I very much welcome the opportunity to debate the contribution that sport makes to our nation. I think we can all agree that sport really does transcend boundaries. For many, it is an abiding passion that generates a strong sense of loyalty and pride. For others, it is a welcome distraction and a source of release from the pressures and stresses of our modern everyday lives.
Whatever sport means to us, its impact can be far-reaching. For the nation, our economy, cultural heritage, international standing and reputation are all influenced by sport. For the individual, sport can prolong life, improve physical strength and protect mental wellbeing.
My appointment as Scotland’s first Minister for Commonwealth Games and Sport is a tremendous honour. It brings significant opportunities and also a number of key challenges. I look forward to engaging with the Parliament on a regular basis as I take forward the Government’s agenda in this area. I make it clear at the start of the debate that, where there are good ideas or suggestions that I think will help to deliver the best possible outcomes for sport and physical activity in Scotland, I am certainly willing to engage with and listen to colleagues on those matters.
I turn to the focus of our debate. The contribution of sport to Scotland is, in my view, vastly underestimated. Quite often our attention rests briefly on individual sports or events without our considering the totality of the benefits that they bring to the nation.
Direct sports-related consumer spending alone amounts to more than £1.8 billion a year and accounts for more than 51,000 jobs in Scotland. Major sporting events have an annual net impact on Scotland of £25 million—not including the domestic spend associated with those events.
Even without the anticipated income stream from the Commonwealth games, EventScotland forecasts that the net impact from sporting events over the next 10 years will be in the region of £560 million—and that is a conservative estimate. Added to that, there are savings to the national health service from a more physically active population, which run into millions of pounds. For example, a 1 per cent increase in sport and physical activity would yield £3.5 million savings each year from coronary heart disease, stroke and colon cancer alone.
In Scotland we are uniquely placed to reap considerable benefits from sport and physical activity. Not only will 2014 see us host two of the world’s greatest sporting events in the Commonwealth games and the Ryder cup; it will of course also be our year of homecoming.
Before then, Scotland will play host to a number of events including the international children’s games in Lanarkshire, the mountain bike world cup in Fort William and the British women’s open at Carnoustie. Looking further ahead, we have the open championship and the world gymnastics championships coming up—and there will be more to come.
Of course, even greater income could be generated for sports if more broadcasting of the major events took place. As some members will be aware, the call for more rugby broadcasting was debated in the last parliamentary session and received widespread support. Today we have had a further call from Scottish Rugby for that to happen. The Scottish Government fully supports that call. I will say more about that in my closing remarks.
Hosting the Commonwealth games will place Scotland under intense worldwide scrutiny. My responsibility will be to deliver the games on time and on budget and to provide a showcase for Scotland at its best. It is around the games that our vision for a sporting nation will crystallise—a vision of Scots helped to become more active, physical activity embedded in our culture and, of course, our athletes excelling.
We are already seeing tangible results from our investment in the games, through not only infrastructure improvements and the creation of state-of-the-art facilities, but the award of contracts with a combined total of £227 million to Scottish companies. We are laying the foundations of a lasting legacy from the games and I am committed to making that legacy relevant and tangible for all Scots. I will return to the Parliament later in the year to debate that aspect of the games in greater depth.
Major sporting events can stir our passions and rally a sense of nationhood, but the maximum benefits of sport have been realised for the people of Scotland at the community level. Community engagement and development lie at the heart of our manifesto commitments on sport. That is why we will increase our investment in and support of the 150,000 adults who volunteer regularly to deliver sport in their communities week in and week out.
We will build on the success of the first 56 community sports hubs, which are being delivered in 12 local authority areas, by creating at least 100 new hubs by 2014. Sportscotland is taking that work forward. Community sports hubs have at their heart local sports participation, local engagement and local leadership. They are a catalyst for local partners, groups and individuals to work together for sport. They address the community’s needs by offering clubs and groups easier access to sports facilities and by providing community volunteers with opportunities to play a bigger part in leading sport in their area.
I want to do more to encourage greater community engagement in sport. I want to offer help where facilities can be reinvigorated by communities that seek to take on the responsibility of management or ownership. That is why I announce today our intention to create a new fund to encourage community ownership and management of sports facilities. The fund will provide seedcorn funding for communities and groups to get the right advice about sourcing funds, constructing robust business plans and ultimately achieving success when a compelling case exists. The new fund will make all the difference by providing modest amounts of financial help to get things off the ground.
In recent years, the numbers and types of sports and physical activities that are on offer to children and young people have undergone a remarkable transformation. The activities are perhaps very different from the sports that we played and the physical education that we undertook when we were children. The secret to our success in achieving our long-term goals will be to motivate more children to participate in sport and physical activity. Studies show that school-based sport and PE can build confidence, self-esteem and social skills, as well as embedding a lifelong love of sport and physical activity.
That is why we are absolutely committed to delivering two hours of PE for every primary school child and at least two periods of PE for every secondary pupil in secondary 1 to S4. Good progress has been made—from the 5 per cent attainment level before 2007 that we inherited, 55 per cent of primary school children now benefit from at least two hours of PE and 60 per cent of secondary schools now deliver at least two periods of PE across S1 to S4—but we need to do more. With the Minister for Local Government and Planning and the Minister for Learning and Skills, we will begin discussions with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities on how we can ensure the delivery of those important commitments by 2014.
It is not just PE that is important in the school setting. The active schools network has achieved remarkable success in recent years. More than 2,500 schools take part in the programme and, in the past year, it generated 5 million opportunities for young people to participate in more than 70 different activities that were delivered by more than 10,000 volunteers, made up of teachers, parents, senior pupils and coaches. That is not all about traditional and well-loved school sports, important as they are. Increasingly, outdoor activities such as mountain biking, surfing, skiing, canoeing and even highland games sports are being offered through the programme. That is a good thing.
That success deserves to be rewarded and encouraged, which is why we are committed to continuing to provide up to £13 million of annual investment in the active schools programme. In the current financial climate, that sum is not insignificant. It recognises the considerable achievements to date and the expectation of more to come. However, I intend to go further. I want to reward excellence in school sport and physical activity. Many schools have gone the extra mile to provide first-class resources and opportunities for pupils to excel in sports. Perth academy is one example that springs to mind; there are many others. However, despite their achievements, often those schools do not get tangible recognition of their success. I want to change that. That is why, inspired by the Scottish Sports Association, we will introduce a new schools sports award programme that will give proper recognition and reward to individual schools that embed sport and physical activity in their culture and strive to achieve excellence. The national award scheme will visibly demonstrate schools’ commitment to and achievement in sport and physical activity and will act as a catalyst for more integrated community links. I am happy to keep members informed of the development of those plans.
Local schools lie at the heart of our communities. I am keen to explore further the potential for their greater use to promote sports and physical activity. I will seek early discussions with COSLA on how we can take that forward and further open up the school estate.
Sportscotland, as our national delivery body for sport, is key to the success of making the improvements that we all want. The organisation is in good hands, with an excellent chair in Louise Martin. Sportscotland has been instrumental in reforming the accountability mechanisms for our sports governing bodies, which are also key to successful delivery. The sports governing bodies encompass the full span of activity, from increasing participation to supporting elite athletes to perform on the national and international stage. During 2011-12, sportscotland will invest £14.9 million in governing bodies. In my closing remarks, I will say more about what that investment will deliver.
It would be remiss of me to end my opening speech without reference to our national game: football. The events of recent months have brought to the fore some of the game’s less pleasant aspects, which have tarnished football’s image. However, under the First Minister’s leadership we are beginning to tackle some of those deep-seated problems. Last week, there was Cabinet agreement to introduce legislation to tackle unacceptable behaviour at football matches and to crack down on those who make threats of serious harm to others, whether displayed on banners, sent in the mail or posted on the internet. Sectarianism and bigotry have no place anywhere in Scotland and are not welcome in our national game.
A partnership approach is essential if we are to tackle the problem successfully. That is why we are working closely with football clubs, football authorities and the police as part of the joint action group to deliver on the eight-point plan that was agreed at the football summit in March. The JAG is focused on driving real and lasting change in Scottish football and will report with its recommendations before the start of the next football season in July.
In his second report on football reforms, former First Minister Henry McLeish set out significant proposals for reform of the Scottish Football Association’s governance structures. His view was that, without those fundamental reforms, progress on wider issues affecting the game would not bear fruit. I am glad to be able to inform members that the SFA, under the leadership of Stewart Regan, has taken the recommendations to heart. At its annual general meeting next week, member clubs will be asked to endorse the SFA board’s support for a radical overhaul of the organisation’s governance, disciplinary and accountability structures. Both the First Minister and I fully support those proposals and encourage their adoption at next week’s meeting. Working with the SFA, we will review the successful youth action plan to ensure that our support for the youth game in developing grass-roots football across local communities continues.
Given the importance of football to Scotland, it was right for us to give a commitment in our manifesto to use funding from the young Scots fund to provide a new national indoor football centre and associated national football academy. Delivery of that key commitment is an exciting prospect. I look forward to updating members on it as our plans develop.
Sport has a significant contribution to make to the nation and to us as individuals. Under this Government, our commitment to maximising the benefits to be derived from sport is guaranteed.
That the Parliament recognises the important contribution that sport makes to Scotland’s economy, culture and international standing; welcomes the government’s commitment to increase participation in sport and physical activity, thereby creating a lasting legacy for the 2014 Commonwealth Games; notes the benefits to the physical and mental wellbeing of the Scottish people through participation in sport; acknowledges the priority given to increasing physical education in primary and secondary schools, and notes the progress being made in improving community access to sporting facilities.
I welcome Shona Robison to her new post. I look forward to supporting her and the Government in those areas where we can agree and to providing some constructive suggestions, and—dare I say it—even some criticism where that is appropriate. The appointment of a minister specifically for sport and the Commonwealth games is certainly a clear statement of intent, but it will be how the minister works together with the games committee and Glasgow City Council—which won the bid with the support of the Parliament—that will demonstrate whether the new role works in practice.
The concept of creating a lasting legacy is welcome, but it will be very challenging. Apart from the physical assets, there have been no Commonwealth or Olympic games that have left much in the way of an enduring health legacy—and not much even in the way of a sporting legacy.
My first question to the minister is whether she will confirm that the sole instrument that she has devised to measure any health legacy is the Scottish health survey. It is expected to show improvements in physical activity and wellbeing and improved attitudes to physical activity, but will that be based against previous trends, or will there simply be an increase? A very small increase is pretty meaningless. I look forward to her giving us more detail on that, either in her winding-up speech later today or in the proposed debate that she mentioned in her opening speech.
I am old enough to have attended the Commonwealth games at Meadowbank. That was a joyous occasion, marred only by financial problems. I am glad that Glasgow City Council, the games committee and the Government have said clearly that the games are on target and on budget, which is important.
Labour was keen to establish Commonwealth legacy schools if it got into power, so as to focus on the new emerging talent, to be matched by creating Commonwealth champions. My colleagues Drew Smith and Patricia Ferguson will say a bit more on that later.
In its evidence to the Health and Sport Committee in session 3, the Government listed the intended legacy targets. That list was modest and vague, however, and I hope that the minister will publish more details sooner rather than later—for example, about the baseline against which the legacy will be measured and about what will constitute an acceptable increase in the numbers of sports and physical activity clubs and groups, and in their active membership and numbers of volunteers. Unless we have the baselines against which to measure the legacy, as well as some idea of what constitutes a reasonable and acceptable increase as a legacy, we cannot measure it.
We also need detail on how
“an increase in ... quality, affordable local facilities” will be measured—and I emphasise the terms “quality” and “affordable” as used in the evidence that was presented to the Health and Sport Committee. My colleagues Mary Fee and Siobhan McMahon will outline some of what is happening in their regions already, which contradicts the clear hope and aspiration of the Government and of the Parliament. I look forward to seeing how the Government will take those issues forward.
