LISTEN: Liz Smith gives her thoughts on the progress made by the debate held in Parliament
Regional MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife, Liz Smith, took to the Scottish Parliament to debate Scotland’s outdoor centres which are facing serious financial difficulty in the future with the uncertainty COVID-19 has brought about.
Her debate comes after endorsing the ‘Save Scottish Outdoor Centres‘ petition which is calling on the government to offer finical support after advising that Scotland’s schools don’t plan any residential trips.
Speaking in the parliament, Liz Smith said: “I have no doubt, whatsoever, that education in an outdoor environment provides one of the most valuable and most rewarding learning experiences for a wide range of pupils, no matter what their backgrounds are or their abilities.
“To lose that precious asset is an unconscionable thought and I hope the Scottish government hears this evening the loud message that is coming from the sector. If we don’t get action from this, then they will not exist.”
Jane Campbell Morrison, who started the petition, wrote that Scotland’s outdoor centres are challenged by the government’s recommendation mostly because schools and youth organisations won’t be able to plan trips until August of 2021.
Mrs Morrison added: “This is not just a fun experience; it is vital to the education and development of young people, it has been shown to benefit mental health and wellbeing and will be increasingly vital as we move out of lockdown.”
Liz Smith told Heartland Multi-Media: “There was an excellent contribution from every political party and also from the minister who I think recognizes just that we’re in the last chance to moon over this and that we have to find a solution.”
The debate was well received by members across various parties, including the SNP’s Bruce Crawford, Scottish Labour’s Daniel Johnson among others.
Secretary for further education, Richard Lochhead, welcomed the debate, first by thanking Liz Smith for bringing it to parliament and all of the members for their contributions.
Mr Lochhead explained some of the options which the government offers to outdoor centres, such as the upcoming community and third sector recovery programme, a £25 million third sector resilience fund and 0% interest loans from the government which are all available to third sector centres.
He listed further options from the Scottish attainment challenge equity fund and the £3 million youth work and education fund which will become available this September.
Adressing parliament Mr Lochhead said: “We’re listening very carefully to outdoor centres in Scotland. I pay tribute to all their efforts, all of their resilliance in the current and very difficult times and the support they are giving to our young people and for professional commitment and dedication to outdoor education.”
“It’s an important part of Scotland’s education landscape as highlighted by members.”
Mr Lochhead finished by reassuring members that their concerns are being heard by the government and they are working to investigate options for outdoor centres in future.
He ended saying: “We do remain a very powerful supporter of the role outdoor education centres play, so I just want to finish by paying tribute to the sector, thanking all members for their contribution and assure members we are listening very closely to their representations.”