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Lottery win for outdoor activities

OUTDOOR education has been thrown a lifeline by the pound;87 million lottery programme for physical education and sport.

Under the programme, launched this week by Mike Watson, Tourism, Sport and Culture Minister at Rosehall High, Coatbridge, every local authority will have to submit plans for upgrading and reopening outdoor centres or liaising with neighbouring councils to provide better provision.

Up to pound;5.2 million will be spent nationally over the next three years on outdoor facilities. Between 5 per cent and 10 per cent of each local capital scheme must go towards outdoor provision.

The key is the additional revenue support for two years that will allow the employment of staff to run and market facilities. However, it may be a full year before councils know which projects are to gain support.

Peter Higgins, head of outdoor education at Edinburgh University's education faculty, welcomed the announcement but said: "What is desperately needed is clear guidance from the New Opportunities Fund. We need to know what the education outcomes will be, which groups are being targeted, and how the money will be spent."

The political interest in outdoor education and adventure follows the intervention of David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, who trailed the prospect of summer camps for the young unemployed. Lottery planners originally intended to focus in Scotland on anti-crime adventure activities but the emphasis appears to be wider following pressure from the outdoor lobby.

Since the whole PE and sport programme is geared towards the more disadvantaged communities, it will inevitably involve young people at risk in challenging activities. The focus is likely to be on residential weeks at outdoor centres.

David Campbell, NOF chairman in Scotland, said he believed the largest ever lottery programme would "substantially change the face of sports opportunities" in schools and communities. Some pound;52 million will go on capital projects, with pound;35 million for out of hours and area activities to prevent crime and vandalism. The money would modernise indoor and outdoor facilities and ensure they were open longer and available for school and community use.

Each authority has now been given an allocation based on school populations and levels of deprivation, pushing Glasgow out ahead with pound;12.9 million. North Lanarkshire, where the scheme was launched on Tuesday, is second top with pound;6.2 million, while the island authorities receive pound;450,000.

Mr Campbell said the cash would complement Scottish Executive funds and those in the NOF out of hours fund - now closed.

Charlie Raeburn, chair of the Scottish Schoolsport Federation, welcomed the extra funding but warned that it was not a panacea for new buildings and programmes. "Physical education itself may not gain hugely from this investment. There may possibly be extra for alternative curricula and some facility improvements," Mr Raeburn said.

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