Amid the excitement of the games, we must not forget the underlying problems. The SNP made some progress on the provision of two hours of physical education per week, although the baseline of its own choosing was 2005, not 2007, interestingly. The commitment that Keith Brown outlined—hoping to achieve that goal in 2011—has now been put back to 2014. The question that remains is how it is to be delivered in these times of austerity. It is the councils that will deliver it, not the Government, unless the Government adopts a new approach to ensuring that it is delivered. Discussions—which the minister has mentioned today—are welcome, but surely there should have been discussions already and, surely, an outline of how to achieve the aim should have been in place already. More needs to be done.
I welcome the fact that the Government has agreed to maintain funding for the active schools programme, but will it also commit to maintaining the number of active schools co-ordinators? The Health and Sport Committee’s pathways into sport inquiry found that many of them were working on short-term contracts. Will the Government support those contracts being made permanent, as has happened in some local authority areas? They should be permanent, or at least the contract should last the lifetime of this parliamentary session.
The number of PE teachers is important. We have already learned of a cut in intake at the University of Edinburgh, following several years when it has been increasing. The Scottish Parliament information centre gave me information today from the Scottish Further and Higher Education Funding Council, showing that the only reduction in teacher intakes was in that area. I find that difficult to accept, as I think that the number of teachers is going down generally, but in any case there has been a cut of 18 per cent or thereby in the intake of PE students.
Margo MacDonald’s intervention was helpful. There is a major problem in many sectors. In future debates we will come back to workforce planning. Will the Government publish a workforce planning report? Before Margo MacDonald mentioned the situation in the Lothians I was about to make the more general point that many graduates are finding it difficult to get jobs.
It continues to worry me that there has been a fall in the number of PE teachers year on year since 2007. Will the Government maintain the number of primary teacher places on the training modules? Alongside the work of PE teachers, primary teachers’ confidence in their ability to deliver is important.
The Health and Sport Committee was keen on the concept of a physical literacy report—I am talking about not just the reports by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Education on individual schools, but assessments for each pupil, so that parents are aware of whether their child can do the basics of running, jumping, catching and throwing.
I want to move on from schools and staffing to consider the wider community. Under Labour, voluntary organisations were helped with disclosures. Will the Government ensure that free disclosures are made available to volunteers in sport and that the new streamlining of disclosures is effective in supporting the 150,000 volunteer coaches who are the life-blood of sport in Scotland?
The Scottish National Party has modified a number of commitments that it made in its 2007 manifesto, and I hope that the minister will clarify the Government’s intentions. First, the 2007 manifesto promised free access to council swimming pools. Labour wanted all primary pupils to have free swimming lessons. However, the SNP now refers only to seven-year-olds. Why does it specify an age? Seven is too old for some and too young for others. Surely what matters is not the age but the opportunity for every pupil to receive free swimming lessons. Will the Government fund the policy or does it expect councils to do so in a time of austerity? Secondly, the 2007 SNP manifesto contained bold proposals for five days of outdoor education, but the commitment appears to have been dropped altogether.
I will address the final part of the motion, which my amendment seeks to amend. Physical assets are important and I welcome the Government’s aspiration to secure greater community access to sporting facilities. I welcome the minister’s announcement on a social enterprise fund, because community control can be helpful, and I hope that she will give us an indication of the amount of money in the fund when she sums up the debate.
I also welcome the specific commitment to a target of 100 hubs, but will the minister say where the hubs are likely to be? Will she indicate—or place in SPICe—the principles that underlie the strategy that will lead to their placement?
There are already problems with the maintenance and upgrading of facilities in some of the smaller local authorities. Local authorities always cut maintenance in times of austerity. How will we ensure that facilities will be maintained? I mention three areas in that regard. First, ice rinks remain a problem, as the committee noted in its report on pathways into sport and physical activity. Curling should be one of our national sports.
I do not have time, I am afraid. I do apologise for that, but I must try to get through my speech.
Secondly, investment in expensive new artificial pitches is great, but if such pitches are not maintained they do not have a long lifespan. Some form of inspection is important.
Thirdly, I give an example from my area. Alva swimming pool has been scheduled for closure. As a result, Clackmannanshire will have only a leisure pool and no swimming pool. The Olympic pool at Stirling is oversubscribed, as is the facility at the Peak in Stirling, and the pool at the Scottish Police College at Tulliallan, which was a possible alternative, is to close. There is a waiting list for swimming lessons at the leisure pool, so not just talented swimmers but people who want to learn to swim cannot go swimming. I hope that the minister will agree to meet me, the local authority and the local member—if he wishes to meet—to discuss a way forward. The issue ties in with the point that I made about ownership, which is important.
I wanted to talk about the cashback for communities scheme, but I do not have time. The scheme should be focused on communities where there are problems of deprivation and drug use and where intelligence has led to confiscation. Cash should be ploughed into activities for the local youth in such communities.
I wish the minister well in her endeavours and I promise her support from my party in making the Commonwealth games a success that benefits Scotland’s sport and Scotland’s health and wellbeing.
I move amendment S4M-00168.1, to leave out from “acknowledges” to end and insert:
“notes that the commitment to deliver two hours of PE has been extended to 2014 and that Active School Coordinators can play an important part in delivery of this pledge, and notes the intention to make progress in community access to sports facilities.”
I begin by giving Dr Nanette Milne’s apologies. She was due to open the debate for the Conservatives. I am obviously now doing that, so my role will be taken by my new colleague Ruth Davidson, who will make her maiden speech summing up—I do not think that that is a usual occurrence. If members see some musical chairs in a minute as we switch round, it is because her console is not working.
Many members will have seen the recent reports of the heroic efforts of Major Phil Packer and several of his colleagues who, over the past few years, suffered very serious injuries in Afghanistan. Together, they have succeeded in some extraordinary sporting achievements that would be considered remarkable for able-bodied persons, never mind for those who have returned without one or, in some cases, two of their limbs.
Whether rowing across the Atlantic, finishing the London marathon or climbing El Capitan in Yosemite park, those former servicemen have demonstrated with extraordinary courage and conviction that sport can have an enormously powerful effect when it comes to transforming people’s lives. Although theirs might be a special case, the values about which they speak are often held up as those that define much of what is good in sport: self-discipline, teamwork, responsibility, the building of self-esteem and confidence, and the sheer enjoyment of taking part in something that can bring wider social and health benefits to the individuals concerned.
The many Scottish sports stars—men and women from many different parts of the country and from many different backgrounds—all tell us that sport has given them much. They also share the belief that grass-roots support when somebody is just starting out on the journey is important. That support is as important as anything in sport and we need to do far more in Scotland to ensure that we broaden the grass-roots support that is available, whether in the form of more qualified coaches, greater use of the nation’s sporting facilities, the provision of more equipment, help with transport costs or more supervision of our young people.
It does not matter whether somebody aspires to be an Olympic champion or simply to enjoy a little sport for occasional relaxation and leisure, the importance of grass-roots support in setting people out on the right track must not be underestimated. That is especially true for young children.
Does Liz Smith share my concern at the shortage of new referees coming into grass-roots football? Will she welcome the work that the Government and the SFA are doing on discipline? The professionals who hound and harass referees in games set a bad example and put people off going into refereeing at the grass-roots level.
Mark McDonald makes a first-class point. I concur with what he says. It is important that we address the matter.
It does not matter whether we ask Chris Hoy, Andy Murray, Mark Beaumont or Rhona Martin: they will all tell us that they would be nowhere without the grass-roots support that they received. Some people would say that too many of our sports stars in the past had to go elsewhere to complete their training but, as the minister said, a wonderful opportunity is presented to us by the forthcoming Commonwealth games, the Ryder cup, the open championship and, of course, the Olympic games in London with all the capital developments and the economic and social spin-offs that will come from those events.
It is good to hear that the planning for those events appears to be within budget and on time. We must continue to monitor that carefully as time goes on because other countries know to their cost what happens if contracts are not properly scrutinised and if there is mismanagement in the strategic planning of such events. If ensuring that the events go to plan is a difficult exercise, so too is the effort that is required to build a lasting legacy. That legacy will require a change in attitude and culture if it is to transform more than just a few sections of society.
That is why the Scottish Conservatives have worked intensively with Gavin Hastings to establish a grass-roots sports trust—an independent charitable trust run on the basis of supporting communities by making available more opportunities for youngsters in areas where there has been too little activity. I hear what the Government says and I applaud it for some new initiatives, but we must do much more—particularly in an age when, as Dr Simpson said, councils are struggling with their finances—to ensure that we truly value PE staff, outdoor education specialists, swimming pool attendants and any other support staff as people who can set youngsters on the first road. Another important aspect of our trust fund idea is the facility for businesses, philanthropists and other groups to have the opportunity to put something back into their communities and to do what they can to inspire greater physical activity among all people in that community.
Be in no doubt about the effort that is required to engage more fully with these youngsters. The SNP has made some progress on the target of two hours of quality PE, but progress is still fairly short of the target set out in 2007, which is demonstrated by the shifting of the target to 2014. That shows the extent of what we have to do. It remains the case that many schools hide behind excuses for why they are unable to deliver better opportunities. Perhaps there will be improvements as a result of HMIE inspections, the curriculum for excellence and some of the initiatives that the minister has set out. I yet again plead that we must look to provide five days of residential outdoor education for all pupils, because it is my fundamental belief that that experience gives them so much.
I will always be grateful for the sporting opportunities that I have enjoyed, and continue to enjoy, as a participant at every level of sport. I have played many sports and I am perhaps most inspired when, as a coach, I see what happens to youngsters when they get that spark of inspiration. That is what we need to do as a Parliament.
I move amendment S4M-00168.2, to leave out from “acknowledges” to end and insert:
“and recognises that far more priority must be given to increasing and improving physical education in primary and secondary schools, to delivering opportunities in outdoor education for all pupils and to improving grassroots support in clubs and schools and community access to sporting facilities across the country.”
It is a matter of great pride and honour to be standing here as a representative of the great city of Glasgow, the city that I was born and grew up in and where I received my education.
This is a position that comes with heavy responsibility but, like my colleagues, I will not shirk that responsibility and will endeavour to do what I can to improve the lives of the people of Glasgow.
As is customary for new members in their maiden speech, I will mention a couple of people who are no longer in this chamber and who deserve recognition for their hard work and commitment to Glasgow.
Many of the debates that we are engaged in centre around the theme of opportunity and realising Scotland’s potential. Nobody embodied that spirit of opportunity more than the late Bashir Ahmad, who, during his lifetime, went from being a humble bus driver to being a humble politician. His contribution to and love for Scotland and for Glasgow can never be fully articulated, but it is understood and appreciated by those who knew him well. I personally owe him a debt of gratitude for engaging me in the political process from a young age. I will leave it to other members to judge whether or not that was a wise decision on his behalf.
I put on record my appreciation for the enormous hard work done by Anne McLaughlin in the previous session of this Parliament. I have no doubt that, whatever role she pursues next in life, she will continue to fight for justice and compassion with the same vigour that she displayed day in, day out during her time as an MSP.
I turn my focus to the 2014 Commonwealth games. A consensus has formed that if we do not build a fruitful and lasting legacy we will have failed to gain the true benefits of hosting a major sporting event, regardless of the economic advantages that the games will bring. Credit must go to all the partnership organisations that are working so closely together to create that meaningful legacy—in particular Glasgow City Council and the Scottish Government.
There may well come times in the next 12 months in particular when Glasgow City Council and the Scottish Government do not necessarily see eye to eye. However, I have no doubt that their collective commitment to delivering a world-class Commonwealth games for Glasgow and Scotland is unshakeable.
Members have mentioned the obvious health benefits that come with playing sport, but I will take some time to touch on the other benefits—the social benefits—that are perhaps not so widely discussed.
One of the many successes of the previous Government was the cashback for communities programme. More than £40 million was seized from criminals and used to benefit more than 500,000 young people across Scotland, and Glasgow has been a huge beneficiary.
