Ardgour Community Council told MSP Rhoda Grant the closure of the Abernethy Ardgour School of Adventure Leadership meant the loss of nine jobs and those nine families and individuals, some with school-aged children, have had to relocate from the community due to all the jobs having tied housing.
The Abernethy Trust closed the centre amid the coronavirus crisis. Residential school trips are still banned under coronavirus guidelines and there are fears many other outdoor education centres will follow suit and be forced to shut nationwide.
Mrs Grant wrote to Scotland’s Finance Secretary Kate Forbes raising concern for Ardgour’s rural community and economy and seeking emergency support.
She said: “I share the concern being expressed by the Scottish Adventure Activity Forum and other organisations for the future of this country’s outdoor education industry. I have written separately to Scotland’s Education Secretary John Swinney and Further and Higher Education Minister Richard Lochhead this week.
“However, if anyone needs a clear picture of the immediate impact an outdoor centre closure has on a community they need look no further than Ardgour. I am told the families and individuals forced to leave the village included a mix of ages and school-aged children. The lack of available housing and the current economic climate has made it incredibly difficult for these people to remain in this small rural community. I know the loss of these families across the spectrum will be significant and that’s why I am calling on the government to step in with support. The government has a duty to stop this from happening in other areas. It needs to fund the sector to safeguard other centres from closure during the pandemic.”
Kendra Turnbull of the Ardgour Community Council said the outdoor education centre also ran an outdoor instructor training program which brought around 12 adults to the area.
She said: “These temporary residents were active in the community, regularly volunteering at community events and attending the local church. Again, their loss will be felt. These examples illustrate the personal stories and wider community effect that the closure of outdoor centres will have. Real lives are being affected.”
She went on: “In the interests of all youth, and vulnerable rural families and communities in Scotland we would urge all MSPs and MPs to campaign on their behalf to secure the future of outdoor residential centres. The Scottish Government needs to review their recent decision not to invest in them.”
Mrs Grant and her Labour Highlands & Islands MSP colleague David Stewart MSP are supporting the #SaveYourOutdoorCentres campaign.
Mr Stewart has also been making representation for outdoor education centres in the constituency, namely Ardroy Outdoor Education Centre, Argyll, which serves communities in the Highlands, and Fort William’s Outward Bound Trust’s long-running Loch Eil centre.
Mr Stewart has also written repeatedly to Scottish Government ministers and has contacted the Chancellor Rishi Sunak to highlight the predicament of both centres.
“He has also to the Highland Council’s chief executive, Donna Manson, and raised the issue through the Scottish Parliament.”