Cost of keeping fit will hamper some, Lerwick woman claims

The “colossal” cost of leisure facilities in Shetland means that families could be paying four times more to keep fit than those in other areas of Scotland, a local resident has complained.

Nurse and Lerwick resident Emma Williamson has calculated the figures, which show that her family’s yearly spending on fitness is over £1,000 more than she could expect to pay under leisure schemes operated in Orkney, the Western Isles or the Highlands.

Bryan Leask, chairman of the Shetland Recreational Trust (SRT) was quick, however, to point out that where other leisure schemes have been subsidised by local councils the SRT does not receive any support from the SIC.

Under SRT’s pricing structure an individual “Gold” membership, which grants access to the gym, swimming and health suite facilities at the Clickimin, will set you back £59.50 per month or £606 a year.

A family in the Western Isles, on the other hand, would pay half of that for access to similar facilities. Under the ‘Slàinte Mhath’ or ‘Good Health’ scheme any parent or couple with children under 18 living at the same address can purchase a family subscription for just £25 a month, according to figures available online.

Over the course of the year this equates to £300, half of the price for just one individual in Shetland. Considering the further costs incurred by a family, with two partners and their children all using facilities regularly, the figure forked out locally could soar to over £1000 more each year.

In Orkney, a scheme similar to the Western Isles is to be launched next week, entitled ‘ActiveLife’. The two-year pilot is the result of a partnership between the Orkney Islands Council (OIC) and the Pickaquoy Centre Trust.

Cardholders are to be given access to 12 facilities across Orkney and will be able to swim, climb, use gym and health suite facilities and play racket sports, among other things. An ActiveLife family membership is cheaper than an individual subscription in Shetland, coming in at just £29.50 per month.

Mrs Williamson first became aware of the discrepancy when Jerry Gibson, a friend from Orkney now living in Shetland, shared a post on Facebook detailing the costings soon to be introduced in Orkney.

After researching other council areas Mrs Williamson realised she was paying “a colossal amount more” to keep fit than a family in Orkney, the Western Isles or the Highlands.

The difference an active Shetlander pays is equivalent, she says, to two family trips on the ferry each year.

But Mr Leask defended the SRT’s pricing in a written statement provided to this paper.

He said: “As I understand it, the other schemes highlighted are actively subsidised by their respective councils. SRT does not receive any subsidy funding from Shetland Islands Council…

“SRT essentially has two sources of income: the majority of which is by way of a grant from the Shetland Charitable Trust, who are reducing the level of subsidy by 25 per cent by 2020, with the remaining income from charges to our customers.”

After compiling her findings Mrs Williamson sent a letter to the recreational trust and councillors.

It was not only the cost which concerned her but a feeling that the pricing would discourage people from taking up sport in Shetland.

“We’re not going to do well internationally, or even nationally, for yun prices” she said.

When asked if she thought Shetlanders were being asked to foot the bill for upkeep on the extensive provision of leisure centres around the isles Mrs Williamson said “I think that does factor into it.”

This concern is alluded to in the statement provided by Mr Leask, who writes: “As well as owning and operating Clickimin Leisure Centre Complex, we own and operate seven rural leisure centres.

“SRT have full management and maintenance responsibilities for these facilities and must generate sufficient income to remain viable.”

Mrs Gibson, originally of Rousay, Orkney but now living in Kalliness, went further by saying that the prices were “unfair, verging on discrimination.”

She believes that people who do not have expendable cash are being priced out of keeping fit.

It was Mrs Gibson’s view that the SRT should look at introducing a family subscription similar to those offered in Orkney and the Western Isles.

She said: “Shetland has excellent facilities. I’d like to see more people using them but not everyone has that luxury because of the cost.”

Both Mrs Williamson and Mrs Gibson were keen to point out that they have nothing against the facilities, service or staff in Shetland, referring to them as “lovely” and “fantastic” respectively.

Discussing the ‘ActiveLife’ scheme soon to be launched in Orkney a spokesperson for the OIC said: “Similar schemes introduced in the Highlands, Western Isles and Moray local council areas have seen increased uptakes in memberships at leisure facilities.

“In a nutshell, the scheme has been designed with a focus on flexibility and affordability, to attract, encourage and enable increased community use of the great range of fitness and leisure facilities available across Orkney.”


Add Your Comment
  • David Spence

    • January 14th, 2017 15:14

    It would be interesting to do a survey on what it costs a person or family per week in terms of their food expenses. What type of food is bought, what the nutritional value of that food is and whether or not such food would be regarded as ‘ junk ‘ or ‘ processed ‘ with the health implications of such food having on the body and the subsequent ‘ keep fit regime ‘ required afterwards.

    Is there a connection between ‘ cheap food ‘ ‘ processed food ‘ and obesity in comparison to the more expensive healthier food and the ability to afford such food?

    I believe over 70% of the food market is owned by the Supermarkets, and do they have an obligation to help people on a low budget to eat a more healthier diet?

    Should they, the Supermarkets, make healthier food cheaper and increase the price of ‘ junk ‘ or ‘ processed ‘ food………in otherwords, the opposite of what it is just now?

    What cost is it to the Supermarkets in terms of ‘ healthy food ‘ to this of ‘ junk, processed food ‘ and the transportation of such goods to Shetland?

  • Neil Leask

    • January 14th, 2017 18:07

    Why should non users of these facilities be paying to subsidise you who use them frequently, which we would do through ouor council tax? There are other ways of keeping fit which dont cost es much, eg. walking, cycling or jogging to name a few!

  • Sean Michael Peterson

    • January 14th, 2017 19:41

    Typically a family plan would be cheaper because you’d want to get all the family into the facility and if the facility had other activities the family would pay for them at a cheaper cost. Perhaps an idea would be for first time members joining giving them a three-year plan where the plan increases in the second and third year and then to option on the fourth

  • Johan Adamson

    • January 16th, 2017 9:24

    It makes you wonder where our SIC money is being spent if SIC does not support a lot of the things other councils who dont have SCT do (leisure centres and pools, SADA, Amenity Trust, Credit Union, Citizens Advice, Voluntary Action?). Be interesting to compare % spends and priorities.

    • Jim Leask

      • January 17th, 2017 15:42

      Surely most councils don’t support the ‘things’ you listed Johan?

      • Johan Adamson

        • January 18th, 2017 8:50

        Well Orkney runs the Pickaquoy Centre and a pool in Stromness without having SCT so therefore the council must give money to sport and leisure or where does it come from? They employ an arts officer presumably doing the job of SADA (not sure if they are connected to the Pickie and choose the films?), and councils are given money by central government to help folk manage their lives and money which should go to Citizens advice and the credit union – who else pays for Citizens advice etc in other communities?

  • i tinkler

    • January 16th, 2017 11:07

    Johan, all fitness facilities owned by SIC should be free. In a truly integrated “Health Sevice”, Social care and the Shetland Recreational Trust (SRT) facilities (physical fitness) should be part of our Shetland Health Services. There is no better way of keeping our populations in good health and clear of the Shetland “Fat” stigma, than active exercise.
    Privately owned Gyms/ physio/ Jazzercise/ Zumba etc should be subsidised to enable fair competition. Just one advantage of full Shetland Autonomy.


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