Scots swimmers left high and dry

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a MAJOR Scottish children’s swimming contest will have to be held in England this year after Commonwealth Pool bosses refused to close to the public so soon after reopening.

The Scottish Gas National Age Groups Swimming Championships are usually held at Tollcross pool in Glasgow but as that venue is itself closed for refurbishment, organisers instead looked to the revamped Edinburgh pool.

However, as the pool will only have recently reopened by the time of the competition in Easter, Edinburgh Leisure has ruled that the public have priority for a long-awaited dip.

It means that with no other suitable 50-metre competition-standard pools available, the contest, which runs from March 31 to April 4, will now be held at the Sunderland Aquatics Centre.

Scottish Swimming spokeswoman Kirsten Phillips said: “The Royal Commonwealth Pool is due to reopen about the end of March and effectively they didn’t want to close it down for us so soon after it had just reopened to the public after a couple of years.

“For the age group championships we considered alternatives, such as moving it to a 25-metre course, but Sunderland have been very helpful and it seems a good choice. We’re disappointed we can’t keep the meet in Scotland but a solution has been found.”

Edinburgh Leisure director of operations Graeme Gardiner said he did not want members of the public to be kept out of the Commonwealth Pool any longer than necessary, though the exact date for its reopening after a two-and-a-half-year closure is yet to be confirmed.

He said: “The planned timing of the Scottish Swimming Championships – during the 2012 Easter school holidays – is always one of the busiest times for family visits to our venues and we believe that the newly re-furbished Commonwealth Pool is likely to be a prime leisure destination for families during this holiday period.

“Therefore, the management of Edinburgh Leisure believe it would not be fair to our thousands of customers to close this important venue to the public during what will be a week of the highest demand.”

He said it had been made clear in 2010, prior to the closure of the pool, that the event could not be accommodated.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “It’s disappointing that Scottish Swimming have decided to hold the Scottish National Age Group Swimming Championships elsewhere, but this is due to a unique set of circumstances.

“This situation is unlikely to ever happen again as we will have a number of high- quality pools that can host competitions in the future. This has been underpinned by the Scottish Government direct investment of over £33 million in quality facilities, with 12 new and upgraded swimming pools including the Royal Commonwealth Pool and a 50m pool in Aberdeen.”

sgyford@edinburghnews.com