ANYONE wishing to learn to swim in Dunfermline will have to be patient – with waiting times of up to 18 months to start lessons.

COVID restrictions and lockdown have closed pools and disrupted sessions across the country over the past two years and there's also a shortage of qualified instructors in Fife.

And while the situation with the pandemic is easing, booking lessons or just going for a swim could get harder with two community-use pools in West Fife set to close.

There always was a waiting list for lessons at Carnegie Leisure Centre in Dunfermline but now it's longer, with 249 names on it last week with those joining now facing a wait of up to 18 months.

Lee Cunningham, aquatics programme manager for the Fife Sports and Leisure Trust, said: “Current waiting lists at some sites may be longer than is usual for the reasons stated – however, this depends very much on the level being applied for and each centre will work hard to accommodate demand.

"It is not unusual to have around 100 people on our waiting lists at any one time – this is expected with a programme with high participation numbers – and waiting lists fluctuate but given the lockdowns and reinstatement of the Learn to Swim programme, demand is high.”

The Carnegie centre offers roughly twice as many swimming lessons as nearby Cowdenbeath, which had 140 names on its list last week.

There were no available places on the beginners' course at Woodmill High's community-use pool either.

It's not unique to Fife as, for example, the waiting list at Kinross has around 100 people while at Perth it's apparently more than 400.

The trust run Scotland's biggest Learn to Swim programme, with more than 6,900 participants in Fife, but COVID has had a big impact and meant that learners either haven't been able to start lessons or progress through the different stages.

Ms Cunningham added: “Staffing is also an issue and we are actively campaigning for qualified swim instructors to help with the delivery of the programme.

"We work closely with Active Schools and as part of this partnership, some school-based swimming lessons are being transitioned to the trust’s facilities.

"The trust will always work to find capacity to suit all our learn to swim needs."

She said the programme was getting back on track and, where possible, places have been offered to those on the waiting lists.

However, one of the high schools that offers lessons in its community-use pool, Woodmill, will close in 2024.

And plans for the new Dunfermline Learning Campus, which will house Fife College and replacement high schools for St Columba's and Woodmill, do not include a pool.

It's not clear what will happen to the swimming pools currently at the two high schools but it's likely one or both will go.

The other two high schools in the town, Dunfermline High and Queen Anne, lost their pools when replacement high schools opened in 2012 and 2003 respectively.

As well as Woodmill, lessons are offered at community-use facilities at Inverkeithing High, but the replacement school to be built in Rosyth is unlikely to have a pool either.

And while there's a concerted campaign to keep The Wing in Inverkeithing, which has the only pool in South West Fife, there's no guarantee it will succeed.