In January 2010, the Comhairle took the bold step of more than halving its existing sports facility membership fees to try and encourage our communities to become more active. Ten years on and nearly 30% of the population of the Outer Hebrides are members of the scheme
‘Slàinte Mhath’ was designed in order to improve health outcomes and help islanders increase their physical activity levels. Over the years, the scheme has been developed further including offering free memberships to ‘at risk’ children.
In 2018, the Comhairle agreed reciprocal arrangements for access to a range of sports facilities across Scotland as part of the LeisureLink Partnership. This move has meant that families with existing Slàinte Mhath memberships are able to access facilities operated by the Comhairle, Highlife Highland, Orkney Islands Council and Moray Council, Argyll and Bute and LiveBorders free of charge. It is anticipated that more local authorities and trust across the UK will be added to this list over the next year.
Cllr Angus McCormack, Chairman of the Education, Sport and Children’s Services Committee, said: “Many existing ‘Slàinte Mhath’ members have seen significant enhancements to their membership benefits since the scheme begun back in 2010. For example, a family swim session for two adults and two children would previously have cost £20.30 at the Aquadome and yet is now included in the scheme. In addition, the Slàinte Mhath Scheme remains the cheapest of its type in Scotland and we are very pleased that our communities make full use of our excellent leisure facilities”
Tony Wade, Sports Facilities Services Manager, said: “We regularly speak to visitors to the islands who use our facilities and they are impressed by the range and quality of what we offer including state of the art fitness equipment, which saw an investment of £340k in 2016, 3G all weather pitches and 25 metre pools. There is little doubt that the scheme offers fantastic value and we look forward to welcoming more members of the public into our facilities, and indeed the Slàinte Mhath scheme itself, over the coming months and years.”
Kara Hanlon, a regular user of the scheme over the last few years, whose most recent swimming successes included four Gold medals, one Silver and three Games Records at the 2019 World Island Games in Gibraltar, commented: “The ‘Slàinte Mhath’ Scheme offers great value for money and helps encourage families within the community to enjoy sport as much as possible. The quality and range of facilities available is amazing and helps promote physical activity of all ages and levels. In addition, the scheme’s unlimited access to facilities offers support to young athletes enabling them to achieve their sporting goals.”