My email inbox was full of Mid Scotland and Fife residents who were furious at Perth and Kinross Council’s proposed plan to axe curling and swimming from their long-term plans. The plan would mean merging Bell’s Sports Centre, the Dewars Centre and Perth Leisure Pool, with the aim being to build a new facility in the city. However, Perth and Kinross Council’s new plan did not include a swimming pool, ice rink or indoor bowls rink.
Some of Scotland’s senior Olympians, such as Eve Muirhead, rightly expressed concern about this as did many parents of youngsters using the facilities. Several of them wrote to me as Convenor of the Cross Party Group on Sport to express their dismay.
In advance of the meeting among councillors on the issue, Murdo Fraser and l sent a joint letter and I am pleased to report that following pressure from ourselves and the public, the proposal was overturned, and a statement was released saying that the council would now include an ice rink, as per our calls. Vincent Bryson, head of Scottish Curling, made an inspiring presentation to councillors and l know he, too, is delighted at the change of plan.
Sports like curling and swimming are vital in terms of encouraging fitness, reducing barriers and fostering a sense of community. I believe that the council were making a huge mistake with this move, with disappointment and shock echoed by many residents across the region and beyond. It was even more baffling that this proposal was being considered after the extraordinary success Scotland has had in Curling recently on the world stage. The part this facility has played in generating this success cannot be overstated and Perthshire Olympian Eve Muirhead was right to criticise the move. The Dewars Centre is the heart of curling in Scotland, which also happens to be the historic home of the sport.
At the end of January, I was delighted to visit Dewars alongside Murdo Fraser and Councillor John Duff. The ice-rink was well attended by people of all generations and absolutely buzzing with enthusiasm. This is exactly why we need Dewars.