I’ve been thrilled to see campaigners seeking to resurrect the Saltcoats Outdoor Tidal Pool.

Not only are the designs recently unveiled by the Saltcoats SPLASH Group impressive and ambitious, with a series of steps, platforms and walkways proposed. They’re also a fitting tribute to the original pool that was such a beloved part of the town’s history.  

Opening in 1933 on the site of the old salt pans, the bathing pond was vital for bringing tourism to the area.

The 1930s was known as the “golden age of lidos” as 169 outdoor pools were built across Britain by local councils during the decade. 

But the Saltcoats pool was particularly popular, at one point the largest tidal pool in the country and able to attract up to 2,000 people on a given day.

These pools, synonymous with seaside resorts, of course began to fall out of favour in the era of package holidays, with indoor pools becoming preferable.

The pavilion was ultimately demolished in 1983, with pools left to the mercy of the ocean. Whilst this was unsurprising as more people opted for the heated Auchenharvie Leisure Centre baths, it was also a sad moment for many.

These days lidos tend to be associated with private hotels or seen as a luxury amenity rather than a public good. In Scotland, only a handful remain, notably Gourock and Stonehaven.

Pools and other leisure facilities have been hit hard over the past decade as councils seek to cut costs. But these aren’t just commercial activities – whole generations of families benefit from these important community hubs. 

It’s also telling that “wild swimming” – where people swim in cold water for enjoyment in lakes, rivers and the sea – has made such a big comeback in recent years.

What’s heartening is the SPLASH group understand what makes outdoor swimming so appealing: leisure, health, and the opportunity to socialise with friends in a public environment.

Among those who learned to swim at Saltcoats was Irene Campbell, who chairs the Saltcoats SPLASH Group.

Her group have been relentless in pursuing this project, working to secure £20,000 from the North Ayrshire Council Place Based Investment Fund and commissioning architect Chris Romer-Lee to carry out a feasibility study.

Both he and engineers have now confirmed it’s possible to reopen the pool, with plans to open a funded and free-of-charge pool presented at a public meeting in Saltcoats Town Hall earlier this month.

Even getting to this point has been a remarkable achievement and is testament to the spirit of this community. 

I remain convinced well-funded and sustainable council services should be the backbone of any national leisure policy, but this initiative is a great example of how this can be supplemented by communities building and rebuilding facilities that serve them.

For my part, I intend to continue submitting parliamentary motions and calling on the Scottish Government to provide funding needed to establish facilities of this nature which prioritise health, happiness and leisure for all.