The main purpose of the midnight football or late night basketball was not necessarily to encourage local youths to shed a few pounds. Initiatives such as cashback for communities play a vital role not just as diversionary tools, but in bringing together groups that might previously have been hostile to one another. Far too often—we have been guilty of this recently—we focus on the minority who use sport as an excuse for their own narrow-minded prejudices and hatred but, more often than not, sport is a social activity. It is a tool that should be used to break down barriers between groups that often have very little in common. People may come from different cultures or speak different languages, but everyone understands that the ball hitting the back of the net is cause for unadulterated joy or, as is the case for most of us members of the tartan army, the thud of dismal reality that our team is behind again.
In addition to providing the social benefits that I have mentioned, the Commonwealth games promise to be a national celebration with an almost carnival-like atmosphere, as 71 nations of the world descend on Glasgow. We are already a diverse nation of immigrants and emigrants. It was the famous Scots author Willie McIlvaney who said that Scotland truly is a mongrel nation. Just a casual glance around the chamber when it is full reflects how diverse our tartan has become and how far we have come as a nation: Italian Scots such as Marco Biagi and Linda Fabiani and Irish Scots such as Michael and Siobhan McMahon are, of course, joined by me and my good friend Hanzala Malik, who are very proud to be—if I can speak for both of us—Pakistani Weegie Scots.
The participation in the games of 6,500 athletes and officials from across the world will only enrich our heritage, add to our cultural diversity and reinforce Glasgow’s image as a cosmopolitan city that is equipped to compete with any of the world’s major cities.
With the world artistic gymnastic championships coming to Glasgow in 2015 and the Ryder cup and the Commonwealth games coming Scotland’s way in 2014, the contribution of sport to Scotland’s economy will be significant and will amount to hundreds, if not billions, of pounds. Although that will be vital for our economic recovery, what excites me more is the self-belief that is evidently being instilled in Scots across the country. As we approach those historic sporting events, a wave of optimism is building and an understanding or a belief is forming that although we may be a small country in geographical terms, our ambition is vast and limitless.
However, if we are to realise our ambitions fully, we must embrace a new style of politics. In his first speech of the session, Patrick Harvie said that the Opposition would have to be positive and constructive and that the Government would have to be willing to listen. He very eloquently said that if that were to happen, the Parliament as a whole
“may be greater than the sum of its parts, and our achievements together may be more lasting.”—[Official Report, 26 May 2011; c 29.]
I could not agree more, and I believe that there is a lesson there for us all. Regardless of where we sit in the chamber, let us agree to cast aside the tribalism that has so often held us back and the bickering that turns people further away from our democratic process.
Surely there can be no better place to start than by ensuring that we work towards a successful games and a legacy that is inclusive and which can be accessed by all—in particular, by the most vulnerable in our society, including the 660,000 carers in Scotland and the thousands who live in relative poverty—and not just by the most privileged in our society.
I rise to support the amendment in the name of my colleague Dr Richard Simpson and, in doing so, I congratulate Humza Yousaf on his maiden speech, which was an extremely thoughtful contribution to the debate—I hope that that does not get him into trouble on his own benches.
It is my belief and the Labour Party’s conviction that sport is central to the wellbeing and vitality of our nation. The health and social benefits to be gained from active lifestyles are enormous; Government’s job is to ensure that opportunities for everyone to participate in sport are readily available. Government must also do better in getting across the message that sport matters.
Sport matters for so many reasons. At the highest level, it can be a force that unites and inspires the nation. The success of our elite spokespeople—sorry, sportspeople—can and does galvanise our population; our spokespeople do not do that very often. In communities, sport can be a beacon, bringing people together and breaking down barriers in the pursuit of improved health and wellbeing, as well as in social activities. It can transform the lives of individuals across all ages, areas and social groups. Sport and physical activity improve health, strengthen communities, reduce inequalities, underpin educational attainment and support lifelong learning. That is why Scottish Labour will support radical action to develop and deliver a national plan for sport.
Labour agrees that we must use the 2012 Olympics—and, more important, the 2014 Commonwealth games in Glasgow—as a launch pad for a sporting vision that will enrich our entire nation. That is why we worked so hard in government to win the games and why we will continue to strongly support them in opposition. The Commonwealth games are key to a healthier, more active Scotland. We must employ the period in the run-up to the games to emphasise the urgent need for Scotland to become more active. Nearly 2,500 people die prematurely each year in this country simply because they are inactive. That is a distressing statistic. Scottish Labour believes that a new attitude to sport and physical activity can change that appalling situation for the better. Such a change would represent the most significant legacy that the games can offer. It might not be immediate, but it will be lasting.
Another disturbing fact is that 150,000 Scottish children are now classed as obese. I firmly believe that, through sport and the Commonwealth legacy, we can ensure that the current generation of schoolchildren is not condemned to a life of obesity and illness. Sport can help to reverse those damning trends, but only if we parliamentarians recognise its importance and place it at the forefront of our national agenda.
It is my view and that of Scottish Labour that activity in schools is absolutely vital to the establishment of a lifetime of healthy living. We need to renew and reinvigorate the two-hour target of quality PE in our schools. Admittedly some progress has been made, but it is still the case that only 55 per cent of primary schools are meeting that target, while levels remain even lower in secondary schools. As a Parliament, we need to do more. We can do that by championing physical activity in schools so that it is no longer thought of as some extra or peripheral subject.
The member talked about physical activity, sport and physical education. All three are different. It might be that, in an effort to do well, we have got them out of kilter. Does the member agree that instead of a target of having two hours of quality PE a week—whatever that means—every child in every school should have a period of physical activity every day? That might take account of the expertise of teachers who are not PE qualified and inadequate facilities.
I am delighted to hear Mrs MacDonald say that and I agree entirely. I have a funny feeling that we debated that very matter a couple of years ago in a members’ business debate—
Mrs MacDonald had a slightly different attitude to the matter then, so I am delighted that she has come round to my way of thinking for a change.
We need to work together with all the interested parties to implement a best practice programme and to encourage schools to adopt creative, modern approaches to engaging our young people. That will mean embracing a wide range of activities. Physical activity does not have to mean solely a diet of exercises in the gym, but can include cheerleading or dance, which are particularly good ways of encouraging young women to be active. We know that inactivity is a particular problem with young women: up to the age of 12, they are as active as young men, but at the age of 12, their activity level falls to one that men do not reach until they are 40.
Central to that approach will be the active schools co-ordinators. We need to see their numbers grow to meet the two-hour PE or activity target. Active schools co-ordinators help to create opportunities to exercise. One way that they do that is by working with individuals and organisations outside school to help link young people with sports clubs in the community so that their activity does not end when they leave school.
I realise that I am running out of time rather more quickly than I thought, so I will move towards the end of my speech.
As we all know, swimming at a young age can be a catalyst for long-term activity. It is a sound starting point from which pathways into other sports branch off. Scottish Labour’s idea of a Commonwealth swimming fund has merit. Such a fund would ensure that every primary pupil in the country was entitled to free school swimming lessons, paving the way for a lifetime of activity.
I will take up the consensual approach of the minister and Mr Yousaf with my second suggestion, which is that sport in schools should be fun. If children enjoy activities, they will catch the sporting bug and be active for life. To encourage that, the Government should consider introducing a Commonwealth legacy schools programme. Across Scotland, primary pupils would work towards Commonwealth legacy status by pushing for common sporting goals. I will not go into the examples that I might have given otherwise, but I will say that children would lead the grass-roots revolution in the same way as in many of our communities they now lead in environmental issues through the eco-schools programme. We would welcome the opportunity to discuss those ideas with the minister in more detail.
Scottish Labour believes in sport as a vehicle for positive change that can enrich our country and improve lives. Sport is for everyone, from the young baby learning to swim to our athletes winning gold medals, and from the supporter who owns part of her football club to the pensioner who takes part in the sole mates walking groups in my constituency. The reality is that 2014 provides our nation with a golden opportunity. We must strive for the prize because in the fight against ill health and obesity losing just cannot be contemplated.
One of the delights of being relieved of some other responsibilities is the opportunity to speak on areas that have always interested me but on which I have not had the chance to contribute before.
I begin by congratulating Shona Robison on her elevation to her position in representing sport in its entirety by herself. I seem to remember the aforementioned Scottish Sports Association making that case to us all during the election campaign, and I see that the Government has met that election commitment. I am sure that Ms Robison will go on to tell me how many more it will meet in the coming years, but I certainly welcome this one now.
I should also pay tribute to Liz Smith, Patricia Ferguson as a previous sports minister and Margo MacDonald, who have spoken in sports debates with considerable eloquence and ability over the past few years—albeit that I have read the Official Reports of the debates rather than noted them in person.
To Humza Yousaf I say: “If that is the standard of your first speech, I cannot wait for the next one, the next one and the next one.” The mark of a good first speech in this place is the ability to hold members’ attention, not just because they feel that they have to pay attention because someone is making their first speech but because the member is saying something serious, responsible and important about the future of Scotland. If I may say so, Humza Yousaf did that today.
I will pick up a number of points that the minister made in her opening speech. I agreed with her—or, at least, with what I think she was going to say—on broadcasting. I have sought to propose an amendment to the same effect and, while I may have caught the minister’s eye in what I want to say on that issue, I was not so fortunate with the Presiding Officer. I also take the minister’s point on school awards, and I look forward to the detail that I am sure she will place in the public domain on that.
From my many discussions with headteachers the length and breadth of Scotland—I am sure the minister has had similar discussions, as Liz Smith and colleagues on other benches have—I know that the issue depends so much on leadership and the leadership that headteachers of both genders provide. It is through that leadership that progress will be made in schools. We can do what we can in Parliament, the Government and local authorities, but unless the process is led by able men and women it will not happen. My own limited sporting success would certainly accord with that.
I took, too, the minister’s points on sectarianism, which is probably the most serious element of her job. In my view, it is certainly the most serious element of what her Government will have to deal with in the coming five years. A sustained, firm and consistent political approach needs to be taken to the issue. Getting the approach right is one of the great, shining challenges of our politics and of our time, and to make progress on sectarianism and achieve something for Scotland will be well worth doing.
The Scottish sports alliance, which includes the Scottish Sports Association, asked us all during the recent election campaign to be champions for sport and to endorse the vote for sport campaign. I believe that we all did that to a greater or lesser extent, although I was a bit taken aback to find out that, following the elections, we have apparently all pledged to become Scottish sporting champions. I look forward to the minister challenging us all—we will perhaps challenge her—on quite how we will do that. For my part, it involves playing a bit of five-a-side football on Wednesday night, which is something I have not been able to do for the past three years, and a great return to Scotland’s greatest golf courses—sometimes with colleagues in the chamber, although the less said about that on the record the better.
I will make two points that are vaguely connected to my constituency of Shetland. One is on widening participation, which the minister and others rightly talked about.
For someone such as me, who represents a rural constituency—in my case, the islands—widening participation is about how we get the best, brightest and most able kids to sporting events in the first place. We can compete ably against Orkney. My good friend and colleague, Liam McArthur, is not here so I will not embarrass him by saying how frequently we beat Orkney at swimming and athletics, and, as we will next week, football. I have an ulterior motive in saying that, as my son will play in central midfield in that game. However, apart from that, when our impressive young men and women want to compete nationally, they face challenges of distance, money and the need to take their mum or dad with them to those sporting events, whether they are held in Glasgow or in other parts of Scotland.
Just the other day, Amy Harper from Gulberwick, a district of Shetland, took part in the east district open at the Tollcross leisure centre in Glasgow and won a variety of swimming events—notably the 50m freestyle, which she won in a time that qualified her to travel to Sheffield to take part in the ASA national championships. That is a pretty serious and notable achievement for a young Shetlander. Similarly, the other week, triathlete Lynsey Henderson took part in the British championships down in Leicestershire, which was a qualifier event for the 2011 world championships in Beijing and the 2012 European championships in Israel. We also have three fencers from Shetland in the top 50 in Britain. That is to name but a few.
Members throughout the chamber will have constituents who would make the same case. All that I ask of the minister is that she consider how we can best ensure that young athletes of whatever sporting discipline can compete. I have had that discussion with sportscotland and some of the governing bodies, but the minister has more power than I have to ask those bodies to give those young people the chance to compete and become the Olympic or Commonwealth athletes that we want them to become.
