This week's Councillor Column is written by Iain Shonny Paterson, SNP councillor for Lomond North.

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It is that time of year when budgets are set for both national and local governments.

Once again, at local level, we were faced with the prospect of losing services which are vitally important to our communities within Argyll and Bute. Sadly, despite the SNP group’s opposition to cuts to both the community learning service and physical education facilities, they were nevertheless implemented by the Conservative, Liberal Democrat and independent councillor administration.

What does this mean in practice?

READ MORE: Budget cuts 'threaten school PE lessons', warns Arrochar head teacher

The physical education (PE) budget provided schools with the opportunity to put in bids for additional funding, which covered travel costs to take pupils to swimming pools, or paid for the hire of local halls by small primary schools where delivery of PE within the school is very limited.

There are 22 schools within Argyll and Bute that do not have the facilities to deliver PE, and this cut is going to hit them hardest – Luss, in my Lomond North ward, being one of them.

As Alison Palmer, one of the education representatives, put it: “Sadly, by making this cut, the administration group have removed the opportunity for some pupils to develop their health and well-being and to learn a vital life-saving skill.”

READ MORE: Argyll and Bute's spending plans for 2020-21 approved – with 4.5 rise in council tax bills

The community learning service cut will have a major impact on vulnerable and disadvantaged individuals and groups, impacting on adult literacy, digital skills for adults over 25, adults who are semi-retired, vulnerable adults with physical and mental health issues, and youth achievement and youth awards, to name a few.

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On a related matter, I was dismayed when I heard that Blairvadach Outdoor Education Centre was being closed, and signed the petition to keep it open as soon as I could to help retain the facility and services of the incredible team of people who work there.

Outdoor education provides children with valuable skills that they cannot get in the classroom, and study after study demonstrates the value of getting children outdoors for their health and wellbeing, in addition to the educational benefits. You only have to listen to the testimony of adults who used this facility in their youth as to the boon to their later lives.

READ MORE: Blairvadach outdoor centre saved after council U-turn

Also worthy of note is the fact that 25 per cent of the Blairvadach workforce serves in the Arrochar Mountain Rescue team; all are highly experienced mountaineers providing free-of-charge service in both saving lives and providing training to existing and up-and-coming team members.

I do wonder if this was taken into consideration. when the threat of closure reared its head – if not, it should have been.

I was glad that the facility was saved from closure with the help of extra funding from the Scottish Government. Hopefully a permanent solution can be found to keep this excellent facility open. I, for one, will certainly continue to lobby for it.

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