A SCOTTISH government agency has been accused of risking the lives of mountaineers after removing funding for a respected weather forecasting service.
The Mountain Weather Information Service (MWIS) is read by millions of people annually, but many fear it could be axed at the end of the year when funding is cut.
The service has been supported by the Scottish Government since 2007, and currently receives £36,000 a year from SportScotland.
In 2015, MWIS, SportScotland and the Met Office began a collaborative project aimed at ensuring the long-term future of MWIS’s quality mountain forecasts.
MWIS were then told in July that funding would be removed in December this year.
The move has led to anger amongst mountaineers, with over 4,500 people signing an online petition calling for the government agency to reinstate funding.
Geoff Monk, the leading forecaster at the MWIS, said the funding cut “jeopardises” the safety of those who use Scottish mountains.
He said: “The funding withdrawal by SportScotland, following their previous decision to collaborate with MWIS, together with the Met Office, was a real shock and jeopardises the safety of those who use the mountains every day.
“All we want is for MWIS to continue to provide a consistent, quality service so that mountain users can enjoy the mountains safely, fully aware of what the weather will throw at them.
“The service will be cut at the end of the year if we don’t get this funding. A lot of time and effort goes into it. We clearly want MWIS to continue. I’m not giving up.”
Several commenters on the online petition voiced support for Monk, and condemned SportScotland.
User Craig M wrote: “For the 15 years I have ventured into the mountains MWIS has been the most accurate and consistent forecaster out there.
“Ridiculous to remove funding for such a popular and probably the most consulted forecaster which could ultimately cost lives.”
David R. wrote: “MWIS is the first and last thing I check before heading into the hills. It’s an essential resource for anyone planning a trip.”
Colin F added: “This is a vital tool to help make good decisions on days out in the mountains.”
SportScotland said they were disappointed with Mr Monk’s comments and called claims that the MWIS would end “misleading”.
A SportScotland spokesperson said: “This is a disappointing and misleading claim by Geoff Monk at the MWIS.
“Investment into MWIS continues until the end of this year and we have been involved in collaboration discussions for over a year with the Met Office and Geoff about building a resilient and development-focused mountain weather forecast provision for Scotland together.
“Lines of communication with MWIS have always been open and remain so.
“SportScotland’s priority is to ensure there is a sustainable mountain forecast for Scotland through the provision of relaible, authoritative forecasts, which are relevant to outdoor activities and enable forecast users to make informed decisions about their chosen activities.”
Photo: Graham Lewis