Play Strategy

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 4:51 pm on 15th March 2006.

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Photo of Robert Brown Robert Brown Liberal Democrat 4:51 pm, 15th March 2006

I am grateful for that intervention, which provides clarification to balance the debate on that more local issue.

We should bear in mind certain road safety issues and concerns about funding. Donald Gorrie mentioned the advantages of the approach taken by the Nancy Ovens Trust, which is important in involving young people. I should also point out that the Big Lottery Fund has named play as one of its priorities in Scotland for 2006 to 2009, which means that projects that support and promote play will have access to significant funding that is likely to be around £35 million. I hope that communities across Scotland will take up that opportunity to develop new and improved play facilities. As for safety, members have already touched on the various issues.

On calls for a play strategy, I am aware of the Welsh play strategy and of the English report on the review of children's play. Although both documents highlight various useful points, most of the suggestions parallel approaches that have already been introduced in Scotland.

The debate has been balanced in its recognition of the limitations of merely producing another strategy on top of other strategies. Strategies on play or indeed on other activities are only of use if they act as a driver of public policy and administrative action that make a difference. I am keeping an open mind on whether a play strategy would add value to the existing initiatives in Scotland. Ministers will want to reflect both on members' useful speeches in the debate and on views about the petition on the matter that has been considered by the Public Petitions Committee and forwarded to ministers for comment. I am sure that today's debate has taken forward thinking on the matter.

Members should bear in mind that a policy statement on play might be more influential with stakeholders beyond the play community if it is located within the wider context of child development, rather than produced as a stand-alone strategy. After all, the issue straddles many policy areas and organisations. The Executive will continue to engage with Play Scotland and others as we consider the options for taking matters forward and supporting such an important area. I hope to report back to Parliament on this in the fairly near future.

I thank all members for their comments on what I think has been an exemplary subject for a members' business debate.