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Coalition of local and conservation groups call for new Cairn Gorm vision

A group of conservation organisations and local groups has come together to publish a new joint vision for the future of Cairn Gorm. The group – comprising Ramblers Scotland, the Cairngorms Campaign, the North East Mountain Trust, the Scottish Wild Land Group and the Campaign for a Better Cairngorm – are calling a modernisation of ski infrastructure, for the dismantling of the funicular railway to be seriously considered, and for future developments that enhance and respect the natural environment that draws visitors to the National Park.

The vision (attached) puts forward ideas which support the future of skiing in the context of the uncertainties of climate change. Key elements include the following: The promised masterplan is long overdue; the time for piecemeal decision making is over.

– Ski uplift should be streamlined and upgraded.

– The case for repairing the funicular is very weak; no more public money should be wasted.

– Only developments which are in keeping with a sensitive high mountain environment should be considered. Zip wires and mountain coasters have no place high in Scotland’s finest mountain range when they could be sited elsewhere.

– A Centre for the Mountain Environment could provide a sustainable visitor attraction.

A group spokesman said “Over the last few years, the ski area on Cairn Gorm has seen poor management, a lack of investment, the collapse of the company responsible for running it and very serious structural problems with the funicular. The situation has been compounded by Highlands and Islands Enterprise’s (HIE) failure to produce its long promised masterplan and its lack of openness about the costs surrounding either removal or repair of the funicular. The situation must be resolved in a way which is both financially and environmentally sustainable and which provides an experience which skiers actually want. At a time of severe financial pressures, the drain on public funding must stop.”

“Despite the lack of a masterplan, HIE continues to submit planning applications for developments which cannot be judged by the planning authorities in the context of a future vision for the mountain. Equally worryingly, it is understood that HIE will submit a proposal shortly to the Scottish Government to repair the funicular, and the latter may well take a decision on this, before the publication of a masterplan. Given the major implications for the public purse and the interest the Auditor General has taken in the financial aspects of the recent management of the ski company, along with the lack of opportunity for public scrutiny, this is wholly unacceptable.”

David Windle, Chair of North East Mountain Trust, commented:

‘Cairn Gorm is a national asset. It is too important for skiers, the economy of Speyside and the thousands of members of the public who visit annually for decisions to be taken incrementally. The time for secrecy is over. We call on HIE and Fergus Ewing, the Cabinet Secretary responsible, to postpone any decisions on the future of funicular and potential infrastructure developments until after a public consultation on the proposed masterplan. Unless this happens, large sums of money may well be spent on developments which do not meet skiers’ needs and which are totally out of keeping with a high mountain environment’.

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