Play Strategy

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 4:34 pm on 15th March 2006.

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Photo of Donald Gorrie Donald Gorrie Liberal Democrat 4:34 pm, 15th March 2006

I am happy to take part in the debate and I congratulate Ken Macintosh on securing it. I am glad that the Parliament rescheduled the debate; despite the sky falling in, we are still in favour of play. That is good.

Normally, my heart sinks when I see the word "strategy". I am not a strategy person. However, it may be the right word in this case. We certainly need a play policy, priority or whatever word people like to use, because play is important.

In addition to some of the good points that other members have made and the fact that play gives people physical exercise and so on, I will emphasise two aspects, the first of which is interaction with other people. In imaginative games, people relate to one another. In a playground, children must take their turn on the swings or the chute. Educating children—in my case grandchildren—to do that is an important social aspect that they will miss out on if they do not go in for play.

Play is a vital part of life but, at least in this country, its importance has been recognised only relatively recently. As some of the papers that we have been sent say, play does not involve just very small children. Some of the concrete blocks outside the Parliament's normal home bear clear marks that—the local police tell me—show how much they are used for skateboarding, because Edinburgh has no proper skateboarding facilities—I am sure that the situation is the same in other places. More scope should be available for such informal play activities.

I will plug the Nancy Ovens Trust. I declare an interest as a member of the trust, but none of the trustees makes any money from the trust, so I think that I am allowed to plug it. Nancy Ovens taught at what is now Moray House school of education and was a pioneer of play going back 30 years or so. She was a voice in the wilderness for quite a while until a gradual movement towards play started. Even when I met her on the Lothian association of youth clubs committee, which involved a group of people who were motivated to help youth clubs, she was slightly laughed at for her enthusiasm for play, but she gradually won us over.

The Nancy Ovens Trust gives awards annually to play schemes and playgrounds that specially reflect children's input in their design and management. Several awards are given for imaginative layout and all that. Members should encourage their local playgrounds to apply. In the past two years, people all the way from Caithness down to East Lothian and from Coatbridge, Edinburgh, Lochaber and all over have won awards. The awards are a way to recognise that children should be involved as much as possible in the creation of play areas that stimulate their imagination, managerial activity and social interaction, rather than our telling them to go out and play somewhere.

Play is an important subject and I am glad that it has been raised. I hope that we can have a strategy or something else; whatever it is, we should get stuck into it.