Margo MacDonald calls for whitewater rafting training centre in Leith

The centre could produce more Olympians such as Edinburgh's David Florence
The centre could produce more Olympians such as Edinburgh's David Florence
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MSP Margo MacDonald is to ask the Scottish Government to help secure a world-class whitewater sports centre for Leith.

The multi-million-pound project is understood to have a major corporate backer ready to invest in the venture, but the company wants a financial guarantee before going ahead.

Under the plan an area of water close to the Scottish Government offices at Victoria Quay would be drained and a huge tank built inside it to contain an Olympic standard whitewater rafting course.

But at the press of a button, the water would be calmed and could be used for conventional canoe training.

Because it would be indoors, it could be used all year round.

Backers say it would allow up-and-coming water sports stars to train in Scotland instead of having to travel to Nottingham, and believe it could also attract top athletes from other countries.

Schools would be able to take pupils to the centre for session and fire and rescue crews could use the facilities for their water training.

It is understood talks are taking place with the city council about the possibility of the authority lending its weight to the project.

Independent Lothians MSP Ms MacDonald plans to ask for government backing when she has a meeting with Finance Secretary John Swinney. When the SNP was a minority government, she was able to win cash for Lothians projects in return for her vote at budget time. Now the party has a majority, she has lost that bargaining power but still hopes Mr Swinney will listen to what she has to say.

She said: “I’m not asking him to act as Santa Claus this time. But as John Swinney he carries a bit of clout and he might be able to explore this with the local authorities because they are naturally very careful and they have budgets to balance, They don’t need my vote now, but if they see a good idea I think they will adopt it.”

Scotland has a number of top watersports stars, including Edinburgh’s David Florence, who won silver at London 2012.

Ms MacDonald said: “The object is to have a top quality facility for whitewater sports – canoeing and rafting – for both elite athletes and the 
community.

“It is hoped it would attract not only our own top flight paddlers, but probably be of interest to those of other nationalities too.

“And I sincerely hope it could become the centrepiece of outdoor education for Lothian schools.”

It is understood those working on the project believe the new centre would quickly become self-financing because of the number of different user groups, and could in time prove a catalyst for other developments in the area.