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6. To ask the Scottish Government what it is doing to mitigate the potential impact of the closure of the Cairngorm funicular railway on the area’s economy. (S5O-02544)
The safety of passengers at this time is paramount. The Scottish Government continues to work closely with Highlands and Islands Enterprise to mitigate any economic impact. HIE and business gateway are supporting local businesses that might be affected, including by offering one-to-one advice and access to loan funding, where appropriate. A funicular response group has been established to oversee the operational and communication needs relating to the closure.
Tourism plays a significant role in our economy, and winter sports are of particular importance to the rural economy. Will the cabinet secretary outline what is being done to develop further opportunities for the Cairngorms funicular and other winter sports facilities? What help is being given to reopen the railway as soon as possible?
I assure Richard Lyle that HIE is working flat out on those matters and I am in touch with its staff very regularly. They are about to receive a report, which should be available at the beginning of December, on the potential problems that the funicular faces.
HIE is working on ensuring the availability of snow-making equipment in early December, which will, I hope, be operational as soon as possible thereafter. It is working hard with local community representatives to ameliorate the problems that are posed by the temporary—we hope—loss of the funicular railway service and to ensure that skiing takes place on Cairn Gorm mountain this year as soon as possible and to the maximum extent possible. We are absolutely determined to make those efforts bring as much success as possible to the area because the funicular railway and Cairngorm Mountain Ltd are essential to the success of the local economy of Badenoch and Strathspey.