I finish with the point that the minister made about rugby. There is a strong case for BBC Scotland taking rugby more seriously and broadcasting it. The Welsh Rugby Union receives £4 million from BBC Wales. I am sure that the minister has had the same discussion that I have had with the Scottish Rugby Union at Murrayfield about the importance of that support. Given that STV does its bit, there is an onus on BBC Scotland to do its bit, too. The other morning, on “Good Morning Scotland”, was there any coverage of the rugby sevens at Murrayfield? No—no coverage at all. BBC Scotland needs to do a bit more, given what STV already does.
It will come as no surprise that, as the member for Glasgow Cathcart, the home of Scottish football, I am delighted to speak in this debate on the contribution of sport to Scotland. Not only does Glasgow have a fantastic sporting history; we are, as members have said, privileged to have ahead of us a magnificent sporting future with the Commonwealth games coming to my home city in 2014. That is a huge opportunity to showcase what Glasgow and Scotland have to offer. More important, it is a great chance for us to persuade young people up and down the country to get involved in one of the biggest sporting events in the world. This could be the optimum time to take massive steps towards combating our appalling health record and the ever-growing problem of obesity among our young people and to sell the benefits of a healthy, active lifestyle to those youngsters who think that social activity consists of playing with their Xboxes or sitting in front of the television. It is a chance to persuade them to participate in sports, with all the social and health benefits that that can bring.
Over the past few months, we have heard a lot about the nasty side to the game of football. However, like my colleague, Humza Yousaf, I want to say a few words about the positive side of football and sport as a whole—about its ability to unite people from all communities, backgrounds and walks of life.
I am delighted to be the MSP for the constituency where the first ethnic minority footballer in Scotland made his career. Born in Demerara, which was part of British Guiana, in 1857—no, I did not see him play in person—Andrew Watson was a successful player at Queen’s Park Football Club, the top Scottish team of the day, whose home ground is, as we all know, Hampden Park. He represented Scotland three times and was the first black captain of an international team when Scotland played England in 1881 and—wait for it—Scotland won 6-1. Glory days. He was also the first black player to win a major competition, the Scottish cup, also in 1881. He is an example of what sport has the potential to be. Sport can help to blur perceived differences, unite us behind a common cause and bind us as a society.
South Africa is a good example of that. Under apartheid, black South Africans were not allowed to compete for their country. That is one of the things that exposed the nature of apartheid to the wider world and became a focal point for opposition, through the sporting boycott. After apartheid, South Africa hosted the rugby world cup and, as we all know, Mandela’s endorsement of the national rugby team, although it still had only one black player, meant that for the first time ever black South Africans felt able to support their national team at any sport. That world cup became a powerful symbol of the new, democratic rainbow nation and of Mandela’s ambition to bring South Africans of all nations together.
The Commonwealth games give Glasgow and Scotland the opportunity to make a huge difference in 2014, if the country unites and works together to make this event all that it can be. The games can boost participation in sport and promote healthier lifestyles, they can create huge employment opportunities to tackle the problem of poverty in many parts of the country, particularly in Glasgow, and they can challenge head on some of the huge health inequalities that face the nation. That is why I welcome the moves that the Government has made to make the games a success.
In the new Government, Scotland has for the first time a dedicated sports minister. Shona Robison, who did a great job in the previous Government, will take charge of ensuring that Scotland is fully prepared to deliver a world-class Commonwealth games and—more importantly, for me—that we have the lasting legacy that I mentioned earlier. I am sure that all members will join me in welcoming the fact that the 2011-12 budget allocation for sport is now at £66.5 million, which is twice the amount that was allocated to sport before the SNP came into government in 2007.
It is the mark of an aspirational society that we create the opportunities for our young people to release their potential and realise their dreams. That is why I also welcome the £50 million that has been allocated to the young Scots fund, a project that will focus on sport, creativity and enterprise. Our young people can be sure that this Government will do all that it can to protect their future. That money represents an investment of confidence in them and I am confident that they will not let us down.
I am sure that the chamber will also welcome the Government’s commitment to community sports hubs. Indeed, our manifesto recognised that community sports hubs are a key legacy component for a healthier and more active Scotland. Only by making participation in physical activity more accessible for everyone will we succeed in our ambition to have a more active and healthier population. I am delighted that the Government has delivered 35 community sports hubs in eight local authorities and aims to deliver 100 of them across all of Scotland’s 32 local authority areas by 2014.
I was delighted to hear the minister touch on the field of traditional Scottish sports earlier. I was honoured to be asked to be the chieftain at the Carmunnock highland games last Sunday—I assure members that that would not have happened before May. I was struck by the wide variety of ages and nationalities of the people who were taking part in the various events and was delighted that, at the end, after seeing off challenges from England, Iceland and Poland, the overall champion was Gregor Edmonds, a local young man with an outstanding record in traditional Scottish sports. He has been world, European and Scottish highland games champion and a world’s strongest man finalist and has twice been a runner-up for the British title. He is a credit to sport and should be held up as an example of what can be achieved through hard work and dedication. Of course, he also comes from a family of athletes, and one of his forebears was one of that gallant band of nationalists who plotted to bring home the stone of destiny, so naturally I am biased. However, for me, it was clear that this is an area of sport that should be encouraged in our children from all parts of the country and, I hope, included or adapted to the school physical education curriculum.
It is well recognised that Scotland has a number of serious social and lifestyle issues that we must continue to tackle head on. The Commonwealth games give us a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to move on from those decades-old problems and give our young people and our future generations a chance to live in a fit and healthy Scotland. That is something that we all desire, and we must work together to ensure that Scotland’s legacy is that those future generations of kids from Castlemilk, Shettleston and other areas of our dear green place have the same life expectancy as those from the leafier suburbs of Scotland.
What sets this Government apart from its predecessors are the concrete steps that it has taken to make that happen. I applaud its determination, aspiration and vision for the people of Scotland—old, young and those yet to be born—and I am proud to support the motion to take Scotland forward.
I thank Humza Yousaf for stealing the beginning of my speech and James Dornan for stealing the content of my speech. My office will be locked from now on, as soon as I get the keys.
I stand before the chamber a proud Paisley buddie, the grandson of a mill lassie from Ferguslie. There has been a lot of talk about legacies. In Paisley, because the mill lassies were always paid the most money, they held the purse strings and were charged with decision making, so we ended up with a legacy of very strong-willed women, one of whom I married. She met Prince Charles last night, and I will be sending an apology to the palace as soon as I can.
Paisley is my home town, and it is an honour to be the first member in this Parliament to represent the town in its entirety. My mother-in-law has often said that I am unique. I thought that she was being less than complimentary, but it turns out that she was right.
It is important to remember some of the politicians who have represented my town in the past. Hugh Henry and Wendy Alexander have represented various parts of Paisley since the reconvening of Parliament, but I will also take time to mention a Paisley buddie who represented the town and always fought its corner: Councillor Jim Mitchell, who died earlier this year. He was a father figure to me and a major influence in my life and my political life. He was also very involved in Derek Mackay’s political life. He dedicated his life to the people of Paisley, both as a local activist and during 30 years as a councillor, and he never lost his passion for Scottish independence. I mention that because Jimmy’s ghost will be sitting there saying, “You didn’t get independence into your speech.” He is missed every day, and I will endeavour to represent Paisley in a manner of which he would be proud. However, I am quite glad that he is not here today, because he would be telling me everything that I have done wrong and how I could have made my speech a lot better.
On my way in here today, people said, “You’re talking about sport, George. When are you going to mention your passion for St Mirren?” Well, here it is.
I will mention some other people who have represented the great town of Paisley, this time in its sporting endeavours. In 1959, David Lapsley lifted the Scottish cup. I was not there—I was born in 1969, although I may look a wee bit older. I had the honour of naming a street after Mr Lapsley. Although he was not born in Paisley, he adopted the town and represented it well over the years. In 1987, Billy Abercromby—who had his own problems with alcohol and everything else after he left football, although thankfully he is getting beyond that—represented the town very well.
Those points are important, because they show how sport can make a difference in a community or town such as Paisley. On both those occasions, everyone in the community put aside their differences and supported their local football team. Regardless of which football team they actually supported, they supported their town. We even got to the stage in 1959 when Mr Lapsley was pronounced the king of Paisley.
Sporting success can make a difference in our communities, but it is not all about winning trophies. As the motion quite rightly states, it is about access to sport. It is good that the Scottish Government is providing most of the investment for the Glasgow Commonwealth games, which will bring financial benefit for all of Scotland and the west in particular. As everyone knows, Glasgow airport is in fact in Paisley, and in Renfrewshire we are saying that we are the gateway to the games.
The SNP-led council administration has been investing in sports for the future. There has been investment of £7 million in Seedhill and Ralston playing fields to provide 3G pitches and better changing facilities. The administration has been working with St Mirren at Allanton playing fields to provide a new training centre for our Premier League team. Regardless of which team you support, it is a benefit for any town like Paisley to have a Scottish Premier League football team. We are also currently investing £92 million in an education and leisure capital expenditure programme that will upgrade many of our sporting facilities. All of that has been done during times of financial constraint: it is all about priorities, and sport is one of our priorities in Renfrewshire.
The Lagoon leisure centre in Paisley will have £7 million-worth of refurbishment. The on-going development of the community sporting hubs in Paisley recently received more funding from both the local area committees. That will ensure that sporting clubs can join together, and it will offer them hope that they can still endeavour to do their best in their sport and encourage them to become part of the community hub network.
I am looking for further funding for tennis courts in Brodie park, where there is an old red ash court that is only used for one week after Wimbledon. It is not just about football; it is about other sports, too. I have been looking for that funding for some time. We need to get some people who are involved in tennis to take control and get some investment, as well as getting community activists involved.
In the same area we had a play park for pensioners, which the media found quite interesting. For £20,000 we got a gym for people to use in the public park. That is not a new idea, and it is not rocket science. It was laughed at initially, but it has been very successful. It provides access for people of all ages and ensures that everyone can mix in the park, which is how it was meant to be used.
Renfrewshire also has its award-winning diversionary street stuff project, which involves the council, the police, St Mirren, a local bus company and various other partners. We have street football, a gym bus and a youth bus, which encourage young people not to be antisocial and to have healthy lifestyles.
I am a great believer in getting involved in those programmes, rather than just seeing what happens. I once met a young boy who said, “I didn’t know the football was here, big man”—which seems to be what I get called when I am out and about—“but if I had known I wouldn’t have had these four cans of lager. I like a lager.” “So do I,” I said, “but the difference is that I’m 40 and you’re 14.” At the end of the day, all such young men want to be footballers, and if they can access football through those means we will be able to address that 5 per cent of young people who might end up getting involved in antisocial behaviour.
Sport is about making a difference to people’s lives. In Shona Robison—
I am just doing so, Presiding Officer.
In Shona Robison, we have a dedicated sports minister who will take up the challenge of tackling Scotland’s issues with weight and obesity and encouraging participation in sport. I have not been to the gym since I was elected, but I hope to start going again and be ready for the Paisley 10K. It is important that our young people are provided with information about sustaining a healthy lifestyle.
Just in case the spirit of Jim Mitchell is hovering in the chamber, I will end by saying that although I want to live in an independent Scotland, I also want to live in a fit, healthy and fulfilled Scotland.
Thank you, Presiding Officer. I am honoured to make my maiden speech in this our Scottish Parliament, as a member for Glasgow region.
As with others on these benches, my feelings on being elected to this place were tempered by sadness at the loss of some good representatives from the city of Glasgow. As I was most closely involved with the campaign in Glasgow Kelvin, I hope that members and other Glasgow candidates who are not with us will forgive me if I take a moment to say a particular word about Pauline McNeill. Committed to Scottish home rule, not only was she a champion of my city, its people and its causes, but she had other international interests, particularly the cause of the Palestinian people. She is a loss to my party and to this Parliament.
