MEMBERS of North Lanarkshire Council voted to keep funding swimming lessons for children in Primary 5.

At a full council meeting the members narrowly voted in favour of an SNP motion to continue the status quo.

The motion called on the council to recognise the importance of children learning basic life skills and water safety. The council also acknowledged that swimming is on the English school curriculum and that the sport’s governing body Scottish Swimming is currently in talks with the Scottish Government to make similar arrangements here.

The council will continue to cover the cost of lessons by use of its core budget.

Council leader Jim Logue proposed an amendment, which called for the council to await the outcome of the government negotiations while also recognising the increasing pressure on councils to maintain council facilities. North Lanarkshire Leisure, a company which operates pools and other facilities on behalf of the council, recently announced it was reducing opening hours for two swimming pools in the council area.

Councillor Logue also argued that children should be given more opportunities to choose sports which appealed to them, rather than swimming being compulsory.

The potential lifesaving aspect of knowing how to swim,  rather than promotion of the sport, was the basis for many councillors’ decision to back the motion.

Claire Barclay (SNP, Cumbernauld East) said: “I don’t know of anyone who has died because they did not know how to play netball. Swimming is also about saving lives and that is what is most important.”

During extensive debate on this issue, Councillor Tommy Morgan (Labour, Airdrie North) said swimming lessons had saved his life.

“I almost drowned 50 years ago. The man who rescued me has never forgiven himself,” he joked.

Currently there are around 2,000 children in North Lanarkshire who are not being taught to swim at school.

Councillors backed the original motion as proposed by the SNP with a vote of 30-35.