STAFF at Cumbrae National Watersports Centre have been invited to apply for voluntary redundancy packages.

The News understands staff were approached this week and given the opportunity of taking an exit package, although it is unclear if this would be enhanced in a bid to slash fixed overheads.

The island campaign group set up to fight for the future of the watersport centre today described the news as a 'body-blow' with Christmas looming.

Sportscotland, who run the centre, told the News that the 'status quo at the centre is not sustainable'.

Cllr. Alex Gallagher, who is economy chair portfolio holder in North Ayrshire, said: "It seems a bit premature for sportscotland to be doing this and I am not aware of anyone on North Ayrshire Council being informed of this.

"If the centre was to close in future, the council strategy is to try and find alternative uses for the facility to create business and jobs for the island. However in the first instance we don't want any job losses or redundancies, and if it moves to Largs, there is a reluctance as there could be hardships for islanders travelling to the mainland in terms of travelling costs. We want to try and avoid these scenarios."

Cllr Alan Hill says he is 'disappointed' by the latest blow.

He added:: "I want to arrange another meeting with sportscotland to find out exactly what the proposals are.

"Cumbrae National Watersports Centre brings a huge influx of visitors to the island - and on employment terms it is also important. It is a reasonable employer in the area, not just on the Isle of Cumbrae but people in the general locality.

"People in Largs may not think it will have any effect or impact but everyone who goes to the island passes through Largs and spends money on the way there and back."

A spokesperson for sportscotland said: “As part of the ongoing review of Cumbrae National Watersports Centre we have discussed with staff the opportunity of a voluntary exit package. We are aware that whilst this review is carried out the impact on staff can be unsettling so we would like to give those who want to, an opportunity to move on.

“We have communicated regularly with our staff during the consultation, which has shown to date that the status quo at the centre is not sustainable.

"We value all our staff and want to work together to ensure the best outcome for the team at Cumbrae and part of that may be a favourable exit offer.

“New efficiencies already in place include a seasonal business model, which was agreed with staff in April, with the centre closed from 30 November 2019 until 2 March 2020.

“The review of services at Cumbrae remains ongoing.”

Throughout the sportscotland review of the Cumbrae National Watersports Centre, the government agency say they have committed to taking the time required to make a considered and informed decision.

The sportscotland board has agreed in principle that a new National Sailing Academy is the preferred option in partnership with the RYA Scotland and Largs Sailing Club.

In the meantime, Cumbrae National Watersports centre will remain open for business.