Like other colleagues, I want to congratulate the SNP on winning the election so decisively and welcome Shona Robison to her place as minister. She might not recall, but in a previous life working in health promotion I had much pleasure in arranging for her a health walk with a Paths for All volunteer scheme in Fife. In her tenure as Minister for Public Health and Sport, she showed real commitment to health-enhancing physical activity, and I hope that in her new role she will continue to promote a more physically active Scotland as well as a successful sporting Scotland.
I also hope that the minister agrees that protecting the number of active sport co-ordinators in local communities and ensuring that it does not decline is key to encouraging Scots to become more rather than less physically active, and that she will give priority to the issue of expedited disclosures for coaches and others and, indeed, the question whether in some cases such disclosures are needed at all. For example, it cannot be right that some volunteer leaders are having their criminal records checked simply to lead a health walk. The role of the Scottish Government, local councils, health boards and other organisations in this field should be to open up pathways to sport activity and better health, not to block them.
When I was young I swam competitively, and like Richard Simpson and Patricia Ferguson I ask the minister to consider the role that free swimming lessons for all primary-age children can play. I am not talking just about access to council pools for those who are already using them or about bringing in swimming lessons at some arbitrary age, such as seven. Sport and physical activity should be part of growing up for all our children, and maintaining healthy activity levels should be part of life for all grown-ups.
Glasgow is a city that loves sport. I know that because I live in the shadow of one of the world’s great football teams: Partick Thistle Football Club. Given that football is our national game, I ask the minister to provide real and proactive assistance to supporters who wish to play a role in governing or owning their clubs. In that respect, I highlight Bill Butler’s work with the supporters trust on this issue in the last session.
Be it in international competitions or in local youth clubs, sport has the potential to make us better people. In sport, we learn the rules of fairness, strive for individual success and often learn how to be part of a team. From climbing walls and outdoor sports to swimming at Tollcross and bowling at Kelvingrove, Glasgow is one of the world’s great sporting cities. That is why the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth games are so important both to the city and to Scotland. In my first speech in this chamber and on this subject, I pay tribute to Glasgow City Council, the Commonwealth Games Council for Scotland and everyone, including the Scottish Government, who was involved in winning the games for Glasgow and getting us to where we are.
The Glasgow games, which are on time and within budget, are on schedule to be the great success that Glasgow needs them to be. They are vital for the regeneration of the east end. As Richard Simpson highlighted, they are the first major international sporting competition to put a health promotion legacy at the heart of their planning. If that health legacy is to be meaningful, it is essential that the minister publishes baselines from which we can measure the success or otherwise of that ambition.
Glasgow 2014 has massive potential, not only to transform the city’s infrastructure but to improve Glaswegians’ life chances. Many young people will benefit from Glasgow City Council’s Commonwealth apprentices programme, which builds further on the excellent work that we are already doing in Glasgow. Glasgow City Council has put Labours’ politics into policy, given opportunities to our young people and ensured that the fight against youth unemployment is at the front and centre of everything that my party does. As a former chair of the Scottish Trades Union Congress young workers committee and a past member of the STUC general council, those issues matter to me, and I will make youth employment, decent jobs for all and fairness in the workplace my priorities in the Parliament.
In the period since the election, there has been speculation in the media about who is running Glasgow 2014: Glasgow City Council or the Scottish Government. I say gently to the Scottish Government that putting next year’s local elections in Glasgow ahead of the success of the games would be very bad sportsmanship. Supporting the organising committee and all the partners to deliver the best games yet, delivering for Glasgow’s east end, improving Glasgow’s health and increasing levels of physical activity are my goals for the 20th Commonwealth games, and I hope that the minister shares them.
Presiding Officer, I support the amendment in Richard Simpson’s name, and I am grateful for the time that you have given me. I look forward to the challenges ahead of me as a new member. I will put the interests of the people of Glasgow first in the Scottish Parliament, and I will strive to do my best for the people I am proud and humble to represent.
The closure of Ravenscraig brought me to the cause of Scottish independence. I knew that my home area would be devastated by its loss, and my community is still bearing the burden of unemployment and poverty.
Since I learned that Motherwell was the constituency that first returned an SNP member of Parliament—Dr McIntyre—in 1945, I have always been proud of the part that my home town has played in our party’s history. It was therefore poignant for me to witness the returns for the SNP in the Ravenscraig regional sports centre. The constituents of Central Scotland voted overwhelmingly in support of the SNP, and in doing so changed the political map of Scotland. I am humbled by their faith in me and my party, and of course I look forward to representing the constituents of the region to the best of my ability.
North Lanarkshire Council, Ravenscraig Ltd and sportscotland funded the spectacular £34 million regional sports facility that heralded a new era for Ravenscraig. I am glad that the cabinet secretary for finance approved the tax increment financing model that will secure the future of the Ravenscraig site and bring new hope and prosperity for the first time in 20 years.
I hope that I am not being too parochial as a new member, but I want to speak about what is in my ken as a local Wishaw councillor. In 2007, I was invited to be a member of the international children’s games organising committee, which is a joint venture that involves North Lanarkshire Council and South Lanarkshire Council. Together, those councils cover seven of the nine constituencies in the Central Scotland region. The international children’s games are the world’s biggest youth sporting event. In August this year, Lanarkshire will play host to 1,500 competitors aged between 12 and 15. We have worked with our schools and sports clubs in establishing development squads, and youngsters from throughout Lanarkshire have been given an opportunity to participate in expert coaching sessions. All our squad have completed the cardiac screening programme at Hampden Park, which helps to identify those who are at risk from rare sudden cardiac death. That programme is vital for young athletes.
For the 80 or so athletes who are selected to compete in the games, it will be a unique and life-changing opportunity. The athletes will be able to take to an international sporting stage, and in doing so will experience new friendships and cultural diversity. I assure my Edinburgh colleagues that Lanarkshire will offer the warmest of welcomes to their city’s team, as we will to the teams from Daegu, Macau, Baghdad, Nairobi and the other teams from the 71 cities that are taking part.
The games have provided a wealth of resource for the curriculum for excellence throughout North and South Lanarkshire. The local authorities have run design competitions for ICG calendars and cards, a competition to compose a song or tune to celebrate the games and a competition to design the torch. They have also developed an ICG-themed Scots language project. Such is the vision of both councils that, for the first time, and in parallel with the games, we are running a health and wellbeing conference to celebrate the way in which sport and physical activity can enhance young people’s lives. The conference is supported by a plethora of partners, including the International Sport and Culture Association, NHS Lanarkshire and Glasgow Science Centre. It is hoped that the conference will be taken up as part of future ICG events and will be part of the legacy of the Lanarkshire games.
Ravenscraig regional sports centre will feature in the games as one of the eight venues, hosting the badminton and judo. The centre, which has played its part in securing the 2011 European city of sport award for North Lanarkshire, is run by North Lanarkshire Leisure. As a board member of that trust, I welcomed the publication of the independent social impact evaluation that was conducted by Baker Tilly, which concluded that, for the £10 million that was invested in the trust, the economic impact in the surrounding area was £41 million, with the NHS being the greatest beneficiary. I am sure that those figures will be of interest not just to our sports minister but to the cabinet secretaries for finance and health.
I will finish by highlighting the ethos of the international children’s games, which are the concept of physical education teacher Professor Metod Klemenc, a Yugoslavian who suffered enormously as a youngster during the second world war. He did not want that suffering for future generations. He knew that by breaking down cultural and geographic barriers and by nurturing mutual respect and understanding, he would go some way to tackling the problems that blighted his life. The children’s games motto is “Together, all friends”. How very like those Scottish values that Robert Burns expressed:
“That Man to Man, the warld o’er,
Shall brothers be for a’ that.”
The first games were held in 1968 in Slovenia, which was then part of Yugoslavia. I trust that it will not be too long before Scotland takes her place alongside Slovenia as a small independent European nation.
I begin by saying how privileged I feel to follow in the footsteps of Robin Harper, the UK’s first and longest-serving Green parliamentarian. Robin is totally irreplaceable and his is a big scarf to fill, but I will do my best in representing the people of Lothian.
It is heartening to hear such positive contributions and a commitment to sport from across the chamber. There is obviously agreement that we want to be part of an active and healthy nation. I really do welcome the chance to speak in the chamber on this motion, as sport has been and continues to be an important part of my life, as it is for many Scots. The debate so far has highlighted the opportunities that we have and the challenges that we face in ensuring that Scotland becomes the healthy and active nation that we all know it can be. Our Commonwealth games bid was entitled “People, Place, Passion”, and its success was due in no small part to the recognition of Scots’ extraordinary passion for sport. The challenge that we have now is to transform that passion into a nation of physically active individuals.
Many sports associations and countless volunteer coaches are looking for the support that will enable them to best help their sportspeople to fulfil their potential. I welcome the fact that that responsibility is acknowledged. Governing bodies are working hard to provide an increased number of coaching training programmes. Waiting lists do exist in clubs. At Edinburgh Athletic Club we have a group of young children who are desperate to get started, which demonstrates desire to be involved. We must ensure that we have the coaches we need, so that young people have the earliest possible access to involvement in the sport of their choice.
I think it is partly because people get involved when their children are young, but when their children have passed through the system they lose interest. We are seeing more professional coaching programmes, and there is a real sense of attainment for coaches, which I hope will address that shortage in the future.
In order to make the most of the opportunity that the two great games that are coming to the UK give us in terms of a lasting legacy, we need to ensure that the fostering of active, fit, healthy and ready-for-sport young people is at the heart of national and local decision making. Progress towards that aim can be increased by creating a national culture of walking and cycling to school, which we can achieve by investing in attractive, safe, well-maintained walkways and cycleways, with schools and other local facilities as the community hubs for a wide range of activities. I welcome the minister’s commitment to such hubs and to community involvement and engagement.
We need to ensure that green spaces for free and informal activities are within easy reach of homes and that they are afforded the protection that they deserve in planning legislation. In cities such as Edinburgh, local parkland is increasingly attractive to developers and community sports facilities are threatened. Access to local spaces where children can kick a ball about, climb a tree and run around enables them to develop the basic skills and fitness that are needed for more structured activities and increases their physical literacy.
Of course, we need action in association with local authorities to deliver at least two hours of physical education a week to pupils. That runs alongside active schools. We need to ensure that active schools include families who might find even the minimal fees that are charged to be a barrier to participation for their young people.
I agree that obesity and its many associated health risks can be addressed by embracing the opportunities that we have within the next few years. The fact that the United Kingdom is hosting two world games in such a short period provides a unique platform to push towards a healthy Scotland. Those global events will have very local consequences for space and place, and not simply in terms of new facilities. The capacity of international sporting events to aid social cohesion and promote a positive message and a positive lifestyle is well documented.
We have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to tackle social exclusion through promoting sport and encouraging more people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds to participate. We must ensure that there are enough suitable sporting venues, whether pools, halls, courts or pitches, to enable local sporting participation by those who are inspired by the great global events that are coming to the UK.
The minister noted that spending on sport reduces spending on physical and mental poor health. It does indeed: it increases our national wellbeing and our individual self-esteem.
We have many talented elite sportsmen and women who are exciting role models and who inspire our young people—although it is still too unusual to find coverage of talented sportswomen in the sports pages of our newspapers. We must strive to develop an active sporting Scotland, where grassroots sport and community participation form the bedrock of national success and good health and where all our talented people, regardless of background or gender, are given the chance to shine through sport. Sport is the great leveller and, as the Scottish Sports Association reminds us, our greatest social movement.
The speeches by new members from across the chamber have been excellent. To be honest, we would never know that they had just joined the Parliament, which augurs well for the future.
The benefits of participating in sport are immeasurable. I am not sure what is more important—self-esteem, health, peer group interaction or team building—as all the benefits are vital in building people’s confidence. The benefits are not age related. No matter what sport someone plays or what their age is, all those features play a part.
For some people, sport is about being the very best. For others, it is about participation, recreation, fitness or just having a bit of fun. On being the best, we know that we are looking for the best tomorrow from our own superstar, Andy Murray. What I will say is not peculiar to him; I am certain that the same applies to other people who play at his level—such as his opponents Federer, Nadal and Djokovic—and their families. It is about not just the individuals but the family commitment. Andy Murray’s mother, Judy, and his brother have given up much in their lives for participation at the highest level. We should consider that commitment when a player of such quality plays. He is my own superstar, but of course sportspeople at that level in all sports dedicate their lives to their activity.
