The continuing development of Scottish sport – including the impact of independence
Working Group on Scottish Sport, Scottish Government
Scotland is viewed throughout the world as a nation that loves sport. Be it the warm welcome the tartan army receives wherever it goes, or the passion that sports audiences throughout the world show when Scots succeed on the medal podium, and are known as a country where sport is part of our national psyche.
Although independence wouldn‟t change this, it does bring with it an opportunity to look afresh at how Scottish sport is delivered and this working group has sought to do that by casting a critical eye on all areas of the sport infrastructure. Although
Scotland is already doing well, there is the opportunity to do even better.
Scotland as a successful Olympic and Paralympic nation in its own right
Although the majority of sport policy is already devolved, there are elements that are currently undertaken at a UK level and, in the event of independence, would need to be realigned. Although the final decision on whether Scotland could compete at a
future Olympic and Paralympic Games rests with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), upon reviewing the process, examining precedent and looking at our own state of readiness, the
group concluded that there was no obvious or major barrier to securing Olympic and Paralympic accreditation for an independent Scotland in time to compete in Rio 2016.
There are a number of practical arrangements the Scottish Government would have to undertake in order to secure Olympic and Paralympic accreditation and the group have provided detailed recommendations on this, such as the establishment of a
National Olympic Committee. Beyond the specific Olympic and Paralympic activity, there are a number of actions currently undertaken at a UK level that would need to be worked through in the event of Scotland becoming independent (such as
developing an Anti-Doping structure and policy, developing a framework for Coaching, developing capacity within Scottish Governing Bodies of sport etc.). In the group‟s view, all of these are achievable with appropriate resources to support this.
Scotland has a strong track record of competing successfully internationally, and although being independent will require an element of additional cost (and/or require an element of reprioritisation) to replicate the existing support mechanisms for elite
athletes in Scotland, this also would provide an opportunity to look afresh at how best to support our athletes. The extent of additional costs associated with putting in place the necessary support should be guided by the principle of ensuring they
receive the same or better level of support currently available within the Team GB infrastructure. This is essential to entice athletes currently training to compete for Scotland. The group believes Scotland can build on the approach that supports
athletes up to Commonwealth Games level, which places Scotland in a strong position.
Although Scotland is a small nation, it has the ability to lead and the group concluded that as well as having stretching and demanding aspirations, such as having a world class sporting system, Scotland needs to match this with resources and activities.
Scotland as a nation of sporting excellence at all levels
There has been considerable and sustained public investment into sport and physical activity at both a national and local level. This has delivered a number of high quality sports facilities throughout Scotland, increased opportunities for people
to be active, ensured clubs and sport can develop, and honed home bred talent.
However, as in many other countries, participation levels in both sport and physical activity have been relatively static in recent years. Given the compelling evidence that being active can improve health and increase life expectancy, of particular
concern to the group was the disparity between the least and the most deprived groups which for adults is a difference of around 16 percentage points and for children is 19 percentage points. It would therefore appear that extra effort is needed
to ensure all groups in society can benefit from Scotland‟s enhanced infrastructure. The group was of the strong view that in order to establish a lifelong habit of being active and ensure that everyone has the opportunity to be active from the cradle
through to the grave, resources should be directed towards encouraging everyone to take part in sport and leading an active lifestyle.
Whilst the group welcomed the advances in delivering PE, it was disappointing that so little of the school estate is used and have recommended that urgent action is taken to rectify this. Recent research has highlighted that as little as 17% of indoor
and 11% of outdoor space is used during the school holidays and this is of particular concern given the numerous high quality sporting facilities that exist within the school estate and it is simply unacceptable that this is not available to local communities,
given the extensive investment from the public purse to secure these public assets. Therefore the group has recommended that the Scottish Government needs to dramatically increase the usage of the school estate by supporting and encouraging
local authorities to deliver the step change needed. However, if this is unsuccessful, consideration should be given to reviewing the Local Government and Planning (Scotland) Act 1982 to ensure communities benefit from these assets .
As the largest funder of sport and leisure, the role of local authorities and leisure trusts is an essential component in helping to increase the number of people taking part in sport and being active. Although there are some excellent examples of good
practice, the group believes more can be done to ensure sport and leisure doesn‟t just become a revenue stream for local authorities, but rather is seen as a worthwhile investment in helping to widen access for all and deliver local and national
outcomes. Therefore, the group have recommended that the Scottish Government lead a piece of work to roll out a more equitable leisure model that supports disadvantaged communities through more effective pricing and consider rationalising
leisure trusts and leisure services.
The sports infrastructure in Scotland is complicated and, regardless of the outcome of the referendum, should be reviewed to simplify this. With a population of just over 5 million, more could be done to share and pool resources as the current model
doesn‟t in itself encourage collaboration.
It is important that the Scottish Government continues to set the strategic policy framework for sport and the group has recommended that future investment should be categorised as preventative spend and consideration should be given to
examining the relationship between increased investment and reduced cost to the NHS and other areas of the public purse.
It will of course be for the people of Scotland to decide on the issue of independence and whilst for some, sport will not be the defining feature, the group hope that the conclusions will help to provide clarity on how Scottish sport can continue to develop
regardless of the outcome of the referendum, but also provides the necessary framework should Scotland decide to become independent.
Full report here – http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/0044/00449792.pdf