THE foul-mouthed businessman behind controversial plans to make Scotland’s wild swimmers a little less wild has admitted defeat.

Robert Hamilton’s dream of an open water regulator was torpedoed by near unanimous opposition from swimmers and swimming organisations, who said they were unwanted, unnecessary and overly commercial.

Unlike in England and Wales, where laws about open swimming are unclear, in Scotland, swimmers have a right to swim freely in open spaces.

Hamilton, along with commercial pilot Stewart Griffiths and swimmer Phia Steyn, had announced plans to establish the Scottish Open Water Swimming Association (SOWSA) to “promote and grow safe open water swimming within Scotland through co-operation between relevant stakeholders and partners in the country”.

Their proposal was to gather “open water swimmers, coaches, event organisers, boat pilots, health and safety professionals, landowners, local and national tourism bodies and relevant heritage and conservation bodies into one body with the aim of promoting and growing safe open water swimming in Scotland”.

But across the country, fans of outdoor aquatics were furious at what they saw as an attempt to limit access to lochs and water, potentially resulting in swimmers being forced to cough up cash for a dip.

There was opposition too from the British Long Distance Swimming Society (BLDSA) and the Outdoor Swimming Society (OSS),

In response to a consultation set up by Hamilton’s group, OSS said: “The establishment of a self-appointed regulatory body with power over all swimming events, venues and pilots in Scotland would create a commercial monopoly that would stifle, restrict and standardise the market, and restrict rather than improve swimming in Scotland.”

A joint response to the consultation from 28 different prominent swimmers complained they had not been made aware of the consultation, and were uncomfortable with a charity representing open water swimmers being proposed by “three people who are known to be closely involved in one of the most heavily advertised commercial companies running open water events and providing services to open water swimmers in Scotland”.

This, they said, would lead to a conflict of interests: “We cannot see how having ‘SOWSA’ as the ratification organisation for open water events and marathon swims will not be a massive commercial advantage for these individuals and a disadvantage for all commercial competitors.”

The group said there was a feeling “that these proposals are designed for some commercial gain” and would lead to swimmers forced “to pay SOWSA for a health and safety check, or no event can be run without SOWSA membership, piloting services will only be available through SOWSA approved lists, etc”.

“One of the main attractions of open water or ‘wild swimming’ is the lack of structure, organisation and ability to swim in unregulated conditions without having to pay for the privilege,” the swimmers added.

Hamilton and his supporters, however, insisted the only way to keep the sport popular and to keep it safe was to have a regulator.

The debate became heated, with Hamilton responding to one prominent critic’s opposition to the proposal by publicly calling him a “f****** c***”.

Yesterday, SOWSA admitted that they had lost the fight, but insisted the need for an association had not gone away.

They also attacked those who opposed the proposals, saying their criticisms “amounted to vicious personal attacks against one of the proposers”.

“Fundamentally we do believe that there is room and the need for a Scotland-specific open water swimming society of some sort.”

They posted on Facebook: “With thousands of lochs (10 of which are longer than the longest lake in England), some famous (and infamous) sea passages/channels, lots of bodies of water associated with key events in Scotland’s past, and an ever growing open water swimming community, there is so much growth potential in Scottish open water swimming.”