Tensions between police and mountain rescue volunteers are 'risking lives', a whistleblower has claimed.

In Tayside, in common with Grampian and Strathclyde, there are two separate teams headed up by police and volunteers.

According to a source, in recent years a "concerning coercion and domineering position" has been exerted by police on their volunteer equivalents.

One volunteer, from Perthshire, with over a decade of experience, is said to have been expelled after he raised concerns over the governance of the Tayside Mountain Rescue Association during an AGM held in 2020.

Tensions have been linked to the practice of paid police rescuers migrating to the volunteer team after retiring but "reducing their availability".

🔔 Get unlimited access to The Herald with our Digital Pack and save over 20% annually. Offer ends today!

👉 Click here to sign up for this offer

Further claims have been made that charitable funds have been diverted to Tayside away from Highland Perthshire where the majority of call-outs are received.

Plans were mooted to create a base in Perthshire but a decision was later made in favour of Dundee.

READ MORE: Tributes paid to 'King of the Ben' Jimmy Marshall after his death 

According to a source, it was agreed at the AGM three years ago that a working group would be set up with a code of conduct for members.

However, days after the meeting, the volunteer who had raised concerns about governance was apparently told that he was no longer part of the team. 

Another long-serving volunteer, described as one of Scotland's most experienced mountain rescuers is said to have resigned over the treatment of his colleague.

It is claimed that tensions between police and volunteers have led to delays in call-outs.

READ MORE: 'Not for the faint hearted': The police keeping the beat in Scotland's largest beat

The Herald's source said: "There is an increasing unease amongst the remaining volunteer team members.

The Herald:

"For a number of years retiring police officers who had been paid mountain rescuers were leaving the police team and migrating to the volunteer team. 

"In doing so many slowly diminished in their availability despite significant investment in equipment, leading to one team member commenting that the volunteer charity-funded team was becoming little more than a social club for retired cops. 

"Money and resource have also been diverted from the areas in Tayside which most need investment to support the effective provision of a Mountain Rescue Service.

"The Mountains of Highland Perthshire have always been the location of the majority of calls for help received. 

"There had been plans to create a base in Highland Perthshire and various organisations had pledged money on the understanding that this was an active goal. 

"Following the installation of Graham Penny as Team Leader with the support of the management group, the meagre base that did exist in Aberfeldy has now gone and the RescMe vehicle sits outside while money has been diverted to create a based in Dundee.

"Many team members feel a sense of outrage that funds have been used in this way when there is no logical or evidentially need for a base in an urban environment that could not be further away from where the money and rescue service is required."

Scotland has 25 charitable Mountain Rescue Teams (MRTs), made up of highly trained volunteers who are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to carry out a specialist search and rescue service in the mountains and remote communities in Scotland.

There are also three Police Scotland MRTs and one RAF team.

The number of call-outs has increased as ever-increasing numbers of people enjoy Scotland’s mountains and wild places.

The Herald's source claimed that the transfer of police to the volunteer team was compromising safety.

They said: "Members coming into the volunteer team previously were required to demonstrate a level of skill and experience in operating in harsh mountain environments.

"Many were in fact qualified professionals.

READ MORE: Climber in first ascent of hardest winter climb

"Contrast this with the selection of members of the Police Team, none of whom hold any formal mountaineering qualifications or can claim to be anything other than recreational outdoors people."

A mountain rescue volunteer from another Scottish team said: "This sounds like modus operandi of some police rescuers to undermine teams."

Another volunteer questioned the decision to abandon the Perthshire base. 

He said: "Mountaineers are generally strong characters and personalities; it sounds as though there have been some curious decisions made."

A spokeswoman for Police Scotland said no one representing the force's team was available to comment in time for publication of The Herald's article.

Kevin Linklater, Chairman of Tayside Mountain Rescue Association, said: "We do not wish to pass any comment."