The comhairle has officially rejected a £11,400 donation to help open Stornoway sports
centre on Sundays.
The cheque was refused at a presentation event in the council’s headquarters.
Campaigners believe the facility does not operate on the Sabbath due to religious
reasons and are sceptical when the local authority insists it is down to financial
and operation pressures, including finding enough staff to work a Sunday shift.
In October, councillors voted against a year's trial run to test open the Lewis Sports
Centre and swimming pool for three hours each Sunday due to the costs plus the lack
of staff willing to work.
The Families into Sport for Health (FiSH) group launched a crowdfunding appeal for
the minimum amount of £11,400 costs of a pilot at the Stornoway-based facility.
There was insufficient support to hit its target. Then the National Secular Society
(NSS) stepped in with a hefty donation to cover the outstanding amount.
Some 20 FiSH supporters, including children, turned up at the council buildings to
officially hand the money over.
No thanks to Sunday swimming pool cash, says Comhairle
24 February 2017
Campaigners took the cheque to the council offices in Stornoway
Acting chief executive, Calum Iain Maciver, spoke to the gathering in the foyer of
the council offices and politely declined to accept the money.
During their conversation, Mr Maciver said a democratic vote was held by elected
councillors not to open on Sunday.
He said: “Thank you very much for coming in. Unfortunately, the council is not in
a position to accept that (cheque).
“We have taken a decision that for operational purposes and financial purposes we
are not in a position to open the sports centre (on Sundays).
“So we are not able to take the cheque so unfortunately you will have to take it
away with you.”
FiSH spokesperson, Lesley McKenzie, said: “We have played fair and this is a very
She was “very disappointed” particularly as many supporters could “ill afford” to
spare the financial contribution made to the campaign.
Ms McKenzie said: “The council made their decision but they did not involve the community
very much in that discussion.”
Now the body will “regroup and discuss what happens next.”
“A lot of people want this to happen so this is definitely not the end of the fight,”
A council statement stressed operational pressures - and not just cash - was one
of the main reasons for the vote against Sunday opening.
The statement said: “The comhairle took a democratic decision not to extend the opening
hours of Ionad Spòrs Leòdhais for financial and operational reasons.
“That decision stands and therefore the comhairle will not be accepting money from
FiSH as to do so would be entirely inappropriate.
“We would ask FiSH to consider what it intends to do with the money it raised and
whether it should be donated to one or several of the many worthy causes in the Western
Isles or indeed returned to those who donated.”
Acting chief executive Calum Iain Maciver, on far right, explains why the money is