The SNP government has been urged to step in and support cash-strapped councils who are struggling to keep local swimming pools and leisure centres afloat.
Conservative MSPs used a Holyrood debate to call on the Scottish Government to “reverse the trend” of swimming pool closures.
It comes amid the long-term closure of Dundee’s Olympia swimming pool for repairs and threats to Perth Leisure Pool and Dewars Centre.
Live Active Leisure (LAL), the arms-length body which owns and operates both facilities, had previously suggested closing both due to rising energy prices.
An 11th hour rescue prevented the closure, with funding guaranteed until at least 2024.
Mid Scotland and Fife MSP Liz Smith said proposals to close swimming pools were in conflict with the government’s aim to improve nation’s health and to address life expectancy gaps.
While funding for leisure centres is determined by local authorities, Ms Smith said they had suffered “decades of underfunding”.
While she said there was no “quick fix”, Ms Smith added: “When the Scottish Government negotiates the much needed fiscal framework with local government I hope this issue will be well up the agenda.
“The UK Government has already moved on this and is providing £63m of investment to pools in England, which aims to address the challenges of current costs and improve long-term sustainability through efficient energy plans.
“Yet, no funding decision is yet forthcoming by the Scottish Government. Why not?”
School swimming pool closures
The number of school swimming pool closures in Fife was also highlighted in the debate, with Inverkeithing High School the fifth locally set to lose its pool under current proposals.
Mid Scotland and Fife MSP Roz McCall said: “In the last 20 years, we have seen swimming pools closed when Queen Anne, St Columba’s, Dunfermline, and Woodmill schools closed with no replacements forthcoming.
“Now Inverkeithing High is sitting under the funding Sword of Damocles, awaiting the decision from the council.”
Pointing to issues in Dundee, north-east MSP Tess White said: “In Dundee, a storied saga of ineptitude and dither has led to the city’s flagship Olympia swimming pool closing for two years, only nine years after opening.
“Meanwhile, Dundee City Council is spending more than £100 million replacing two schools with swimming pool facilities – Braeview Academy and Craigie High School – but there are no plans for a swimming pool at the new East End Campus.”
Responding in parliament, Scottish Government sport minister Maree Todd said the government was committed to ensuring Scots received high quality public services.
She said: “For our part the Scottish Government has increased the resources to local government by over £793 million in 2023/24.
“That is a real terms increase of 3%.
“Local authorities are independent corporate bodies, it is for them to manage their own budgets and to allocate their resources – including on leisure facilities based on local priorities.”