With its £100,000 ‘Diamond Grant’, the Scottish Mountaineering Trust aims to create a legacy that will sustain outdoor leisure pursuits for many years to come. By Nan Spowart
The mountains of SCOTLAND are loved around the world for their beauty, so it’s 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 biggest grant ever given by a charity to a mountain project and it is hoped the money will create a legacy that will provide lasting benefits.
It is offered by the Scottish Mountain Trust (SMT) to celebrate its 60th anniversary this year and adds to its ongoing support of mountain projects.
Chairman 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, which will bring lasting benefits to the mountaineering community,” he said.
“We hope to hear about really distinctive, innovative projects. As well as the Scottish mountaineering grassroots, we are reaching out to other groups whose work could be helped or even transformed.
“We believe the Diamond Grant is the biggest grant ever given by a charity to Scottish mountaineering and we are looking for something really special. We are open to all ideas.”
As a charity, the Trust is committed to supporting projects that are of clear public interest and help more people enjoy the mountain world.
“So whether a project is for a hut, a book, a trail, a rock or an exhibit, what matters is that the mountaineering community is enriched by it,” Fowler said.
Established in 1962, the Trust has already given £1.6 million to a very wide range of programmes. A student training weekend, a mountain rescue base, a mountain film festival, a club hut and a new bridge – all of these and more have been helped, with grants ranging from a few hundred pounds to around £10,000.
Many of the scholarships in the Trust’s long-running grant program achieve a lot with amounts that seem quite modest. For example, the last advertised price was exactly £1960.
This amount went to Urban Uprising, a charity that uses rock climbing to improve the physical, social and emotional well-being of young people. It will top up the funding needed to give 60 young people a full day of climbing on a rock in the countryside, rather than a climbing wall in town.
Further funds were used to help the Hebrides Mountain Rescue Team buy a site for a permanent team base at Stornoway, while £12,000 was given to rebuild the path to Beinn a Ghlo, above Blair Atholl, by the Outdoor Access Trust for Scotland. .
Additionally, the Scottish Mountaineering Club’s Journal, which was founded in 1890, now has its tens of thousands of free pages on the web, with £2100 from 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 around 20 years with the latest grant totaling £1,000.
The work of the Trust is funded by donations from like-minded individuals and organizations and by the publication of guides for the Scottish Mountaineering Club and other books related to the hills.
As with its regular grants, SMT expects Diamond Grant applicants to have a certain degree of commitment and resources to draw upon, whether it be skills, experience, labor – existing work or financing. The Trust hopes to award a single prize of up to £100,000, but if no scheme of this magnitude is approved, it may decide to support several smaller projects, each with a minimum need of £20,000.
The deadline for submitting bids is the end of August 2022, with the winner to be announced later this year. However, the Trust would like potential applicants to start thinking seriously about this opportunity now, before the main outdoor months, rather than after them.
“There are basic criteria for all grant applications on our site, but we would be wrong to say what ‘sustainable benefits’ or ‘new ground’ means,” Fowler said. “The teams, charities, events and individuals we exist to help need to decide what transformation or expansion of their work would be made possible by £100,000.
“What we can do, and what we will do, is listen constructively and sympathetically to people with big ideas and big ambitions.”
Those interested in applying for the grant can find detailed advice online at thesmt.org.uk, and they will also find contact details to discuss their projects.
Grants help projects reach new heights
A TOTAL of £70,000 was distributed by the Scottish Mountain Trust last year alone and has benefited ten widely varying projects.
They included the John Muir Trust’s path on Quinag, the equipping of two mountain rescue teams and a study of changes in the wild lands of Scotland.
Mhor Outdoor, which enables socially excluded people to enjoy the hills, has also received a boost from the Trust in the form of a £2,000 grant. This was used for equipment such as raincoats, maps, first aid and mountain food.
The project involved two teams of ten people having the chance to hike in the mountains.
The teams included people who have experienced homelessness as well as asylum seekers.
Mhor Outdoor was created by Rachel May, who started packing Munros with her family when she was just eight years old, starting with the mighty Ben Nevis.
She realized early on that she wanted to share the outdoors with others and became a British mountain guide, founding Mhor Outdoor in 2020 with the aim of breaking down the barriers people face to accessing the outdoors and helping them to feel like they belong.
In addition to the Belonging project, the company offers bespoke team rides for corporate clients and intends to use revenue from these to become financially self-sufficient.
This means that for every hike carried out for a corporate team, another will be organized for people who are financially or socially excluded from Scotland’s great outdoors.