George Heriot’s to axe historic firing range

The rifle club at Heriot's is losing its base after 99 years. Picture: contributed
The rifle club at Heriot's is losing its base after 99 years. Picture: contributed
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ONE of the Capital’s most prestigious private schools has unveiled plans to axe its historic shooting range – on the eve of its centenary.

Bosses at George Heriot’s confirmed they had decided to close the venue – which dates back to the formation of the school’s rifle club in 1914 – to create space.

But the move has dismayed club members, who said a century of sporting history faced being “wiped out”.

Stewart Mackenzie, the club’s captain, said: “They tried to close it about six years ago and use the space, first for a computer room and then a bicycle shed.

“Fortunately, the governors voted against closure at that time. New members have joined the board of governors since then and seem to have been persuaded that shooting is a bad idea.

“It’s always easy to sway people when only one side of a discussion is heard.” Mr Mackenzie said plans to close the shooting range had left preparations for a centenary celebration in “disarray”.

And he accused school leaders of taking the decision without proper consultation and “behind closed doors”.

“If the school really does require the space we have no quarrel with that,” he said.

“But if we had been allowed to have some input, we would have suggested shortening the range to 20 or even 15 yards.

“Despite repeated requests, we have not been granted a meeting.

“Surely it is not right to close a custom-built range and end 99 years of club shooting without any discussion?”

Members of rifle clubs elsewhere in Edinburgh have voiced concern.

Peter May, captain of Balerno and Currie rifle club, said: “Given that there are few certificated ranges there’s a fair chance that the Heriot’s club will fold – and if that happens, it would impact on all clubs in the local area.”

But Heriot’s principal Gareth Doodes said it was essential to create more space at the school and that concerns had been raised over the presence of ammunition on campus.

He said: “The governors of George Heriot’s School have taken the decision to close the rifle range, which is at the centre of the school’s campus, in light of the school’s need for space, which is at a premium, and the child protection 
concerns that members of external rifle clubs, who have not been checked through the school’s procedures, are at present bringing ammunition onto the campus of a city centre school.

“Comprehensive alternative arrangements have been put in place for the combined cadet force, which the school strongly supports, and other school activities where shooting is taught, on premises away from the campus.

“The decision is not linked to the World War One commemorations nor to the centenary celebrations of the club’s founding. The school strongly supports the FP Rifle Club and its continuation.

“The school views this issue as an internal matter which is part of its ongoing focus on the security, safety and protection of the pupils at the school.”

johnpaul.holden@jpress.co.uk