UK cabinet minister Brandon Lewis visited Inverness coastguard base yesterday.
Mr Lewis, who is MP for Great Yarmouth, Conservative party chairman and minister without portfolio, learned how how the helicopter crews and ground staff train for and carry out life-saving missions, from mountain rescues and aiding ships stranded at sea to missing person searches.
He inspected two new helicopters, costing a combined £40m, used to help rescuers get to injured climbers and walkers quicker and to take on an ever-growing range of missions.
The helicopters are part of a £1.9bn investment by the UK Government in search and rescue helicopter infrastructure.
Inverness is one of the country’s busiest search and rescue helicopter bases.
Latest statistics show that of the 1,606 rescue operations carried out in the UK during the past year, 40% were undertaken in Scotland by the coastguards at Inverness and three other Scottish bases.
Mr Lewis praised the work of the Inverness service.
He said: “HM Coastguard is the only UK-wide emergency service. Working as a national network highlights how the scale and size of our union’s infrastructure helps to keep people safe all across the UK.
“Our coastguard helicopter teams provide a brilliant service to protect everyone who visits or works in our coastal and mountain regions, no matter where they are in the UK.”
Captain Kevin Drodge of HM Coastguard Inverness helicopter base said: “We were pleased to welcome Brandon Lewis and to give him an insight into the base’s facilities in terms of being prepared to undertake the crucial, life-saving work we do to keep people safe in Scotland.
“Our priority is getting someone home safely from a search and rescue operation, whether that be at sea or in the mountains.
“Our base not only has state-of-the-art helicopters, but also the facilities and support we need to ensure HM Coastguard’s world class search and rescue standards.”