Youth hostels chief to visit Borders

SCOTTISH youth hostels chief Keith Legge has agreed to come to the Borders and meet local tourism representatives to hear their concerns over plans to close the region’s three remaining youth hostels.

The invitation was extended by Borders MP Michael Moore, who was briefed by Mr Legge last week on the issues surrounding the planned closures of hostels at Broadmeadows near Selkirk, Yetholm and Melrose.

The Scottish Youth Hostel Association has cited financial difficulties and low visitor numbers as the reason for the closures. The move has sparked anger in the Borders, where it is seen as another blow to efforts to attract more visitors.

Mr Moore wants Mr Legge to hear first hand from representatives of the Borders tourism industry about the effect the closures will have. It is hoped that the meeting will take place early next year.

Mr Moore told TheSouthern: “When I heard that the SYHA [Hostelling Scotland] was planning to close all three youth hostels in the Borders, I was extremely concerned and disappointed. Tourism is an extremely important industry here and the low-cost accommodation provided by SYHA makes it accessible as a holiday destination for young people and those on a tighter budget. I am concerned that the closures will have a damaging effect on tourism in the region.

“I have spoken to the chief executive of SYHA and I am pleased he has agreed to come to the Borders and discuss the decision, and the options, with local stakeholders.”

Scottish Borders councillor Nicholas Watson (BP, Leaderdale and Melrose) said: “There has been a lot of interest in this story since TheSouthern first printed it, and not just from local people,” he said.

“While it’s easy to understand what the SYHA says about the cost of bringing hostels up to standard, and the growing choice of other local accommodation, it’s important not to overlook two things – there is still a demand for clean, budget accommodation from which visitors can enjoy all that the Borders has to offer, and – in relation to Melrose – there are very few other places where large groups can stay in the Borders.

“It is really good to know that Mr Legge will come to hear concerns about the hostels, but concerns alone won’t keep them open – what we need is real business plans for these places. I’m happy to hear from anyone with good ideas.”