Thursday, July 23, 2020

Scottish Swimming Chief Executive on the first steps back to the water

We said in our Back to the Water route map the first step under the Government title of “professional sport” would be an important one in providing learning for the opening of facilities for the whole sport. We have made some good progress with this with over 50 swimmers, para-swimmers and divers in the water as a result of three very different venues offering very tightly controlled access to performance athletes. This took a lot of work to build the necessary risk assessment and protocols with sportscotland and the Scottish Government and with the great support of the University of Stirling (National Swimming Academy), Aberdeen Sports Village and  the University of Edinburgh, we have been able to take a first step to getting Back to the Water.

This progress hasn’t yet transpired into the option of opening up swimming pools in general however. It is clear that we won’t get a date for the opening of pools before the 30th July at the earliest, however, we must take into account the impact of this crisis on our wider partners across the sector including venue operators. Whilst permission and approval will be given at a future date, the challenges facing operators in responding to these opportunities in terms of opening pools remains. Everyone concerned is working tirelessly to get access for local communities and it is vital that we continue to be as supportive as we can during this time.

The team have been working hard with conversations and webinars and workshops with facility operators, partners and various groups within the sport to shape and develop a comprehensive set of guidance in preparation for opening. This has been submitted to the Scottish Government for approval, supported by sportscotland, however the Scottish Government are taking a very cautious approach in comparison to other areas. In asking the Scottish Government for reasons why pools cannot open, a spokesperson from the Active Scotland division provided the following rationale:

We would like to see facilities like gyms, swimming pools and indoor sports courts reopen as soon as it is safe to do so and are working towards that happening.  Our latest review indicated that they will not open before 31 July at the earliest.

In order to make reopening possible we are currently developing national guidance on protocols to ensure that physical distancing and hygiene measures can be observed.

We are thinking carefully about these matters on an ongoing basis and, unfortunately, there are particular challenges for gyms and swimming pools in particular, in relation to confined and poorly ventilated changing facilities and the higher risk of transmission through perspiration. We will continue our assessment and provide an update on opening dates as soon as possible.

Understandably health and safety is paramount and a key driver in making decisions, however the discussion that is taking place in the media at the moment is a welcome one in trying to understand why pools aren’t open yet when participation in the sport has so much to offer and we see pools opening elsewhere across the UK.

We have opted not to publicly campaign over the opening of pools but have channelled our concerns around timescales with established partners and stakeholders.  Through the continued work we have been doing with leisure trusts and pool operators we recognise that many are not able to open their pools yet (even if the option existed). Financial viability under the current restrictions is a real challenge for many facility operators - some pools may not open, others will open over a phased approach with restricted numbers.

We therefore continue to work with the Scottish Government internally, providing appropriate guidance and connecting with scientific information. We are preparing for opening, working with Community Leisure Scotland and clubs, supported by the districts, and alongside pool operators to understand how pool time can be shared when the option exists, at the moment please continue to support these preparations and we will continue to push for a date when pools have the option to open. We need to appreciate that not all will be able to open immediately but the sooner we get a green light the better and we will continue to push for this.

While we appreciate the frustration felt by members at this time, rest assured our work behind the scenes is continuing to make headway.