Ski slope saved af­ter pub­lic back­lash

The Scotsman - - Features - mark Smith

BRI­TAIN’S biggest dry ski-slope has been handed a re­prieve af­ter coun­cil­lors voted to save it from the axe fol­low­ing a cam­paign backed by 27,000 sup­port­ers.

A spe­cial meet­ing of Mid­loth­ian Coun­cil, which owns the loss-mak­ing hil­lend ski cen­tre, backed a res­cue plan yes­ter­day which will see the fa­cil­ity stay open.

how­ever, the Coun­cil warned that with­out more in­vest­ment from the Scot­tish Govern­ment they may have to close the cen­tre as they strug­gle to make bud­get cuts to­talling £25 mil­lion.

The res­cue pack­age backed yes­ter­day in­volves £600,000 of in­vest­ment from govern­ment agency Sportscot­land as well as the sale of green belt land near the site to de­vel­op­ers.

But the coun­cil claims it should not have to keep fund­ing the ski cen­tre as it is a na­tional fa­cil­ity. Mid­loth­ian Coun­cil Leader Derek Mil­li­gan said: “We call on the Scot­tish Govern­ment and other par­ties to step for­ward and pro­vide na­tional fund­ing for this na­tional fa­cil­ity.

“We have to save at least £25 mil­lion over the next four years so the Coun­cil can­not sim­ply keep sub­si­dis­ing the Cen­tre.”

he added: “The fu­ture of the na­tional Cen­tre should not be at a cost to the Mid­loth­ian tax­payer.”

Cllr Mil­li­gan also de­manded greater year-round sup­port from skiers and snow­board­ers. he said: “It is up to skiers, snow­board­ers and vis­i­tors to de­ter­mine if the Cen­tre stays open in the long term – by vot­ing with their feet.

“When the fu­ture of the cen­tre was first ques­tioned in early 2010 there were calls in the me­dia to keep it open, con­sid­er­able sup­port across the in­ter­net and a Face­book cam­paign which has over 27,000 mem­bers.

“If these in­di­vid­u­als and groups are se­ri­ous about the sur­vival of the Cen­tre they need to use it on a reg­u­lar ba­sis to make it fi­nan­cially vi­able.”

About 30 Olympians have trained at the Mid­loth­ian Snows­port Cen­tre, widely known as hil­lend. The ear­lier de­ci­sion to close it was met with up­roar within the sport.

Sportscot­land last night con­firmed it was pre­par­ing to in­vest in the up­grad­ing of the cen­tre. A spokesper­son said: “Now that the de­ci­sion has been made to re­tain the cen­tre within Mid­loth­ian Coun­cil con­trol we will look at ways, in­clud­ing the po­ten­tial for cap­i­tal in­vest­ment, in which the Cen­tre can have a bright fu­ture.”

Mid­loth­ian Coun­cil has spent over £5m in re­cent years to keep the cen­tre open with no fi­nan­cial sup­port from any other lo­cal author­ity or na­tional agency. how­ever, less than a fifth of peo­ple who use the cen­tre come from Mid­loth­ian, and when use by lo­cal schools is de­ducted, that pro­por­tion falls even fur­ther.

In ad­di­tion to seek­ing govern­ment fund­ing, the coun­cil is look­ing for a busi­ness part­ner will­ing to de­velop ad­ja­cent land to help fi­nance im­prove­ments. No firm pro­pos­als have been re­ceived by the coun­cil.

Pic­ture: Ian Ruther­ford

Mid­loth­ian Snows­port Cen­tre, known as Hil­lend, was in dan­ger af­ter cost­ing the coun­cil £5m to stay open

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