Concerted effort wins through
Scottish Government ministers have caved to a spirited campaign to save the country’s outdoor centres and have granted emergency funding.
Campaigners stopped short of hailing a victory after winning £2m of cash but say the vital intervention will save many centres from certain closure.
Operators of Scotland’s outdoor centres, including Scouts Scotland, Girlguiding Scotland and the Outward Bound Trust, made a joint appeal to the government in May to keep all 37 centres open, but they were urged instead to apply for loans, which leaders said was not feasible.
Yesterday the Scottish Government gave in to pressure with science minister Richard Lochhead saying he was “acutely aware” of the challenges faced by the sector.
While campaigners said they are disappointed not to get the £3m bailout they had asked for, the funding was “positive and encouraging.”
The move comes after a petition started by the campaign was signed by more than 23,400 people and garnered cross-party political support.
Many of the centres run by third sector organisations faced closure after the Scottish Government advised local authorities that school residential trips should not take place until at least the spring term in 2021, with no review date set to reassess the position.
In a statement the #SaveYourOutdoorCentres campaign said: “It is positive and encouraging that the Scottish Government have announced this specific emergency funding for outdoor education centres today.
“This should help the centres to survive the next few months ahead. This highlights that the Scottish Government understands the value of outdoor residential experiences and the impact that they have on young people in Scotland.
“It is not the £3m that we had asked for and that we need but we will continue to work with the Scottish Government to ensure that the money reaches the centres who need it most and as quickly as possible.
“We are still waiting to see the details of the fund but we hope that it will ensure that providers can cover essential fixed costs whilst also working with schools to deliver meaningful outdoor for outdoor education that meets the social and emotional needs of young people.”
First minister Nicola Sturgeon said outdoor education centres across the country gave tens of thousands of schoolchildren the opportunity to spend time outside and take part in activities they might not otherwise have the chance to enjoy.
"But we know the sector has had a really tough time as a result of the pandemic. It was closed through lockdown and residential stays at outdoor centres are still not allowed.
"Even in order to allow non-residential activities to take place, centres have had to make great efforts to create a safe environment for young people and staff, so I am pleased we have been able to announce an additional £2 million of support to help residential outdoor education centres."
Discussions on administration of the package of support were continuing and details of how to apply would be made available as soon as possible.