Glasgow council cuts: huge turnout to fight closure of Whitehill pool

Whitehall pool, Dennistoun

Whitehall pool, Dennistoun   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

Dave Semple, Socialist Party Scotland Dennistoun resident and Whitehill user, and Socialist Party Scotland

Over 200 people packed into Dennistoun Library in Glasgow, with others turned away for lack of room. It was a Community Council meeting to discuss the possible closure of Whitehill pool and gym.

Leaked documents before Christmas gave details of the Scottish National Party (SNP) council administration looking to make huge cuts to the Glasgow Life/Club ALEO which runs leisure facilities across the city.

In total, seven pools/gyms are threatened plus libraries, golf courses and bowling greens. So much for the 2014 Commonwealth Games legacy!

Glasgow’s persistent health crisis, with low life expectancies in many of the areas where the closures are mooted, will also be exacerbated. Massive housing schemes like Drumchapel will lose their only gym.

The meeting was mobilised for at short notice over the holiday period, with service users, including the Whitehill Swimming Club and disabled children’s groups, spreading the word.

Glasgow Life staff and Glasgow Unison union also mobilised. 3,000 signed an online petition against the closure in the days before the meeting.

The mood of the meeting was electric, with a real determination to fight. A commitment to set up a local anti-cuts campaign at another public meeting was given by the majority in attendance.

Dennistoun ward’s three councillors attended – SNP, Greens and Labour – and the local SNP MSP Ivan McKee.

Anger was rightly directed at all these parties. The previous right-wing, Blairite Labour administration was slated for under-investment in the facility.

Establishment parties

However, it reached a pitch when SNP councillor Allan Casey refused to commit to voting against the closure and defended the decision to make huge cuts in Glasgow – saying his hands were tied by the Tories in Westminster.

After realising he had completely lost the meeting he then cynically tried to say he would go back to the SNP group and say Whitehill should not close, but closing other facilities in the city might be a better option.

Kim Long from the Greens added to people’s anger by saying she used the gym personally but that she couldn’t promise she would vote against all cuts. Last year the SNP administration passed a cuts budget with the support of the Greens.

Two Socialist Party Scotland members spoke at the meeting and distributed a leaflet calling on the council to use its financial powers to set a legal no-cuts budget and then build a mass campaign to demand back the hundreds of millions of pounds stolen from Glasgow through austerity cuts.

I gave support from the PCS union National Executive Committee, and called on the meeting to mobilise for the anti-cuts/equal pay strikers‘ demonstration called by the joint council trade unions on 24 January.

Socialist Party Scotland member Eric Stevenson urged the meeting to oppose all council cuts and not support any closures of facilities in Glasgow.

Eric asked, to huge applause, when were the councillors going to refuse to implement Tory cuts? In contrast he gave the example of the Liverpool socialist council’s successful struggle against Thatcher’s cuts in the 1980s.

Socialist Party Scotland will be campaigning against the cuts in Dennistoun and is urging people to lobby the local councillors’ surgeries and campaigners to organise a massive fightback.