With its £100k ‘Diamond Grant’, the Scottish Mountaineering Trust aims to create a legacy that will support outdoor recreation activities for many years to come. By Nan Spowart

 

SCOTLAND’S mountains are treasured the world over for their beauty, so it is fitting that a “Diamond Grant” is being made available to help more people experience them.

The fund of up to £100,000 is believed to be the largest single grant every made by a charity to a mountain project and it is hoped the money will create a legacy that will provide enduring benefits.

It is being offered by the Scottish Mountain Trust (SMT) to celebrate its 60th birthday this year and is on top of the ongoing support it provides to mountain projects.

Chair John Fowler said the Trust wanted to hear about innovative projects from a wide range of applicants. ‘We want the Diamond award to be not just a grant, but also a legacy, that will provide enduring benefits to the mountaineering community,” he said.

“We’re hoping to hear from projects that are really distinctive, that break fresh ground. As well as the grass-roots of Scottish mountaineering, we are reaching out to other groups whose work might be helped, even transformed. 

"We believe the Diamond Grant is the biggest single grant ever made by a charity to Scottish mountaineering and we’re looking for something really special. We’re open to all ideas.”

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As a charity, the Trust is committed to supporting projects that have a clear public benefit and help more people enjoy the world of mountains. 

“So, whether a project concerns a hut, a book, a hilltrack, a crag or an exhibition, what matters is that the mountaineering community will be richer for it happening,” said Mr Fowler. 

Set up in 1962, the Trust has already contributed £1.6 million to a very wide range of schemes. A student training weekend, a mountain rescue base, a mountain film festival, a club hut and a new bridge – all these and many more have been helped, through grants ranging from a few hundred pounds to around £10,000. 

Many of the awards in the Trust’s long running grants programme achieve a lot with sums that seem quite modest. For example, the last award announced was for exactly £1960.

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That amount went to Urban Uprising, a charity that uses climbing to improve the physical, social and emotional wellbeing of young people. It’ll complete the funding needed to give 60 youngsters a full day’s climbing at a countryside crag, rather than a city climbing wall. 

Other funding has been used to help Hebrides Mountain Rescue team to buy a site for a permanent team base in Stornoway, while £12,000 was given towards the rebuilding of the path up Beinn a Ghlo, above Blair Atholl, by the Outdoor Access Trust for Scotland

In addition, the Scottish Mountaineering Club’s Journal, which was founded in 1890, now has its tens of thousands of pages free on the web, with £2100 from the SMT going to OCR scanning.

Winter skills courses for 18-30 year olds run by the Jonathan Conville Memorial Trust have also been supported by the Trust for about 20 years with the latest grant totalling £1000. 

The Trust’s work is financed by donations from individuals and organisations who share the same values and from the publication of guidebooks for the Scottish Mountaineering Club and other books connected with the hills. 

As with its usual grants, the SMT does expect Diamond Grant applicants to have a degree of commitment and resources to call on, whether that’s in skills, experience, manpower or existing funding. The Trust hopes to make a single award of up to £100,000, but if no scheme on that scale is approved it may decide to help several smaller projects, each with a minimum need for £20,000.

The deadline for bids is the end of August 2022, with a winner to be announced later this year. However, the Trust would like would-be applicants to begin thinking seriously about this opportunity now, before the main outdoors months, rather than after them. 

“There are basic criteria for all grant applications on our site but it would be wrong for us to say what ‘enduring benefits’ or ‘fresh ground’ might mean,” said Mr Fowler. “The teams, charities, events and individuals that we exist to help have to decide what transformation or expansion of their work would be made possible by £100,000. 

“What we can do, and will do, is to listen constructively and sympathetically to people who have  great ideas and big ambitions.”

  • Those interested in applying for the grant can find detailed guidance online at thesmt.org.uk, and they will also find contact details for to discuss their plans
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Grants help projects reach new heights 

A TOTAL of £70,000 was given out by the Scottish Mountain Trust last year alone and benefited ten very varied projects.

They included the John Muir Trust's path on Quinag, equipment for two mountain rescue teams and a survey of the changes to the wild lands in Scotland.

Mhor Outdoor, which is enabling socially excluded people to enjoy the hills, was also given a boost by the Trust in the shape of a £2000 grant. This was used for equipment such as waterproofs, maps, first aid and hill food.

The project involved two teams of ten having the chance to go on hillwalks. 

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The teams included people who have experienced homelessness and as well as those who are seeking asylum. 

Mhor Outdoor was set up by Rachel May, who began bagging Munros with her family when she was just eight-years-old, starting off with the mighty Ben Nevis.

She realised early on that she wanted to share the outdoors with others and became a UK mountain leader, founding Mhor Outdoor in 2020 with the aim of breaking down the barriers people face in accessing the outdoors and helping them feel they are somewhere they belong.

As well as the Belonging project, the company offers tailor-made team hikes for corporate clients and intends to use income from them to become financially self-sustaining. 

This will mean that for every hike delivered for a corporate team, another will be organised for people who are financially or socially excluded from the great Scottish outdoors.