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Rutherglen Reformer - - News - Kenny Smith

Ruther­glen Am­a­teur Swim­ming Club’s vicechair­man feels the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment and South La­nark­shire Coun­cil are putting their heads in the sand over chil­dren’s health.

Ear­lier this year, the Re­former re­ported the club feared for its fu­ture af­ter an es­ti­mated rise in costs of £20,000.

South La­nark­shire Coun­cil ap­proved a rise in the use of its fa­cil­i­ties fees as part of its £18.242m sav­ings plan, and the club, which trains at the Life­style sports cen­tre in East­field, fears the worst, as it will have to pass the in­creased costs onto its mem­bers.

Club vice- chair­man Mark Fawcett, a GP in Glas­gow, is es­pe­cially con­cerned as it could lead to young peo­ple hav­ing less ex­er­cise and not be­ing able to con­tinue the le­gacy of the Com­mon­wealth Games, which were held in Glas­gow last sum­mer.

Dr Fawcett wrote to Shona Ro­bi­son MSP, Cabi­net Sec­re­tary for Health, Well­be­ing and Sport, ear­lier this year, voic­ing his con­cerns af­ter South La­nark­shire Coun­cil’s de­ci­sion to charge clubs for the use of their fa­cil­i­ties.

Re­spond­ing to his let­ter, a Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment spokesper­son said: “Dr Fawcett has raised some valid points about the im­por­tance of phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity and the Min­is­ter for Sport, Health Im­prove­ment and Men­tal Health re­sponded to him on April 2.

“All lo­cal au­thor­i­ties have a statu­tory re­spon­si­bil­ity to en­sure there are ad­e­quate sport­ing fa­cil­i­ties for their res­i­dents. How­ever, it is for lo­cal coun­cils to de­ter­mine the level and range of sup­port that is pro­vided, tak­ing into ac­count lo­cal needs.

“Last year the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment launched a 10-year plan to tackle phys­i­cal in­ac­tiv­ity in Scot­land, which looks to build on the ac­tive le­gacy am­bi­tions of the 2014 Com­mon­wealth Games. We con­tinue to work with part­ners to pro­mote the im­por­tance of sport and phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity through a num­ber of cam­paigns and are in­vest­ing over £3m a year in phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity projects.”

How­ever, Mark be­lieves the real is­sue is be­ing avoided by both the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment and South La­nark­shire.

He said: “I find it quite dis­ap­point­ing that the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment have es­sen­tially shown no sup­port and de­volved all re­spon­si­bil­ity to the lo­cal author­ity with­out vo­cal­is­ing any sup­port for a sub­ject that they pro­fess to pro­mote and is at the fore­front of their pol­icy port­fo­lio, and the lo­cal author­ity are plead­ing lack of fund­ing from Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment, and hence ‘not our fault’ also.

“Both are miss­ing the big­ger pic­ture. The prob­lem is this com­part­men­tal­i­sa­tion of ideas and fund­ing into ed­u­ca­tion; health; em­ploy­ment; which in par­al­lel iso­la­tion are mak­ing lit­tle progress into the needs of the area or the na­tion.

“What is needed is big pic­ture think­ing that sees the in­ter­ac­tion of all th­ese things to pro­duce a more ef­fec­tive, sus­tain­able and pro­duc­tive out­come. Some­thing both lo­cal author­ity and na­tional gov­ern­ment say that they are want­ing but are not mak­ing any ad­vance­ment to­wards achiev­ing.

“The money is tight, we get that. The poli­cies be­ing im­ple­mented how­ever only ex­ac­er­bate this in the long term whilst the more dis­ad­van­taged of the com­mu­nity are bear­ing an in­equitous pro­por­tion of the bur­den and con­se­quences im­me­di­ately. This is a far cry from the so­cial jus­tice plat­form that the county’s ma­jor po­lit­i­cal par­ties cam­paigned upon.

“With­draw­ing fund­ing from sports clubs will place yet an­other bar­rier to the less ad­van­taged fam­i­lies in our com­mu­nity.

“It places a greater bur­den on the health ser­vice as re­duced ac­tiv­ity leads to in­creased obe­sity, di­a­betes, car­dio­vas­cu­lar and stroke preva­lence and all the ex­pen­sive se­que­lae that come along with this such as health­care costs; re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion ser­vices; so­cial work sup­port; health re­lated fi­nan­cial sup­port.