For other people, participating for recreation in activities such as golf, bowls, running and football is also competitive, although it is not at the same level as that of the Andy Murrays of the world. I used to climb, but I am afraid that I have given up because of my age. Now, I snowboard—I am commonly called the oldest snowboarder in town. Of course, when I have on my helmet, my goggles and my gear, nothing gives me away, except the creaky bones. I must tell members that I have been asked to join the Scottish snowboarding team—to drive the van.
When I was young, I had fun playing rounders and five-a-side football and going in for a quick dip. I did not know that I was participating in sport; I was just doing what I really liked to do. However, what we are talking about has a serious side. For example, a bowling club in East Dunbartonshire pays £1,000 a week to rent a property from the council. For the Official Report, I repeat that the club pays £1,000 a week for that privilege. The bowlers are not all senior people—the age profile includes quite a lot of young people, but quite a lot of the bowlers are elderly.
A question mark hangs over the sports centre involved. A decision might be taken to build a new centre, but the council does not have enough money to provide for that. If the sports centre closed and the elderly bowlers had no place to go, what would be the cost and who would pay it? The council certainly would not pay—the health service would pick up the tab, because if elderly people are not engaged or out and about doing what makes them happy, their health deteriorates and the health board has to pay money to keep people who deteriorate much earlier than normal.
It is not all about investment and money; as I said earlier, it is about how families engage. It is about the encouragement that families give and about parents spending the necessary time with their children. I have a 10-year-old, so I know what it is like. She is involved in gymnastics at the sports centre that I mentioned. There is always a wobble—a time when she says that she wants to play on her Nintendo, to watch TV or to play computer games, and really does not want to go to gymnastics three nights a week and on Saturday to hone her skills. We must be strong and say, “No, that is what you have to do.” We must encourage her. Unfortunately, at present, families too often listen to children instead of guiding them.
It is not the Parliament’s responsibility to ensure that children are always engaged, it is parents’ responsibility. Parents must not leave it to schools to ensure that that happens. It is a rounded equation. It is about our engaging with families and children and encouraging them to continue. That is vital for their wellbeing in the long run.
I thank the people of West Scotland for giving me the great privilege of representing the area for the next five years. I pay tribute to the devoted MSPs whom the Parliament lost at the previous election; I was looking forward to working with many of them. However, that lost talent has been replaced by many new faces, of which I am one.
I also pay tribute to Stuart Clark, the Labour candidate for Renfrewshire North and West, who was a terrific candidate and would have been a great representative of the people of the constituency. Stuart worked extremely hard in the nine months leading up to the election. Unfortunately, he does not sit beside me on these benches, but the Labour Party owes a great deal to him and to his wife, Jennifer, for the manner in which they ran their campaign. Iain Gray can testify to that.
Like many members of the Parliament, I have worked hard for my community as a councillor—in my case, for Renfrew South and Gallowhill. In the past four years in Renfrewshire Council, I have witnessed attack after attack by the SNP-Lib Dem administration: attacks on education, which were shamefully defended by the First Minister only a few months ago; attacks on services such as community centres and libraries, which are vital to small communities such as Bridge of Weir; and attacks on sports clubs and sports grounds, such as those affecting Erskine youth football club and Parkmoor boys club.
The SNP-led council has increased the hire for game and training facilities by 275 per cent. It plans to downgrade the pitch at Park Mains high school and to replace it with a red-ash surface, meaning that football in the community will suffer. One single mother to whom I spoke informed me that she now had to decide which one of her three children would be able to continue attending the football club. How are we to encourage children to adopt healthy lifestyles and to be proactive about physical activity when they do not have the opportunity to do so?
In 2007, the SNP promised in its manifesto to guarantee that every child received two hours of physical education in our schools. In 2011, the facts show that that is not the case. Almost half of all primary schools do not meet the target. Only 23 per cent of S1 to S4 pupils are provided with two hours of physical education. Those figures speak for themselves and continue to show a depressing picture of the future of Scotland’s health and wellbeing, as only 8 per cent of S5 and 5 per cent of S6 pupils undertake two hours of PE.
It is simply not acceptable to say that the blame lies with teachers or schools. The Health and Sport Committee found that the facilities in primary schools are not adequate and that primary teachers do not feel competent enough to deliver PE classes. Although some effort has been made through postgraduate courses at universities in Glasgow and Edinburgh, the number of active schools co-ordinators has been slimmed down by almost a third. Provision of specially trained PE teachers has not been implemented in the more appropriate areas, where health issues such as heart disease, addiction and mental health problems are greater.
I am proud to say that we on the education board of Renfrewshire Council achieved success, in that all secondary schools provide two hours of physical education a week. The neighbouring council, East Renfrewshire, has achieved great success in providing all primary and secondary pupils with the promised two hours. That council is a shining light and a great example for all other local authorities to follow.
East Renfrewshire placed a great deal of emphasis on working closely with sportscotland and on integrating the active schools programme into its wider sports strategy by hiring full-time co-ordinators. The council also created a high level of co-operation between schools and local clubs.
However, it should be noted that East Renfrewshire benefits from more favourable socioeconomic factors, unlike the council ward that I represent, Renfrew South and Gallowhill, where the heart disease rate is higher than the national average and where alcohol and drug addiction plague families and communities. There are worrying levels of obesity there compared with in East Renfrewshire.
The Scottish Government expects that, by 2050, almost 60 per cent of men and 50 per cent of women will be obese. The Scottish Government must act more quickly and more efficiently to deal with the obesity epidemic that Scotland faces, particularly in childhood. It has the answers but it cannot implement them due to budget cuts to local councils and the subsequent increase in costs that local clubs face.
It is well known that promoting healthier lifestyles and physical activity at a younger age will benefit the child through his or her life, but only if the funding and resources are made available—and that is especially relevant when the child enters year 5 or year 6 of secondary school.
If physical literacy is introduced at an early age, a child can have the focus and drive to continue with physical activity and sport, and the recommendation by the Health and Sport Committee that all children in P6 should take part in a physical literacy test, to help determine what help they need heading into secondary school, should be implemented by the Scottish Government. The skills that children learn through physical education benefit them mentally, physically and socially, and they also benefit society in general for generations to follow.
In the coming years, Scotland will be in the global spotlight as hosts of the Commonwealth games in Glasgow, the Ryder cup at Gleneagles and the Davis cup in Braehead. There is much talk about the legacy that will be left after the Commonwealth games, and I look forward to working with every member in the chamber to ensure that the legacy lasts longer than the fortnight of the games.
Over the next five years, I hope to work closely with every member in the Parliament to improve the roles of sport and education in Scotland, to encourage children to become more active in sport, to address the issue of female participation in physical education and to work towards a healthier Scotland.
Being from the west of Scotland, I must mention a football team close to my heart: Cherrie youth football club. The Cherrie boys are based in my home town of Renfrew and are made up of 140 children aged between five and 16. The club has been successful in starting a summer school for children aged five and six, and has been encouraging healthy lifestyles by offering nutritional advice and banning all players from using caffeine-filled energy drinks. I wish the Cherrie boys under-13 team good luck in the league cup final on 11 June. I will be there cheering them on.
Having made my maiden speech this morning, I begin this speech by congratulating my colleagues from across the chamber on making their maiden speeches this afternoon. I echo the comments of other members who have commented on the high standard of speeches. I might not always agree with the content, but the standard of the speeches that have been given is exemplary.
I begin by referring to something that Dr Simpson said. He referred to curling, and I recommend that he visit the fantastic, state-of-the-art Curl Aberdeen facility. The European curling championships were recently hosted in Aberdeen, and compliments were given by competitors on the standard of the facility.
I must sound a slightly down note, however: on coming into power on Aberdeen City Council, the SNP had to invest £1 million in the Linx ice arena in order to hold those championships and to bring the arena up to the required standard. That was due to an unfortunate legacy of neglect and underinvestment under previous Labour, Lib Dem and Tory administrations.
During the election campaign, I had the great privilege of visiting the Granite City amateur boxing club in Aberdeen, which is the home of the Aberdeen assassin, Lee McAllister, a world and Commonwealth boxing champion.
The club’s work in providing a focus for young people is excellent. It is about not only developing potentially elite athletes for the future but providing diversionary activity of the sort that members mentioned. Boxing is one of the sports that take children from poorer backgrounds, in particular, who might otherwise find themselves going down the wrong path, and help to give them a constructive outlet for their energies.
The club is searching for funding to try to develop new facilities so that it can encourage more female members to join the club, because there has been an uptake in interest in female boxing. I look forward to working with the club and other colleagues in the north-east to try to secure that funding.
I am pleased that the minister talked about action on youth football, which is close to my heart. Before I was elected, I worked as a football coach for a youth team in Aberdeen. When I intervened during Liz Smith’s speech, I mentioned the acute problem that there is in attracting new people to referee in football, because the problems that are often seen in the professional game put people off. I very much welcome the minister’s comments about looking at disciplinary structures at the SFA and the work in which the Scottish Government and the SFA have been engaged, which will help to remove some of the problems in getting people involved in refereeing.
Summer football needs to be considered in the context of how the youth game goes forward. The previous chief executive of the SFA, Gordon Smith, was keen on a shift to summer football in Scotland, as has happened in Ireland and many Scandinavian nations. Summer football has been piloted in the women’s game and should be looked at for the youth game. From my youth coaching experience, I can say that it is difficult to teach kids the basics of passing, moving and so on in December, January and February, when the weather is bad and pitches are of a poor standard and do not lend themselves to the development of key skills.
There is also a need to look at youth development by professional clubs. The Public Petitions Committee considered the issue during the previous session of the Parliament and the minister has taken an interest in the matter. I spoke recently to the president of Dyce Boys Club FC, where I used to coach, about a fact-finding mission to Sweden by one of the club’s coaches. The coach had looked at the system at IFK Gothenburg, where if a child joins at the age of 11 or 12 they are given a firm commitment and a guarantee that they will be at the club until they are 16.
For too many young players who go to professional clubs in Scotland, the guarantee lasts only until the next game. Very often, players are released mid season or at the end of the season. That is not always a problem in and of itself, given that we accept that football is a difficult profession in which to succeed; the problem is to do with getting a link back to the grass-roots club. If a player who has gone to a professional club is released, there needs to be some form of interaction between the professional club and the grass-roots level, to encourage the player back into the game at grass-roots level and get them picked up by another club. When clubs let players go, we must ensure that the players do not fall too far and land too hard.
There is hope for young players in the example of Paul Coutts. He did not initially make it as a professional but went to play in the Highland Football League, for Cove Rangers FC, in the south of Aberdeen. He was spotted by scouts from a number of English football clubs and was signed by Peterborough United FC—by Darren Ferguson, the son of Sir Alex. When Darren Ferguson became manager of Preston North End FC, he took Paul Coutts with him—Paul is still at Preston North End and has won a number of under-21 caps for Scotland. There is hope for a lot of young players who do not make the cut the first time round. They should not be afraid to go to the junior or Highland league clubs, because there are professional clubs out there who look at the young players in those leagues and try to get them back into the professional game.
I very much welcome the support that the Government has provided for grass-roots sport via the cashback for communities scheme and the young Scots fund. Let us rightly celebrate our top sportspeople, but let us also welcome the Government’s moves to invest in the development of the elite sportspeople through grass-roots sport.
I pay tribute to my predecessor, Andrew Welsh. Eighty per cent of Angus South is drawn from the Angus seat that he represented in this Parliament for 12 years. Prior to that, he represented the county for many years in another place.
Andrew never tired of telling people how proud and honoured he felt to have been elected by the people of Angus to represent their interests and those of Scotland in the Parliament. I now know how he felt and I acknowledge what a hard act I have to follow.
