Report: Highlands and Islands Enterprise: Management of Cairngorm mountain and funicular railway

June 18, 2020 by Auditor General

The public body responsible for Cairngorm Mountain acted appropriately when selecting a private company to manage the resort, but tough decisions on its future are now required.

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An abstract depiction of Cairngorm mountain

Key MessagesManagement of Cairngorm mountain and funicular railway

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1. Selection

Highland and Islands Enterprise’s process for selecting Natural Assets Investments Limited as a new private operator for Cairngorm Mountain in 2014 was appropriate. It carried out due diligence into NAIL and took steps to protect its position.

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2. Monitoring

Monitoring of Cairngorm Mountain Ltd.’s (CML) performance was put in place by HIE. But it would have been in HIE’s interests to continue to review NAIL’s finances beyond the procurement stage, given the risks identified around NAIL’s financial standing.

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3. Stabilising

HIE acted quickly when CML went into administration in December 2018 and secured the assets and business activities of the mountain resort. But stabilising the business and seeking to reinstate the funicular has put a strain on HIE’s staff and finances.

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4. Future

HIE and the Scottish Government now face tough decisions on how to secure a sustainable and affordable operation at Cairngorm Mountain. Any future spending decisions need to be informed by the mountain’s wide range of interest groups.