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Holyrood election hits Highland leisure facilities as bid to make Scottish vote count Covid-safe rolls into action; Highland Football Academy in Dingwall amongst venues affected by measures

By Hector MacKenzie

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The largest leisure centre in the Highlands will temporarily suspend sporting activities in favour of regional democracy when it becomes one of the locations where votes in the Scottish Parliamentary Elections will be counted.

Inverness Leisure in Inverness and the Highland Football Academy in Dingwall will both be affected.

Douglas Wilby, director of sport and leisure with High Life Highland said: “We have been working closely with the Returning Officer and colleagues in the Highland Council to accommodate the substantial changes in the way this count is taking place, in order to offer those involved a Covid-safe environment.

"As a result of the additional requirements of this election count, we will be erecting a number of marquees outside on Queens Park which means that the athletics track will close to the public on Monday, April 26 and is scheduled to re-open on May 12.

“The sports halls in Inverness Leisure will be closed to the public on 3rd May in preparation for the ballot boxes arriving when polling stations around the Highlands close on Thursday, 6th May.

The gym will be closed on 7th May and will re-open on Sunday 9th May. The other indoor facilities will re-open on Monday 10th May. The temporary restrictions do not apply to the swimming pools which will remain open throughout.

“We have contacted the various clubs and organisations that would usually use the sports centre and while most of them normally suspend their activities for election counts, we are happy to work them to try to find alternatives where possible given the unusual circumstances in which we find ourselves.

“I understand that the Highland Council considered other venues, but due to the Covid-safe and increased security requirements needed for this particular election count, Inverness Leisure was the only venue that was able to accommodate those needs and as a partner organisation, HLH was happy to assist."

He said: “Both ourselves and the Highland Council appreciate the understanding of the groups involved while the local democratic process is undertaken on site. We will be working jointly to bring the location back online as early as safely possible.”

The Highland Football Academy, another HLH facility, will also be used for the election count.

The venue will close to the public on April 30 and reopen on May 10.

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