A LEADING councillor has warned that the decision to keep gyms closed could be a matter of life or death in the face of a mental health crisis caused by the pandemic.

Former SNP group leader Chris McEleny has hit out at the Scottish Government's decision to delay the opening of fitness facilities until the end of April.

He has joined forces with his former world boxing champion Alex Arthur to call for an urgent u-turn.

The Gourock councillor says young men in Inverclyde have already lost their lives to suicide in the last year and for some the gym is a lifesaver.

Councillor McEleny said: "We are undoubtedly facing a mental health pandemic.

"My caseload suggests a real desperation for local people now.

"There has been a lot of awareness of the impact of the lockdown on mental health, but there are young men in Inverclyde who have died from suicide.

"Social isolation is a major factor and for many, especially young men, the gym is as much about mental health as it is physical health.

"If we can go for a hair cut on April 5 and supermarkets have never closed, why can't people go the gym?

"It just makes no sense at all.

"I have been friends with Alex Arthur for some time and I know first hand his concerns about gym closures."

Boxing star Alex, who runs a gym in Edinburgh, said: "There are people who normally come to the gym who are drinking alcohol every day instead.

"Others are taking strong antidepressants due to the impact on their mental health.

Alex Arthur

Alex Arthur

"I hope the government can re-evaluate the importance of gyms to mental health and allow gyms to reopen at a much earlier date."

Mr McEleny believes the government could reopen gyms by putting rules in place on mandatory wearing of face masks and capacity.

He added: "I have been on the side of caution when it comes to opening up but I feel there is no reason not to open gyms.

"I am also a supporter of opening up churches as well, people need the interaction."

The Tele asked the Scottish Government for a response to Cllr McEleny and Alex Arthur's points.

They said that the First Minister had addressed the reopening of gyms in a question put to her in parliament by Ruth Davidson.

She stated in parliament that gyms would reopen on April 26 for individual exercise and went on to say she recognised the importance of gym facilities for people’s physical and mental health.