Renfrewshire Scottish Socialist Party hosted a public meeting on Thursday 9th July in the Elderslie Village Hall with a view to helping form a campaign of local citizens to oppose the closures of the Swimming Pools in Elderslie and Johnstone Town Centre. So successful was the turnout that when the numbers attending swelled from over 20 to over 60 with more coming in it was clear that the meeting would have to be moved from the lesser hall to the major one, and that being accomplished Jimmy Kerr, on behalf of the Party, welcomed all of the local people and group representatives who had given up their time to attend. Gerry McCartney opened the discussion by giving some of the history and background of the extensive cuts both current and on the horizon of which the swimming pool closures were believed to be only one small part, and the meeting was thrown open for contributions from the floor.
After some initial good natured initial skirmishing the SSP and the Labour Party quickly agreed with the mood of the meeting that political differences would have to be put aside quickly and firmly and that the campaign would have to be cross party and cross community based if it were to have a real chance of success. Contributions were heard from community councillors from Johnstone and Elderslie, local clubs and local people who had been taught to swim at the Elderslie baths and had enjoyed the facilities of the pool for generation after generation. The child safety and community fitness promoted by swimming, it was felt, would be lost to the next generation if the pool were allowed to close. There were many contributions expressing regret that the local councillor Ms. McGhee had not attended since the preservation of the pool had long been a key element in her own campaigning.
Jimmy Kerr summed up the first half of the meeting saying that the mood was one of anger and determination to reverse this disgraceful decision of the Council by a vigourous and sustained high pressure campaign aimed at exerting local community pressure on the decision makers in the Council. The general feeling that the pool belonged to the community and not the Council was clearly and strongly expressed by all of the contributors.
The second half of the meeting was tasked to come up with a number of ideas for a co-ordinated campaign strategy and this task was undertaken in groups of 10 to 15 people which came up with a broad range of ideas and events to highlight the campaign which were fed back to Jimmy Kerr to organise and prioritise on behalf of a steering committee which he would chair until they could formalise their own arrangements. A steering committee was duly elected and it was agreed that they would meet again on Thursday 16th July in the same place under their own auspices to agree individual functions and responsibilities. There were also a large number of individuals and groups who left phone numbers and email addresses and welcomed the opportunity to be asked to undertake some part of the work of campaigning.
Summing up on behalf of the hosts for the evening, Gerry McCartney of Renfrewshire SSP said ‘This has been one of the most productive meetings we have had for any local campaign, and we now hand over to the steering group to run things of behalf of the local community. It was particularly pleasing to be able to welcome Councillors Jim Sharkey, Neil Bibby, John Caldwell and Eddie Devine of the Labour party to the meeting and their contributions based on years of experience were insightful and will be of enormous help to the newly formed group. These closures affect us all across any political divisions and if we fail to reverse them then we all suffer the loss equally. Thank you all.’
Jimmy Kerr said, ‘I am proud to have been a part of getting this going and the first proposal I will put to the steering group once we sort out our respective roles will be that we quickly organise a similar meeting in Johnstone. This community has shown a real appetite for the fight and we have every confidence it will achieve a successful outcome.’
The councils plans can be viewed here
for the report and here for the appendix, both are required