“It re­duces em­ploy­ment pro­duc­tiv­ity as it has been shown that those who are health­ier and en­gage in sport are re­warded with in­creased per­for­mance at school and there­fore are more likely to en­ter fur­ther or higher ed­u­ca­tion and there­fore be more suc­cess­ful in the work­place, pro­duc­ing the in­no­va­tors and tax­pay­ers of the fu­ture that this na­tion, this ev­er­ag­ing na­tion, re­quires to be self sus­tain­ing and suc­cess­ful.”

Gerry Camp­bell, gen­eral manager of South La­nark­shire Leisure and Cul­ture said: “The coun­cil and SLLC has had to achieve sig­nif­i­cant lev­els of sav­ings in re­cent years, and that re­mains the case for 2015/16 and be­yond.

“This has re­sulted in dif­fi­cult choices. As part of the ef­fi­ciency pro­gramme, from April this year, there will be an in­crease in charges for sports clubs us­ing our fa­cil­i­ties.”

Ruther­glen MSP James Kelly has spo­ken with Mark about the is­sue.

Mr Kelly said: “Dr Fawcett has been in touch with me about con­cerns with the on-go­ing costs for Ruther­glen Swim­ming Club. I have raised this with the coun­cil and I am await­ing a re­sponse.

“There is no doubt that th­ese cuts are a di­rect re­sult of the re­duc­tion in coun­cil’s al­lo­ca­tion from the SNP gov­ern­ment in Ed­in­burgh.

“Leav­ing that aside, it is im­por­tant in the af­ter­math of last year’s suc­cess­ful Com­mon­wealth Games that we sup­port lo­cal sports clubs.”

The swim­ming club re­cently wrote to lo­cal coun­cil­lors invit­ing them to see for them­selves how the club is do­ing.

One who took up the op­por­tu­nity was Cam­bus­lang East SNP coun­cil­lor Christine Deanie.

A mem­ber of Cam­bus­lang and Ruther­glen Sports Coun­cil, she said: “It’s a thriv­ing club and with the le­gacy of the Com­mon­wealth Games, we should be pro­mot­ing sport and keep­ing the equal­ity there for the chil­dren, from any back­ground, to par­tic­i­pate.

“The SNP group didn’t vote for the bud­get this year.

“If you put the money out now on sport, it saves you later. It’s a false econ­omy and it en­cour­ages good health now.

“Some peo­ple will not be able to af­ford it with the price rises, and a lot of peo­ple are too proud to say money is an is­sue. We will end up with peo­ple phys­i­cally drift­ing away from sport, and in the 21st cen­tury, that’s not on.

“What we have got at the swim­ming club is a group of vol­un­teers and you can’t quan­tify the time, com­mit­ment and ded­i­ca­tion they put in.

“This mea­sure is counter-in­tu­itive - there’s not just health benefits, but it helps the chil­dren build re­la­tion­ships and a team spirit, which adds to the com­mu­nity.”

Mark con­cluded: “The pop­u­la­tion is age­ing. The na­tion will rely on a pro­duc­tive, ac­tive and in­no­va­tive work­force to be able to sup­port the ever in­creas­ing age­ing de­mo­graph­ics of the na­tion.

“The ma­jor­ity of health­care spend­ing per in­di­vid­ual is in the se­nior years of our lives.

“If we can keep peo­ple health­ier for longer this will not only have a per­sonal ben­e­fit to the in­di­vid­ual and their fam­i­lies, but we as a so­ci­ety will ben­e­fit from a pro­duc­tive, en­gaged, more pros­per­ous and hap­pier com­mu­nity.

“Th e i nv e s t m e nt , the com­mit­ment to this goal must be made now though. Wait­ing un­til ‘ bet­ter days’ will not hap­pen. Wait­ing for oil prices to re­cover will not work. Wait­ing for a bet­ter eco­nomic cli­mate is a fal­lacy as it will not come, un­less we do some­thing now.

“The statis­tics that chil­dren in South La­nark­shire are des­tined to have a life ex­pectancy five years less than the na­tion’s av­er­age - which in it­self is not great - are only statis­tics at the present mo­ment. We can change this, the re­al­ity can be dif­fer­ent, can be bet­ter. But we need to act now, wait­ing to see if the statis­tics are even­tu­ally true or not, is too late and only con­demns other gen­er­a­tions to a sim­i­lar fate. Obama said in his cam­paign when speak­ing of change, ‘yes we can’, I would echo this, but it’s not just a ‘we can’, it’s a ‘we must’, there is no other op­tion.”

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