A new bid has been made by families to swim on Sundays on the Sabbatarian stronghold of Lewis.
Two years ago, campaigners raised enough money to open the island’s public swimming pool and sports centre for a trial period on Sundays – but they were refused by the Western Isles Council (CNES).
The local authority said its decision not to open the site was for “operational reasons” and not a religious one.
Now Families into Sport for Health (FiSH) – who want Sunday access to the Ionad Spors Leodhais (ISL) sports centre on a six-month trial basis – have again offered more than £11,000 they have raised to fund the pilot.
In its letter to council chief executive Malcolm Burr, FiSH say they want the chance to present their case to councillors.
Uisdean MacLeod on behalf of FiSH wrote: “Ideally the centre would be fully open (pool, gym, etc)for a period of six hours, between 10am and 4pm for the duration of the trial.
“From our own research we have identified that the winter period would be the best time to carry out a trial as the Island population are more reliant on indoor facilities then. To that end, we would like to see the trial itself starting at the autumn- winter term 2019/20. This should allow sufficient time for discussion and to iron out any operational changes required.
>> Keep up to date with the latest news with The P&J newsletter
“We would appreciate your advice on what evidence previously submitted to CNES, by ourselves and others, we should make members aware off and how best to present this information to ensure that members receive all the required information beforehand.
“Also we would be grateful for advice to guide us through the process and to make sure we don’t end up going down a dead end.
“Furthermore we would appreciate the opportunity to present our case to all councillors as we have previously noticed that some councillors were unaware of the level of demand for this service.”
Protesters have in the past accused the council of refusing to open it for swimming and other sports because of religious reasons.
Previously, councillors voted 19-9 against a year’s trial run to open the Stornoway facility for three hours each Sunday due to the costs plus the lack of staff willing to work.
The FiSH group then launched a crowdfunding appeal for the minimum amount of £11,400 cost of a pilot. The total included £1550 from the National Secular Society.
More than 20 campaigners tried to present the cheque in front of the Western Isles Council’s headquarters in Stornoway – which is ironically opposite the sports centre – but the council rejected the cash.
A spokesman for the council said:”There has been no change of policy in the council’s position. No trial has been agreed.”
A day of rest
Another Sabbath row hit the headlines last year, when Lewis’s only public cinema confirmed it would open on Sundays.
The An Lanntair arts centre in Stornoway was criticised for agreeing to open more regularly after a trial on the island earlier in the year.
The three-film trial – spread over three months – was met with protests by church groups, who are now promising to continue their campaign.
In a statement, the centre said: “An Lanntair will be open on the last Sunday in the month from January 2018 for movies and family arts activities. The cafe bar will not be open for food, but there will be teas, coffees and snacks on offer.
“Drop-in family arts activities will run in the cafe bar round room as part of An Lanntair’s new Full Circle Family Arts Programme and a movie will screen in the auditorium from 2pm.”
Some people previously called for An Lanntair to be stripped of its annual public funding of £400,000 from Creative Scotland and £60,000 from the Western Isles Council.
The Rev Graeme Craig of the Free Church of Scotland (Continuing) Stornoway said the resumption of Sunday cinema “is sad but not surprising”.