Campaign builds to save island school swimming

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A petition to stop Argyll and Bute Council withdrawing funding for school swimming for Islay and Jura pupils has gathered 872 signatures.

An annual payment to Islay and Jura Community Enterprises, trading as the Mactaggart Leisure Centre, which enables primary and high school pupils to benefit from school swimming lessons, is on the list of 2020-21 potential budget cuts to be decided by Argyll and Bute councillors at a meeting on Thursday February 27 at Kilmory.

Gary Scott, chief executive officer of Islay and Jura Community Enterprises, said: ‘Islay and Jura are islands with many island lochs in which children play and fish during summer.

‘Parents are worried about their children not being able to swim as the island has experienced drowning incidents in the past.

‘The communities wanted a swimming pool to teach children to swim and they worked tirelessly over 11 years to raise £1 million to build the Mactaggart Leisure Centre and swimming pool. Since 1991, more than 3,000 children and young people have learned to swim and developed life-saving skills. Most children leaving primary school now can swim a minimum of 25m unaided and some go on to join Islay Dolphins Swim Club.

‘Parents worry much less when their children go to the beach or out in a boat because they have had swimming lessons.’

Iain Mackinnon of Argyll and Bute Council, referenced Water Safety Scotland, Scotland’s Drowning Prevention Strategy 2018-26: ‘Argyll and Bute has a very long coastline and hundreds of rivers, lochs and reservoirs. A coherent and achievable water safety policy is essential in the drive to reduce deaths by drowning. For every life lost, the impact on families, friends, the community and the emergency services cannot be overstated.’

It is for these reasons, 872 people have registered their disapproval of Argyll and Bute Council’s potential cuts to schools swimming.

‘This is a life-saving skill which must be protected to ensure the children of Islay and Jura are safe,’ added Mr Scott. ‘The people of Islay and Jura request all councillors vote to retain this vital service and make these island communities a safer place for children to grow up.’