Sport and sporting success are hugely important to Scotland—30 years spent working as a sports journalist taught me that. During my journalistic career, I was fortunate enough to cover a football world cup and two European championship finals, and to witness my team, Aberdeen FC, lift the cup winners’ cup. Sadly, I fear that it may be some time before Scotland and the Dons scale those heights again, but I live in hope.
It is not only at the top level that sporting success of whatever nature excites and inspires. The sense of pride and achievement that youngsters and their families in particular take in even modest success is tangible. Indeed, during my time in journalism, one of the biggest challenges that I faced was placating relatives who believed that their youngster’s triumph was worthy of far greater coverage in the newspaper than it had been granted.
However, that sometime lack of proportion does not detract from the many success stories that there have been and continue to be throughout Tayside, Fife, Perthshire and, in particular, Angus South, the constituency that I am privileged to represent. Several years spent on the judging panel of the Angus sports council awards brought home to me just how blessed we are with emerging and established sporting talent in our part of Scotland and how fortunate we are to have the volunteers and coaches who nurture that talent. I am sure that the same holds true throughout the rest of the country.
Sport not only helps to shape a healthier nation; it builds confidence, lifts the spirit and instils a sense of pride. I say in passing that, in Angus South, we could not be prouder of our only senior football club, Arbroath FC, which during the season that just ended lifted the first major honour in its 133-year history. I look forward to watching the red lichties fly the flag for Angus South in the second division.
On a perhaps grander scale, the next few years promise to enhance greatly Scotland’s standing in the sporting world. In the short term, I look forward to the women’s open coming to Carnoustie, my home town.
Our friends and neighbours south of the border once boasted, “Football’s coming home.” Golf—in the shape of arguably the greatest golfing spectacle that exists—is coming home in 2014, when Gleneagles will host the Ryder cup. It will be the first time since 1973 that the event has been staged in Scotland. With 250,000 golf fans expected to descend on Perthshire and a global television audience of several hundred million tuning in, the country really will be in the sporting spotlight.
As we have heard throughout the debate, 2014 promises to be truly special, with the Commonwealth games heading for Glasgow. I reported on the games back in 1986, when Edinburgh was the host city. Despite the boycott and the financial troubles that marred the lead-up, it was a truly memorable event—in a domestic context, it was memorable most notably for the achievement of one of my constituents, Liz McColgan, who literally ran away with the inaugural women’s 10,000m.
With Shona Robison overseeing the games, I am certain that there will be no repeat of the problems of 25 years ago and that, just as the people of Edinburgh got behind the event then, so the good folk of Glasgow will in 2014. Indeed, I am sure that the whole of Scotland will get behind the games and the Ryder cup and that those events will provide a huge boost to our sense of national pride and confidence.
“more Scots walk a little taller, cringe a little less and occasionally have ideas above their station.”—[Official Report, 22 March 2011; c 34788.]
I believe that, come late 2014, Scotland—its confidence swelled by successfully hosting the Ryder cup and the Commonwealth games—will stand upright, the Caledonian cringe will be a thing of the past and, with the indisputable case having been made, we will be ready to take our place among the independent nations of the world.
For that and many other reasons that previous speakers have articulated, I support the motion.
I am delighted to be able to make my maiden speech in such an important debate.
I place on record my thanks to the former constituency members of Central Scotland for their support and friendship, not only in the past few weeks but for the past 12 years. I also pay tribute to Bill Butler and Frank McAveety for the fantastic contribution that they made to the debate on sport in the past few years. I hope that my speech today will not let them down.
As Clare Adamson said, the international children’s games—or the mini-Olympics—will be hosted by North and South Lanarkshire in August this year. That great event involves more than 2,000 children from more than 70 cities from throughout the world participating in sports that range from judo to sailing and to track and field.
The people of Lanarkshire are looking forward to the event being held in our area, so much so that the deadline for applications to be a volunteer had to be brought forward because of the high number of people applying. This is the first time that the event will be hosted in Scotland and I hope that as many members as possible will attend to show their support for the event and for the participants.
Sport is something that brings people together, no matter their background, because everyone has the same goal and vision: to succeed and be the best they can be. That is why it is essential that we do everything that we can to open up access to sport whenever possible. In this economic climate, parents cannot afford to send their children to football practice or dance class, which is why PE in our schools is vital.
PE is not only about the fitness of the next generation. That is important, of course, but we must remember that sport is fun; most of us get enjoyment from it, we can share it with our friends and family and we can use it as a release from the day-to-day pressures that we all feel. PE for our children is no different, which is why it is essential that the Government meets its target of two hours a week of PE in our schools as soon as possible. It is not acceptable that that commitment has been put back until 2014. That pledge should be a priority for the Government if it is serious about sport and fitness.
Another option that the Government should look at is the provision of free swimming lessons for, in particular, primary school children. One in four children in Scotland is still unable to swim. That is an extremely worrying statistic, because swimming is not just a sport or a means to get fit; it is a life skill that everyone should have the opportunity to learn. For far too many families, the price of swimming lessons is often too high, therefore the Government has to offer help. Free access to council swimming pools is a great initiative that is run throughout the school holidays in Lanarkshire, but free swimming lessons should be introduced to get the real benefits of that programme.
The price of sport can be a barrier for many. Many football clubs in my area find it hard to raise the funds that are needed to hire football pitches for training. How can we say that we are serious about sport and about football when we cannot provide affordable facilities? The options in my area for football clubs are to play on red-ash pitches or to pay the high fees to hire a suitable venue for 40 minutes. We have to look at a way of getting more and fairer access to state-of-the art facilities. It is all very well having the new 3G synthetic pitches installed at sports clubs, but when football and rugby clubs cannot afford to use them they cannot be fit for purpose.
As I mentioned, access to sport is crucial. That is why the work that is done by organisations such as Sportworx, which works with 15 to 20-year-olds from deprived communities across South Lanarkshire, is vital. Sportworx recognises the good in young people by highlighting their achievements, abilities and potential. The organisation gives young people the opportunity to become sport and dance coaches, which helps with their self-esteem, confidence and life skills. Such organisations are vital if sport is to continue to be at the heart of Scottish culture.
One of my greatest achievements in my relatively short life is, of course, being elected to Parliament, but another of those achievements has to be being the only girl on the school football team. I was not there to make up the numbers—they did not give me the nickname of Shevchenko for nothing! I tell the chamber that because I take pride in it; I was proud to be part of that team and to make the friends that I did along the way. If we do not open up access to sport in this country, many young people will not get the opportunity to feel the way that I did. We have to encourage rather than discourage; we have to motivate parents and teachers to become involved in children’s sporting activities; and we have to provide the right support and training whenever and wherever possible.
To conclude, I wish to use the words of another member, who stated in their maiden speech in 1999 that
“It is only right that the first aim of this Parliament is the creation of prosperity for this country. However, if we do not work to ensure that nobody is in any way excluded from access to that prosperity, we will undoubtedly fail the people.”—[Official Report, 16 June 1999; c 438.]
Those are, of course, the words of Michael McMahon. They are as true to this debate today as they were to his in 1999.
I congratulate Siobhan McMahon on her maiden speech. I think that it was Billy Connolly who once remarked, upon returning to Glasgow to perform in front of the native citizens of his city, that he was a little nervous performing in front of his relatives. That was literally the case for Siobhan McMahon; I am not quite sure how she felt about it, but I thought that she made a very good speech indeed and one that reflected the good quality across the board of the maiden speeches that we have heard today. I am loth to remark on any of them specifically, but Drew Smith’s cannot go unremarked, given his extremely sensible comments about Partick Thistle. I hope to hear more of those over the coming years.
Like Tavish Scott, I was a little surprised to find myself branded as a sporting champion. I thought that that might have been because I was one of the Parliament’s most finely honed athletes—I entirely accept that that is a comparative rather than an absolute measure—but I was disappointed to find out that it was because I had signed a pledge during the recent election campaign. That demonstrates the importance of sport, politically.
Before I come on to the substance of my speech, I should declare an interest as a member of the Jags Trust—I think that I have made my footballing allegiances fairly clear. Humza Yousaf talked of the pain of being a member of the tartan army. As a supporter of Partick Thistle and the national team, I can testify to having experienced twice the pain and double the agony.
It is good that we are having a debate on sport, because there is a tendency in some quarters to denigrate sport. Sport plays an important part in our wider civic society. Sporting success is important for our national psyche, and the minister’s point about how it affects our pride and prestige was well made. It is important for the individual, as well. We know that physically active people have a 20 to 30 per cent reduced risk of premature death and a 50 per cent reduced risk of contracting major chronic disease; making those remarks has reminded me that I should probably be more active. As well as demonstrating the health benefits for the individual, those statistics highlight the important benefits that sport has for our NHS, which Gil Paterson correctly pointed out.
I want to spend the rest of my allocated time talking about the importance of sport in the Cumbernauld and Kilsyth area that I am privileged to represent in the Parliament. It is important at grass-roots level and beyond, but I will begin with the grass roots. I was pleased by the support for grass-roots football that the Scottish Government provided recently through the cashback for communities scheme that Humza Yousaf and Mark McDonald mentioned. Cumbernauld Colts Football Club, which is an excellent institution with 500 members that provides training and diversionary activity for youngsters across Cumberbauld, was given one of the largest awards in recent times for a new dedicated facility in the town. During the election campaign, I was delighted to meet the chairman of Cumbernauld Colts to hear about the club’s plans for that money and the new facility, and about the potential that exists for joint working with Cumbernauld Rugby Football Club to create a great sports hub for the area. In the event that that is created, I am sure that the Colts and the rugby club, if it is involved, would not mind me inviting the minister to come along and see it. That facility will be possible only as a result of the cashback for communities initiative.
I realise that this is not an area that falls entirely within the minister’s responsibility, but it is one on which I hope that some movement is possible. I know that the amount of money that can be raised by the cashback for communities scheme is limited, and that any excess goes back to the Treasury, but I hope that we can see some movement on that. Rather than moneys that have been seized as the proceeds of crime going down the plughole at HM Treasury, we would all rather see them being spent in our communities to benefit sports and other clubs.
Another grass-roots sports club in my area, members of which I was pleased to meet during the recent election campaign, is the Cumbernauld BMX Club. I met them at a sports club fair at St Maurice’s high school, which demonstrated the variety of great sports clubs that we have in Cumbernauld and Kilsyth. It has been many a year since I have been on a BMX. The club wants to create a dedicated track in the Westfield area of Cumbernauld, which, as well as benefiting local youngsters and others from a physical activity point of view, could attract events to the area and provide it with an economic boost. Sport is important not only for physical activity, but for economic reasons.
Unlike James Dornan, I cannot lay claim to representing the home of Scottish football—although the supporters of Clyde Football Club might disagree with that. Clyde are the only senior club in the Cumbernauld and Kilsyth area, although there are two junior clubs. Perhaps I should have lodged a motion offering my congratulations to Kilsyth Rangers on winning their division this year.
I do not have much time left, but I want to talk about the situation of Clyde Football Club. I support Partick Thistle, who are considered Clyde’s great rivals, but I represent the area in which Clyde play. The club has great concerns about its lease with the North Lanarkshire Leisure trust for the use of the Broadwood stadium, because it cannot generate the revenue required. I should perhaps discuss the issue with Clare Adamson, who said that she was a member of the trust. I do not suppose that I can ask the Scottish Government for direct intervention, or to comment on this area too much—I am sure that the minister will be glad that I am not asking her for that—but I wonder whether she will consider how councils support senior sporting institutions such as Clyde Football Club and other football clubs in the area. Although Clyde are not in the SPL like St Mirren—the club mentioned by George Adam—they are still important to the area.
I see that I have no time left, so I thank the Presiding Officer for the time that she made available, and I look forward to hearing what the minister says at the end of the debate.
You are more generous than your predecessor—thank you.
I congratulate Shona Robison, and I would like to say how glad I was that she was appointed as the minister responsible for sport. She knows that I did a fair amount of earbashing, and I should tell the minister that the cross-party group on sport—which reconvened this afternoon—also sends her its best wishes. The group will be looking for lots of things from her.
