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In January 2010, the comhairle took the bold step of more than halving its existing sports facility membership fees to encourage its communities to become more active.
Ten years on and nearly 30 per cent 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 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 trusts across the UK will be added to this list over the next year.
Kara Hanlon, a regular user of the scheme over the past 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.’