A look at swimming performance in Scotland…
As early as 2017, in Scottish Swimming’s Good Practice Facilities Strategy, pool operators were commenting on the growing cost of heating bills and subsidies required to operate their pools. At the same time the demand and cost of water space were both increasing. Yet everyone is agreed, quality facilities are essential in the development of aquatics across Scotland. Previous strategy documents had a strong emphasis on delivering an improved network of 50m pools of a national and regional standard along with a number of regional standard 25m pools.
Good progress has been made against delivering on the network of 50m pools, however limited progress has been made against regional 25m pools. Despite a challenging economic climate and a complex number of competing priorities, it is appreciated that many local authorities, leisure trusts and other pool providers are delivering quality swimming facilities and programmes. Feedback from many clubs indicates that it is becoming harder to secure water at their current pools and that the cost of water continues to be a challenge. Many learn to swim and club programmes are turning away potential participants due to lack of water time/access.
SPORT FOR ALL
In Scotland, swimming is not part of the school curriculum, but swimming is a sport for all and a sport for life and, for Scottish children, the journey begins with the Learn to Swim programme. Not only is swimming great for mental and physical health, but it is also a life skill and a skill that can help keep you safe in and around water. Although boosted by the 2012 in nearby London, Scotland still relies on a sparse supply of 50 m pools in Aberdeen, Edinburgh, East Kilbride and Dundee, Stirling, as well as outdoor Stonehaven.
Supported by Scottish Water, Scottish Swimming has developed the programme over the past few years and rolled it out to help 100,000 children develop the skills they need to be safe, competent and confident swimmers. Learn to Swim is the start of Scottish Swimming’s aquatics pathway, which then leads into club swimming and other disciplines, which can in turn lead onto performance. Kirsten Phillips, Scottish Swimming’s Communication Manager firmly believes: “You can’t achieve medal success on the world stage, without learning to swim, and we link the full aquatics pathway as much as we can.”
Scotland’s swimming flag bearer, Duncan Scott, is still only 24. Scott is also an Ambassador for the National Framework for Learn to Swim in Scotland. When Scott returned from the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, he did so with four medals (1 gold, 3 silver), making him Great Britain’s most successful Olympian from a single Games. Hopes are high for Birmingham as Scott already holds the accolade of the most decorated swimmer ever at a Commonwealth Games after finishing Gold Coast 2018 with six medals to his name.
That tally included gold in the 100m Freestyle, a 200m Individual Medley silver and four bronzes. He is pre-selected to compete for Scotland at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, in what will be his third consecutive Games. Scottish Swimming has a number of income streams with the main ones including: membership (the standard annual fee is £45 and for that swimmers receive a huge range of benefits and opportunities including support and access affiliated clubs across Scotland. Affiliated with 160 clubs, Scottish Swimming wants to get more people swimming for leisure, health and fun; to improve the delivery of swimming in Scotland through the development of learn to swim, clubs, volunteers, teachers and coaches and community partnerships.
They want to be seen as a cutting-edge organisation that supports our development, healthy living, and performance initiatives, including the attraction of resources to invest in the sport. “Our members lie at the heart of everything we do,” Kirsty explains. “Clubs continue to provide vast benefits to the community and excellent development for our athletes, as well as a great opportunity for thousands of people to take part, teach, volunteer and coach.”