FORDELL FIRS has joined a campaign urging the Scottish Government to save Scotland’s outdoor centres.

The West Fife residential centre is the headquarters for Scouts Scotland and with a serious lack of funds due to coronavirus restrictions, the organisation has already been forced to make redundant 50 per cent of its staff based there.

In just over a week, more than 16,000 people have added their name in support of the campaign asking the Scottish Government to review its decision not to provide a financial support package to the sector while it remains unable to operate as normal due to the impact of COVID-19.

Fife MSP Alex Rowley has now added weight to the debate, asking Holyrood to provide support as well as Fife Council.

Fordell Firs is used widely by Fife schools and groups, and is a popular venue for youngsters.

Nicola Milne, a mum from Dunfermline, said: "My daughter, Poppy, has been really lucky to have the chance to go and stay at Fordell Firs with her Beavers.

“It would be really rubbish if she didn't get the chance to go on her school residential when the time comes; a school camp is a rite of passage, everyone remembers it."

Gregor Mitchell, aged 17, Scouts Scotland MSYP, from Dunfermline, added: “It makes me so upset to hear that a lot of outdoor centres across Scotland are at risk of shutting down due to financial difficulties.

“I have made amazing memories through these centres. These centres provide opportunities for young people who will really benefit from it, myself included. Both in Scouting and with my school, I created memories that will last a lifetime. It’s scary to think young people may not be able to experience what I did.”

In August, the Scottish Government issued advice to local authorities that school residential trips should not take place until at least the Spring term in 2021 and there is no review date set.

Many believe with no financial support package in place, many outdoor centres will close.

Katie Docherty, chief executive of Scouts Scotland, said: “We completely understand the need to proceed cautiously with residential trips, however, without urgent funding, the centres will not survive.

“If funding was provided then we could look at redeploying our staff to work with schools to help compliment and deliver meaningful outdoor learning, until residential trips can start again.”

Teachers, students and parents are all encouraged to write to their MSPs for the #saveyouroutdoorcentres campaign.

Mr Rowley said: “Many organisations in the sector have told me about how outdoor learning is a key part of their youth work but the coronavirus crisis has left the sector in critical need of financial support.

“The sector is yet to receive the urgent support it requires to prevent the permanent closure of many of Scotland’s outdoor residential centres.

“Organisations are having to make difficult decisions about whether or not to close their outdoor education centres as a result of the pandemic exacerbating financial difficulties. On top of those that have already closed, there is still a risk many further centres across Scotland could close for good.

“The Scottish Government need to come forward with a recovery plan for organisations like Scouts Scotland and Girlguiding Scotland given both are saying their outdoor facilities are at risk of closure.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Outdoor education centres can provide young people with a variety of curriculum-relevant experiences. At present, the increased risk of virus transmission associated with overnight stays means that the Scottish Government has advised against school residential visits to centres – risk-assessed day visits are permitted.

“To support outdoor education centres during this challenging time, we have funded the development of guidance for schools and outdoor education centres on safe day visits.”