
There will always be the one who is unfortunate, and equally there is the stupid one. But they are not just found on the hills.
And the last thing we want is to give officialdom an excuse to get their hands in our pockets again. It would probably become a council responsibility, and you know where that leads. If the dog is sleeping, let it be! (:-))

Jockdownsouth said...

As another lapsed hill walker it seems to me that those rescued did absolutely the right thing when faced with deteriorating conditions - they pitched their tents and waited in relative safety till it became obvious they should contact the emergency services. As a teenager in the early 1960's on a trip with the Carn Dearg Mountaineering Club I was involved in an attempted rescue operation in Glen Coe led by the great Hamish MacInnes with the RAF Mountain Rescue Team. Three experienced climbers were on a high ridge when heavy snow started. They did the right thing by trying to get to lower ground as quickly as possible. As they glissaded down towards the road a snow avalanche caught them. Two survived and one died. He was found by one of Hamish MacInness's collie dogs and all that could be done was take his frozen body down on a stretcher. A sobering experience for me that I'll never forget. At that time there were arguments as to whether avalanches actually occurred in Scotland. None of the people involved in the attempted rescue resented being there.

cynicalHighlander said...

The environment is free and should remain free to all who wish to venture under their own steam.

subrosa said...

I didn't expect many to agree JRB, but living where I do I see the stupidity of people going against local advice and taking to the hills without proper equipment or knowledge on many occasions.

They're the people who I feel should pay for the stupidity and not those who are prepared or have an accident.

Indeed, safety must be improved but safety is expensive. Charging the stupid a fee which could be given to the mountain rescue would be a start. Maybe then some may think twice.

subrosa said...

That's the problem RM, although I doubt if visitor numbers would decrease. The people I hear of are all well prepared and say the thoughtless give hillwalking a bad name.

subrosa said...

Aye Brian, they're regularly in the hills here training but they could do with up to date equipment because all their funds come from the public.

I'd agree about the taxes being used here and mountain rescue is one service which is very deserving.

subrosa said...

Pa_broon, I'm not suggesting legislating against accidents. I'm suggesting fines for these folk who go on the hill against local or national advice.

All last week here there were warnings about the snow on Monday and Tuesday and folk were advised not to attempt walking unless they were very experienced climbers. Yet 9 of them ignored that, because I know the Cairngorms sent out the same messages.

If the money was given to the rescue services they could improve their equipment far more regularly, although they do a super job with what they have.

subrosa said...

It was an idea Apogee and one which is regularly mentioned in hillwalking areas, especially when the stupid are loose.

subrosa said...

Jockdownsouth, unless they were totally deaf (they may well have been), they must have been aware of the warnings which had been regularly publicised for a week beforehand.

A neighbour of mine, when I lived in Shropshire, was a top class mountaineer. He went with a pal to the Welsh mountains and lost his life in a blizzard. Bad weather hadn't been forecast. I know that because his wife must have told me a hundred times. 'He'd never have gone if he'd known about the weather'. It was June, 1986.

We know now avalanches happen. There are a few each year up Glenshee, but the staff there are highly trained and divert the skiers.

I'm not saying I've ever heard any of the rescue services resent attending any incident. It's their job. But I do know they can get a bit scunnered when people ignore warnings or don't discuss things with locals.

subrosa said...

Can't argue with you CH. Shame this was another lot who didn't do it please they didn't listen to warnings.

tris said...

I can certqinly see your point SR... but the trouble is that we would have to look at people who do other things that are dangerous, and charge them for it....swimming, skiing, boating, walking in forests (as opposed to on the hills)... and then where does it go maybe people who wear ridiculously high healed shoes and fall off them, or people who get chilled and catch flu, or pneumonia, because they insist on fashion wear rather than suitable wear...

For as long as the people who do the rescuing are happy to do it as a hobby (and as part of a big society that existed long before Lord Snooty decided to make it all his), I say let them and let's be grateful for them.

Brian said...

Rosie,

I understand your point about the protection of the stupid from themselves - but where would we start: non-inflammable petrol, blunt knives and single-step ladders :(.
There is the problem of how a call-out fee would be levied from the thoughtless: I foresee a lawyers' ramp as the mountain rescue sue (and return to court for enforcement action after non-payment) and soft-touch judges setting £5 week repayment terms.
And then what about people who slip on pavements in towns when it is icy and the police have advised people to stay indoors unless their journeys are necessary - aren't they just as irresponsible?

The Cowboy Online said...

Recover from the tax payer? We're all tax payers, what is it with people - and you in this case - demanding that people pay 'in to the system', then pay again if they happen to need to call upon it?

footdee said...

Subrosa ,
I didn't expect many to agree JRB, but living where I do I see the stupidity of people going against local advice and taking to the hills without proper equipment or knowledge on many occasions."

God save us from local people giving advice ,the mountain rescue are volunteers and dont have to do it ,many of them like the Kudos and some enjoy it .
Mountain rescue is the duty of the police by law ,do you recomend them charging for their services for such things as road accidents .

subrosa said...

I suppose it should be up to the rescue service to charge then Tris, but that would turn them into a business.

Then again, is that a bad thing?

subrosa said...

Brian, I see it would open a can of worms. As I said to tris, maybe it would be better if the rescue service charged the stupid.

subrosa said...

Cowboy, we're not all taxpayers.

That aside, I don't see where I suggest people pay into any system then pay again.

subrosa said...

Footdee, some of the locals are part of the mountain rescue teams hence I do listen to what they say. People who live near or in mountain areas are often the best to ask about local hill problems.

Scotland's mountain rescue service is a voluntary service funded by public subscription. They are not members of the police force.

But you knew that didn't you?

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