Teleconferencing has long been an accepted way of communication among business and family circles alike. Modern IT setups and domestic broadband lends itself to easy and convenient use across geographically challenging areas. The Highland Battalion is faced with such an arena with 16 Companies spread across Northern Scotland.
The Battalion serves a third of the land area of Scotland – including the most remote and sparsely populated parts of the UK – and it has the seventh highest population of the 32 authorities in Scotland. The total land area including all islands at low water is 26,484 square kilometres. This is 33% of Scotland and 11.4% of Great Britain. It is 10 times larger than Luxembourg, 20% larger than Wales, and nearly the size of Belgium. To meet this task the Battalion has introduced Skype to aid in a number of events.
Attendance at Battalion meetings has long been a test for those facing journeying times and indeed family or work commitments. As Vice President Andy Muirhead, based in Fort William, comments, “I can join in and take part in discussions. Skype enables me to be at meetings and saves me the hassle of travel to the likes of Inverness, a car journey of up to 1 ½ hours each way.”
By simply upgrading to the Skype Premium account, up to 10 separate contacts can be added to the group session. So far this has been more than enough to allow outlying groups to gather at individual homes to take part.
Acting Captain of the 1st Thurso Company, Johanna Geddes, reports, “We thought it was great. It was good to be part of the meeting and we sincerely hope this carries on. From a safety point of view, it means we don’t have to travel after working all day for up to 5 hours on a round trip of 230 miles and often on very busy roads, returning home really late. It’s also a huge saving on fuel expenses. This is the way forward and we should have been doing it ages ago both for meetings and training. It creates a better linked battalion from a communication and social point of view.”
It is envisaged that teleconferencing and the use of broadband connections will be used for more inter-company activities, competitions and events in the future. The facility to give both officers and members a sense of involvement and belonging is priceless.
Johanna Geddes again, “All those years ago Sir William was a very forward thinking man, years ahead of his time, so let’s keep up his forward thinking.”