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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 negative response.”


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,” she insisted.


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 being refused