Swim centre ‘a model for the future’
Ian Swanson, Edinburgh Evening News
A SWIM centre saved from closure could be used as a model to pioneer community-based management of public facilities.
Independent Lothians MSP Margo MacDonald has suggested Dalry baths could be run as a co-operative, a community partnership with the city council or a housing association-style operation in a bid to secure its long-term future.
She wants it to become a "case study" for a Scottish Government-appointed commission chaired by former STUC leader Campbell Christie looking at the future of public service delivery.
Dalry swim centre had been earmarked for closure because of a four per cent cut in council funding for Edinburgh Leisure.
After a strong community campaign to save the Victorian baths, including a 4000-signature petition, Edinburgh Leisure announced they would not be closed in the coming financial year, but said it could offer no guarantees beyond that.
Ms MacDonald said: "It’s great the money has been found to keep the baths open at least for now.
"I applaud Edinburgh Leisure’s decision but I would use it as a breathing space to allow an application to be made to the government’s new commission on public services to consider how this facility and service could be funded and managed differently."
She said the current economic situation meant councils and other public bodies were likely to face a severe spending squeeze for the next ten years.
She said: "I would always prefer things like baths to be provided by the council, but I’m trying to think differently and face what I’m afraid is economic reality.
"You could think of a co-operative or housing association’s rules and it would become very much a community operated venture.
"If you can deliver housing with a local committee or a co-operative, then I think you can apply the same principles to a community facility."
She said closure of Dalry baths would be "a huge loss to every age group".
In a letter to Finance Secretary John Swinney, she wrote: "The Dalry swim centre should be a case study for the commission to examine and decide on which models of, perhaps, community ownership."
Maria Kelly, who chairs Gorgie/Dalry community council, said her preference would be for the swim centre to be kept open by Edinburgh Leisure, but she believed local people would be willing to get involved. She cited the successful recent campaign to save Gorgie Memorial Hall, and said: "It shows people are prepared to get off their bums and don’t want to lose important facilities."