Council challenged over shutting public pool on the Sabbath
For generations Scotland’s Western Isles have strictly forbidden any work or activity on a Sunday – in line with what the fiercely religious islanders say is god’s will.
But now that the unthinkable is being challenged in the capital Stornoway after a charity took on the local council asking for pool access on a Sunday.
Tension has been building after community organisation Families into Sport for Health (FiSH) took on local authority Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (CnES) for Sunday pool access at the sports centre (ISL) last year.
The CnES has continually denied the group’s request but repeated denials have been running thin with each round of pressure from the community.
Now the Scottish Secular Society (SSS) has lent its weight to proceedings in what was formerly a very local issue.
Megan Crawford, chair of the SSS, said, “It is disheartening to watch a community come together for the betterment of their families, only to have their efforts thwarted by elected representatives abusing their powers."
When FiSH submitted a follow-up request, CnES allegedly changed the circumstances and reported a lack of funding for another day of opening.
However FiSH raised the necessary £11.4k directly from their community - along with donations from the SSS and the National Secular Society - for a 12 month, half day Sunday trial.
When approached with the funding, council leader Angus Campbell denied their request, but saying ISL closed on Sundays “represent the views of the majority of people” in their wards.
With the necessary funds now available, FiSH will be presenting a cheque for £11.4k to the CnES in Stornoway.
Councillors initially denied Sunday access on grounds of religious belief. One councillor responded: “It is a matter of conscience for me as I have to stand up for what I believe in and that is in god.
“Before my election, my personal leaflet distributed to the electorate stated a commitment to uphold Christian values "if elected" and I believe the fourth commandment.
"Remembering the Sabbath day, to keep it holy" is one such value.”
Religious domination has no place in modern society - Megan Crawford
Crawford added: "Stornoway is no stranger to Sabbatarian influences, where parks are still locked shut on Sundays. Religious domination has no place in modern society.
“The SSS has supported FiSH in their most recent efforts, and will continue to do everything we can to help their community flourish.”
A FiSH spokesperson said: "We feel it is necessary to hold a public event for this offering as throughout this campaign there has been public confusion.
"The community saw the crowdfunder as a solution to the stated financial problem as precedent had been set with the swim club.
“We would like the CnES to provide an official and public statement in light of funds now being available as reasons against opening on Sundays have been ever-changing and the process for achieving community engagement ambiguous.”