THE manager of a martial arts gym in Helensburgh says that businesses are "guaranteed" to go bust after the enforced closure of fitness centres was extended until September.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon last week set an indicative re-opening date for gyms, swimming pools and indoor sports courts of September 14, with a review scheduled in two weeks to assess whether that can be brought forward.

However, Stuart Allan, general manager of Combat Central in East Princes Street, is not optimistic of a return before the end of this month, and he says the Scottish Government's decision has dealt a critical blow to many in the industry.

He told the Advertiser: "I do support the government and the SNP and I do think that what they have done so far has been outstanding, but we are now getting to the stage with gyms where I can't support their position.

"It's not because I have a gym but because I am looking at friends all over the country who are losing their gyms and their livelihoods.

"If they are going to leave us lying like this they need to put in a financial package to support us because the industry is going to die.

"It's not even a possibility, it's guaranteed that some will go out of business."

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Combat Central, located above Helensburgh Central railway station, was a project a decade in the making but it was forced to close in March at the outbreak of the pandemic, just 10 weeks after opening.

Stuart said he and his family have invested more than £100,000 in the gym and after four months of closed doors he is now fearing for its survival.

He said: "We were only open for 10 weeks before we had to close but we already made an impact on people's lives.

"We've not even scratched the surface of the community yet; we will, but that will take five to 10 years. But if we have to wait until September to re-open we might not make that.

"We don't have back-up funds or a pot of gold. If we have to wait another six or seven weeks with no funding then that could be the end.

"It is the lack of information from the government that is so frustrating. I would like to see the science and the risk assessment behind their decisions.

"We have guys who make a living from fighting and there's no furlough scheme for them.

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"These are guys who have been put on the scrap heap for the past four months and we support thousands of jobs in other industries too through events.

"The damage they are doing vastly outweighs the risk right now."

Steven McLaren, who runs his own martial arts school in James Street, said he had been hoping for the go ahead to return on Monday, but the news of prolonged closures was devastating.

He has spent more than half of a £10,000 government grant handed out at the start of the pandemic to cover the lease of his premises, which hasn't been used for more than four months.

"It's not about the business or the money," he said, "I love teaching but the biggest thing is the mental health and fitness benefits for the kids.

"The longer they leave this the worse it will get.

"It now feels like they [government] have definitely forgotten about us, I don't think they understand the industry.

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"We're being lumped in to the one category, the same as big gyms and swimming pools. Kids will be back at school before they are back in my classes, which is insane.

"Now I'm thinking maybe this isn't the job for me or the business I want to be in.

"If a second spike happens is that going to be another six months of being shut down?

"It's almost like a total reset for me after 18 years, when I start back it will be like day one again."

In a daily briefing last week Ms Sturgeon said: "I absolutely understand and share the desire to see these facilities open as quickly as possible.

"However, the clinical advice I have is that because of the nature of these environments, they pose a particular risk and require a cautious approach.

"If it is judged reasonable to do so, we will seek to accelerate this to the end of August."

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