I attended the recent meeting in Jedburgh to discuss the potential closure of the town’s swimming pool (and presumably the fitness centre along with it).
What Scottish Borders Council and Kit Campbell clearly have not fully grasped is the fact that a swimming pool is an entirely different facility from any other sports facility, for the following important reasons:
1. It is one of the two basic forms of human locomotion. We cannot fly, but we can walk on land and we can swim in water – and to deprive people of half of their mobility creates a serious loss.
2. It allows athletic movement without damage to the body through impacts, collisions, falls and other causes of injury.
3. It performs a wide range of therapeutic functions. One can injure oneself severely in many other sports, in some cases quite easily, but swimming and other in-water exercises can be hugely beneficial in the treatment of many such injuries.
4. Those who wish to lose weight can do so far more rapidly by swimming than by most other exercises, for the simple reason that heat loss is much more rapid in water.
5. It underpins a host of other sports, being a necessary skill for participating in rowing, canoeing, sailing, water skiing, all types of surfing, schnorchel and scuba diving, gymnastic diving, water polo and other aquatic activities.
6. It also outlasts most other sports. You can carry on swimming long after you have quit playing most other sports.
7. It is an essential skill for a variety of aquatic jobs, including a variety of diving applications such as naval, petrochemical, civil engineering, biological, geological and other scientific fields. Oilfield diving in particular is of considerable importance in Scotland and highly remunerative.
8. Many activities in the armed services require swimming ability and we still have a substantial merchant navy, plus a vast number of inshore vessels, docks and related activity.
9. We have the second longest coastline in Europe, and a host of lochs and rivers. In other words, we have more waterside and water-based activity per capita than almost any other European country. That makes swimming a safety factor in addition to being a recreational and work-related skill.
It is therefore nonsensical to consider a swimming pool in the same context as a sports pitch or sports hall. The swimming pool is an essential; the other facilities are merely highly beneficial.
We need more pools, not fewer pools, and we need them to be sited close to the people who use them. And as for any people reading this letter – start using your pool. It’s there for your good health, fitness and enjoyment.