Fears have been raised many of Fife’s leisure centres and swimming pools could be at risk of closure without further support.
Fife Sports and Leisure Trust, which runs 14 centres across the region on behalf of Fife Council, is currently preparing a phased reopening programme after several months of little or no income due to lockdown and a £5 million-plus budgetary black hole.
Community Leisure UK in Scotland is warning 70% of its members will not be viable within 12 months and a third are facing a perilous financial situation in just six months.
Claire Baker, Labour MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife, has called on the Scottish Government to make clear what funding will be available to trusts to avoid seeing facilities forced to close their doors for good.
“Local councils in England are being provided with a compensation scheme to address income loss related to services like leisure and culture and we need to see the consequentials used to deliver a similar scheme in place in Scotland to avoid the risk of service closures.
“The Scottish Government needs to set out how its allocation from the UK Government funding will ensure our community culture and leisure services can continue to provide vital services for wellbeing.”
Mrs Baker’s concerns come as Fife Sports and Leisure Trust put the finishing touches to preparations at three of its centres – Kirkcaldy Leisure Centre, Michael Woods Sports and Leisure Centre in Glenrothes and Carnegie Leisure Centre in Glenrothes – ahead of them reopening on Monday.
However, it will be a further fortnight before the East Sands Leisure Centre in St Andrews, Levenmouth Swimming Pool, Cowdenbeath Leisure Centre and Dalgety Bay Leisure Centre reopen on September 28.
Duloch Leisure Centre, Cupar Leisure Centre, Bowhill Swimming Pool and Waterstone Crook Leisure Centre will not reopen until October 12 and the Beacon Leisure Centre in Burntisland will stay closed until October 26.
Aileen Campbell, communities and local government secretary, said officials are “actively engaging” with COSLA on what needs to be done to support ALEOs and recognise and meet the particular challenges they face.
“We have advised COSLA that we would consider for Scottish councils a tailored lost income scheme, which would include some allowance for ALEOs,” she said.
“That would have to be contained within the overall funding envelope for local government.
“We know that the UK Government introduced a lost income scheme for councils in England, and we are still waiting for some of those details.
“Although, as I understand it, the UK Government scheme specifically excludes arm’s-length organisations, we recognise the point and the issues that Claire Baker raises about ALEOs.”
The trust says more than 800 bookings have already been made and it will soon launch a new customer app.
Scott Urquhart, sports and physical activity team manager for Fife Sports and Leisure Trust, said: “Our staff and facilities are ready and we are very much looking forward to welcoming customers back to their local facilities.
“We’re sure that customers will be confident in the protocols we have in place which are in line with government, NHS Scotland and industry guidelines.
“We understand customers across Fife will be eager to get back to their local leisure centres and we would appeal for understanding as we step up preparations as quickly and as safely as we can.”