Comhairle to snub FiSH cash presentation

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The Comhairle has reiterated it will not accept the planned public presentation of a cheque by the campaign group Families Into Sport for Health (FiSH) today (Friday).

FiSH used a crowdfunding appeal to raise £11,400, which was the amount declared at a council meeting to fund a year’s trial run to open Lewis Sports Centre for three hours each Sunday.

But the Comhairle insists there has “been no change in position” and, despite FiSH planning to present a cheque in front of the council buildings this afternoon, it will not accept the money.

Meanwhile, a national secular organisation , which made a sizeable donation to the fund, has accused councillors of “abusing their powers”.

“The Comhairle has taken a decision on the trial Sunday opening and that decision stands until another position is taken,” said a council spokesperson. “The Comhairle will not be accepting the cheque that FiSH are offering as to do so would be to accept money under false pretences as we would not be able to use the money for the stated intention. The decision not to run a trial Sunday opening was taken last October and any move to change that decision would require a suspension of Standing Orders.”

It advised FiSH to donate the money to other worthy causes in the Western Isles or return the donations.

FiSH has accused the Comhairle of causing confusion with its stance and urged the council to accept the money.

A spokesperson said: “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.”

The spokesperson added: “It is with great hope that the funds raised by a keen and willing community organisation will be received without hesitation and put to use towards a trial of additional ISL hours at the weekend.”

Last October councillors voted 19-9 against a trial run to open the Stornoway site on Sunday, citing the projected financial cost and an unwillingness of staff to work on Sundays.

Megan Crawford, chairman of the Scottish Secular Society, 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. Stornoway is no stranger to Sabbatarian influences. Religious domination has no place in modern society. The SSS will continue to do everything we can to help their community flourish.”