FOR decades, Scotland’s outdoor education and residential centres have provided a range of vital opportunities for young people. These courses can be really character building for many – I can still remember some of my own experiences of ‘camp’, even though many years have passed.

These centres are now at risk due to a lack of financial support.

The sector remains in limbo because Scottish Government guidance for schools prohibits overnight residential stays for the autumn term, and there are no plans to review this until January, leaving centres with no income over the winter.

Girlguiding Scotland has already closed Netherurd House, its only Scottish national activity centre. Without urgent support, many other centres will go too. This would be disastrous not only because of the huge gap it would create for outdoor learning provision but also because of the many jobs in rural areas that would be lost.

Having recently obtained my Youth Advocacy award from Scouts Scotland, with the help of local Scout troops, I am well aware of the importance of these residential opportunities. As well as our schools, many local uniformed groups also use the centres.

I have already met with representatives of many of Scotland’s youth work and outdoor education organisations. Earlier in the summer, I wrote to the First Minster and Education Secretary warning of the impact of the absence of funding, and to support the calls already being made for greater guidance and support from the Scottish Government during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Scottish Government should listen to the sector and the thousands of people who have backed the petition to save Scotland’s outdoor centres at