In my younger day, my Summer job was at Braemar Youth Hostel. Many of the people who came to stay there went out to bag as many of the nearby Munros as they could. The hills can very quickly become an inhospitable environment, and accidents happen, even to the most careful of climbers.
It’s at those times of crisis that the skilled, brave mountain rescue teams save lives. They are as essential as any other emergency service. Have a look at the Braemar Mountain Rescue team’s blog to see the sort of conditions that they work and train in. There are some really amazing photos and videos on there.
It seems a bit unfair that this volunteer outfit, mostly dependent on donations for their survival, has an extra 20% added to its costs because of VAT. George Lyon MEP is campaigning for mountain rescue teams to be exempt from VAT. There is an EU consultation going on at the moment and you can read George’s and fellow MEP Chris Davies’ submissions here. You can also join the hundreds of people who have already signed his petition.
In 2011 alone almost 600 incidents were responded to by Scottish mountain rescue teams, and these numbers seem to be increasing every year. Mountain and lowland rescue teams are effectively front line emergency services in many parts of Scotland.
These are volunteers who regularly put their lives on the line to help keep people safe. They deserve our full support.
At present, EU rules allow sea rescue teams to benefit from a VAT exemption. I think it is only right that mountain and lowland rescue teams get the same help.
The EU tax commissioner has said that he is willing to listen to the arguments we are making on this issue. It is important that people in communities across Scotland have their say before the VAT consultation closes in Brussels.
I hope that as many Scots as possible will back my petition and show their support for our mountain and lowland rescue teams.