Scotland's most expensive drinking den

Published: 3 Oct 2012 14:306 comments

A HALF-MILLION pounds arts project to celebrate the Olympics has been taken over by drunken teenagers.

Drunken youths at the Forest Pitch stand.

The controversial Forest Pitch project saw two teams of newcomers to Scotland have a kickabout on a specially created football ground outside Selkirk.

But just a month after the matches, youths have taken over the remote wooden pavilion for under-age drinking sessions.

One parent, who agreed not to name, told us: "I found out about my son going to the pitch to drink and grounded him straight away. It's bad enough them drinking, but what would happen if they became ill out there in the middle of nowhere.

"The hut should be pulled down immediately."

This latest development has further infuriated opponents of the £460,000 scheme.

Local political activist Ross Anderson, from Selkirk, told us: "It was bad enough that public money was wasted on this daft project but now kids are heading there at weekends to get drunk.

"It's only a couple of miles from Selkirk and the village of Midlem isn't too far away, so it's ideal for the kids to do what they want without being disturbed."

Edinburgh's Craig Coulthard was one of 12 artists who won commissions to celebrate the Cultural Olympiad back in 2009 - the only one in Scotland.

But the £460,000 price tag, paid for by the lottery, to create his pitch in the Duke of Buccleuch's Clarilawmuir Plantation near Midlem angered many.

How the cash was spent remains unclear - although no corners were cut in trying to attract a crowd to the August 25 fixtures.

Despite putting on free coaches from both Edinburgh and Glasgow, as well as local shuttle services, and mounting a major marketing campaign - the matches were watched by less than 100 people.

Mr Anderson added: "I have spoken with the bus company who put on nine coaches - each costing £600 - to run from Glasgow, Edinburgh and also provide the local shuttles. They had 53 passengers in total for the whole day."

Mr Coulthard claimed the pitch's lines would be replanted this autumn to create a lasting legacy of a forest pitch. And he will take action against any law-breakers.

He told us: "I will be visiting the site in the next few days to check the situation.

"If there are problems with under-age drinking or with litter we will not hesitate to contact the police."

South of Scotland MSP Paul Wheelhouse said: "I realise the project was associated with the Cultural Olympiad and London 2012 Festival rather than being a sports project, and had some positives such as involving Scottish school children in designing players' strips.

"However, as a representative of the South of Scotland, and a Borders resident, I have some real concerns about the value in funding a project of this kind which appears to provide neither a local sports legacy nor a tangible artistic legacy, given the pitch will be allowed to return to its 'natural state'.

"We should remember that vital lottery funding for good causes in Scotland was top sliced to provide funding for the London Olympics, which while it was an amazing sporting spectacle, and possibly the best Olympics yet, ultimately expanded to become a £9.2 billion London regeneration project, at a time of austerity.

"It is therefore hard to take that funds that could have supported an upgrade of local facilities at nearby Selkirk FC, which has a tremendous youth coaching system and is one of the oldest clubs in Scotland, was instead used for two friendly football matches in this way.

He added: "I very much regret the fact that it may now be a haunt for folk to indulge in underage drinking, and therefore having a negative impact."

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