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Watchdog findings into running of Cairngorm Mountain expected next month

By Gavin Musgrove

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The findings of a probe into the running of Cairngorm Mountain have been delayed by at least one month because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Public accounts watchdog Audit Scotland had been due to publish its results early this month but now expects to do so in June.

The Cairngorm ski resort on the last day of the season before it was curtailed by the coronavirus outrbreak.
The Cairngorm ski resort on the last day of the season before it was curtailed by the coronavirus outrbreak.

The auditors have conducted extensive research including interviews with many stakeholders involved in running the resort including the now owners Highlands and Islands Enterprise.

The investigation has included looking at HIE's appointment of Wilmslow-based Natural Retreats – part of NAIL (Natural Assets Investment Ltd) – that year to take over the running of the resort on a 25-year lease.

HIE has said it is continuing to engage with the audit team and has provided full access to all the information they hold covering the period from 2014.

Cairngorm Mountain Ltd went into administration in September 2018 a short time after the funicular stopped running on safety grounds.

The previous operator has been accused of using the important local attraction as a cash cow by taking out excessive administration costs while investing little of their own money.

The Auditor General said last summer she expected to present a report on the findings to the Scottish Parliament this Spring but that was prior to the pandemic.

At the time the watchdog stated: "It is important that HIE can demonstrate that its decision to transfer CML to NAIL was robust, that it managed its relationship with CML well and that its decision-making around events leading to the company's administration was robust and well-founded."

An HIE spokesman said: "Audit Scotland have informed us of their intention to revise their timetable for the publication of the Section 23 review.

"We have been engaging with the Audit Scotland team since the review began, and provided full access to all the information we hold concerning the relevant period.

“Before lockdown, 2020 had been shaping up to be a much better winter season than the year before.

"Snowsports conditions had been excellent and many customers commented that the quality of service had improved greatly through the new operating company."

A spokesman for Audit Scotland said the report is now expected to be published in mid to late June.

Most staff at the resort have been furloughed by the current operator Cairngorm Mountain (Scotland) Ltd, owned by HIE.

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