Ski slope saved after public backlash
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.
Midlothian Snowsport Centre, known as Hillend, was in danger after costing the council £5m to stay open