Before I go on, I want to explain why I will be supporting the Conservative amendment this afternoon. The minister’s motion is a blank canvas; the Conservative amendment fills in some of the detail and, by now, we should be getting down to detail. But before I do, I must remark on George Adam’s fantastic speech. He talked about the time—I think that it was 1959—when St Mirren won the cup. Jim Rodger, who I think scored the winning goal, was my maths teacher.
Patricia Ferguson—to whom I pay tribute for the work that she did in the role that the present minister now occupies—said that physical activity is embedded in our culture. We wish. Deep-fried Mars bars are more likely to be embedded in our culture. However, attempts are being made all round the chamber to change that.
A point that I made during an earlier intervention could be taken on board by the minister. We know that we cannot achieve—for all sorts of different reasons—the two hours of physical education in different schools in different parts of the country. However, in order to embed the idea of physical activity and sport eventually, it would be good to consider having a period every day for every schoolchild during which they get their sports kit on and perhaps sweat a wee bit. Zumba dancing and all sorts of other things can be done in a small space with the help of teachers who may not have the confidence to tackle other kinds of PE.
I want to commend the minister on the schools national award scheme; I am anxious to hear much more about it, and I hope that she can tell us something when she sums up. That is the sort of direction towards which I think we should be heading.
I make a plea about the football legislation that the Government is considering just now: do not rush into it. The issue is much more complex than simply saying that Rangers and Celtic are to blame for sectarianism, and it is much more complex than simply saying that all we have to do is fix the issue with refereeing. There is no need to rush into this. Things have been as they are for a long time and I think that a bit of thoughtfulness now would improve the legislation that will come out at the other end.
When they go into schools, footballers could be much better role models than they are at the moment on a Saturday afternoon. Of course, I exclude Hibs from that comment—I say that only because I hold a season ticket. However, we could use the current crop of footballers much more: they could go into schools and explain to young people why they should not behave towards referees in the way that the players behave on a Saturday.
There was a mention made of golf. It may be that there are some terrific golf courses and golf clubs in Scotland, but most golf clubs are suffering. They are finding that, instead of having waiting lists for memberships, they are having to cleek people in the door. We should look at golf before it goes beyond us, because that is where sport integrates with our economy. Golf is a very important sport for us.
I wonder whether, when we talk about sport, it is borne in mind that we do not get elite athletes unless we have wide community participation in sport. The way into that is definitely through the PE teacher. Far too many PE teachers have qualified but have no chance of getting a job given the cutbacks over the next few years. I ask the minister to consider putting it to her education colleagues that we should have a moratorium for two or three years on churning out even more PE teachers. If they cannot get work, they will drift away from the profession, and all the investment and expertise are lost.
It gives me great pleasure to close this debate for the Conservatives. Frankly, it is an honour just to be speaking in this chamber and to be following the representatives from Glasgow who have gone before me. In particular, I would like to mention the member from my own party, Bill Aitken, who represented the city he loves for 12 years in this chamber. He gave many more years of selfless service at council level. I wish him well in his well-earned retirement. Given all Bill’s past associations and his continued vocal support, along with other members of the chamber, for Partick Thistle, it seems somewhat fitting to follow him in my first outing by talking about sport.
The motion this afternoon is wide ranging in its remit, and the quality of debate has been high, particularly in the contributions from new members—I will try desperately hard to keep up.
Health outcomes is one of the big issues that have been raised today, and I agree with Dr Richard Simpson on the need to ensure that the qualitative measurement of outcomes is up to scratch as we go forward. We heard too from Tavish Scott on the importance of leadership in schools, from Humza Yousaf and Alison Johnstone on the social dividend of sport, and from James Dornan on sport’s cultural impact.
I would like to add a few comments of my own, as I believe that sport is part of our culture. It shapes and describes us as a nation every bit as much as art or music, literature or theatre. It affects the country’s consciousness and is part of who we are, whether that is on the march with Ally’s army in 1978—for some of the elder members of this chamber—or willing on Chris Hoy in 2008 for some of the younger ones. It is that glimpse of Murray mania at Wimbledon every year, the desolation when our team is put out of the cup, and the disgust and shame that we have all felt when a football match has spilled over into sectarianism, violence and hate.
Sport has a power and influence. It captures the imagination, inflames passion and ignites ambition unlike any other pursuit. We must concentrate on making it a force for good.
In Scotland we are blessed with a landscape that spoils us and a climate that does not—hence the point about the need for summer football, with which I agree. From first-class ice climbing in Kinlochleven to world-class mountain biking in Innerleithen, we have the building blocks to encourage excellence. Tavish Scott, George Adam, Clare Adamson and Jamie Hepburn all spoke of individual opportunities in their own area, and I would like to talk about my patch in Glasgow.
From champions league football to world team badminton and table tennis, title fight boxing, indoor athletics and artistic gymnastics, Glasgow is and has been proud to welcome the world. We will do so again in 2014 for the Commonwealth games. I echo the words of Drew Smith when he highlights the importance of the good governance of the games and acknowledges that the current preparations are progressing on time and on budget. We need strong oversight to ensure that that continues.
As such, like Dr Richard Simpson and others I welcome the appointment of Shona Robison as minister for the new portfolio of Commonwealth games and sport. I was heartened to hear that her door will be open to those from all parties who have an interest in seeing the games succeed.
The crux of the debate is about increasing participation, which, as many contributors have stated, must be done at grass-roots and school levels. Liz Smith has ably set out Conservative plans for a sports trust to help the expansion of community sports throughout Scotland, and I support the amendment in her name, which calls for the Government to make more urgent progress on targets for PE provision in schools. All of us, across the chamber, want that to happen and we are concerned about the time slippage on that goal. I also inquire about the £1 million for outdoor education that was promised by John Swinney to Derek Brownlee in the 2009 budget negotiations. I hope that, in her closing remarks, the minister will clarify when that money will be forthcoming.
As I stand here next to Liz Smith, it is pretty clear which one of us has been an international athlete—it is not me. I am a club player at best, taking the occasional hill walk or exercise class, and that is about my limit. Yet, despite those limitations, my life has been immeasurably improved and altered by sport. At all levels, sport has the power to improve mental and physical health. It imparts a valuable lesson about how to be gracious in defeat as well as in victory. It teaches teamwork, discipline and a selflessness in front of goal. It cements friendships and it makes the spirit soar. The lessons of sport truly are the lessons of life, which is why grass-roots and community provision is so important.
Whether one is testing oneself against an opponent or trying to beat one’s own best efforts, sport is about the struggle for improvement, attainment and pride. It is about our striving to be the best that we can be. I urge the Government to help us to reach our collective best, making good on its promises of PE provision, outdoor education and making the Commonwealth games in Glasgow a legacy for all of Scotland that is measured not just in money, buildings or jobs—important as those are—but in the ambition, belief, opportunity and motivation of individual Scots to go out and compete at their own level, whether that is on a five-a-side pitch in the middle of a city or above the snow line up a mountain range. The work needs to start at grass-roots level now for us to build ourselves a healthier, happier and more ambitious nation.
I congratulate the many first-time speakers in the chamber today. The quality of the speeches and the evident commitment to individual communities that has come through in almost every speech have been extremely welcome and bodes well for the chamber in this session of Parliament and for sport. Sometimes, sport does not get the priority it should. My job has been made more difficult by Ruth Davidson’s eloquent summing up—it is the first time that I have heard a member sum up for their party in their first speech.
Where to start? We are all agreed that the Commonwealth games are important. Many members have alluded to the contribution of the city, the committee and the Government to making the games a success and achieving a legacy for Scotland.
Patricia Ferguson referred to the premature deaths that are associated with a lack of activity and to the growing epidemic of obesity. Those things cannot be tackled overnight, or by targets at 2014; the work must begin now and continue throughout the coming years to ensure that people get active.
Liz Smith referred to veterans, but the participation of all people with disabilities in sport is important. Various games now have disabled games alongside them, which allows those people to have aspirations along with the rest of the community. I refer briefly to the Scottish Association for Mental Health’s get active programme. Many people with serious mental health problems are the least active in our communities yet benefit the most from activity, as people’s mental health and general wellbeing can be improved by becoming active.
Members have referred to female participation in sport and the fact that girls participate equally with boys up to the age of 12 but not beyond that age. That is a particular challenge that I am sure the minister will make a great attempt to meet.
Many specific sports have been mentioned. Mark McDonald invited me to go to Aberdeen. I say to Mark—sorry, to Mr McDonald; we are not allowed to use first names, as I should know—that I do not need to go as far as Aberdeen; Stirling has a new curling rink, which has been very successful. I learned at an event I attended that 70 youngsters are participating in early training in the sport. Some of them use devices to throw the stones. They are obviously enjoying the activity a great deal. I believe that there is to be a new centre at Kinross, as well. The establishment of new centres reflects an important development, but the trouble is that ice rinks are declining, and there are serious problems with curling. The Health and Sport Committee heard evidence in that regard from various people.
A lot of members have spoken about swimming lessons. I hope that the minister will consider the issue of lessons not being age related. The fact that one in three children cannot swim needs to be considered.
Margo MacDonald referred to the fact that many golf clubs are in trouble. Audit Scotland predicted that 35 per cent of golf clubs will cease functioning because of financial difficulties. That is a challenge for us in relation to a sport in which we have a long and proud history. Graeme Dey referred to the women’s open and the Ryder cup, which present us with opportunities to encourage more youngsters to participate. I know that the Government has done something in that respect, which I welcome. A lot of youngsters are now involved in the sport. We heard about the club in Newton Mearns that allows youngsters to try the sport out. Trying sports out is important.
Tavish Scott and the minister referred to the deficit in broadcasting. We invented the sevens, yet the BBC chose not to broadcast the event. I was there on Sunday and it was a great and joyous occasion in which many countries participated. Scotland did not win; we were beaten by Kenya in the final of the bowl. Nevertheless, it was a great day out and one that should have been celebrated by our broadcasters. If our rugby is not broadcast, it will not improve. The Government has done its bit by providing cashback funding and development officers that are increasing the number of basic players, but unless we get the participation of the BBC there will be problems. I join the Government and the Liberal Democrats in saying that the BBC must broadcast our rugby.
Sectarianism in football has been mentioned, but we know that it is present in other areas. My son, who works in addiction services in Glasgow, says that he cannot go into work wearing either a green shirt or a blue shirt because he knows that he will be abused by people in the clinic if he does. Sectarianism is extremely difficult to tackle. We will support the Government’s efforts in renewing the commitment to tackling sectarianism, and I hope that we will be successful.
We talked about the target for PE in schools. I reiterate the difficulties of delivering it when the Government is not directly responsible, but it must take some responsibility for the delay. I would like to hear how it will go beyond discussions, which is all that was mentioned in the minister’s opening speech.
We heard about PE teachers not getting places. I can say to Margo MacDonald that the intake has already been cut. There are problems with workforce planning that need to be considered.
We need to maintain the number of active school co-ordinators. I know that because there are more full-time active school co-ordinators the number has fallen but, as I said in my opening speech, we need to ensure that they have contracts of a length and permanence that enable them to participate to as great a degree as possible.
I welcome the money that is being given to the active schools project and the fact that active schools are to be encouraged. I hope that the combination of my party’s concept of the Commonwealth legacy schools and the minister’s announcement of a national award system can be in some way combined to provide an effective encouragement to schools that are participating.
Mary Fee and Siobhan McMahon introduced a dose of reality into our discussions. We all feel warm about sport and are keen to encourage it, but the reality is that councils are faced with serious financial difficulties that are already being reflected in increased charges. If charges are increased, the poorest in our communities will have the most difficulty accessing facilities. That will be a challenge for the Government as well as councils, and I hope that the Government will be able to meet it.
The Government announced its 100 hubs today. I hope that it will tell us where they are and the basis on which they will be developed. I welcome the hubs that have been developed so far, but we must also ensure that those pitches are properly maintained.
George Adam emphasised the importance of the hubs and the contribution that has already been made in his constituency. Alison Johnstone talked about safe walkways and cycleways; I do not think that anyone else mentioned cycling, which is another important area in which general participation can be improved and increased.
Yes—I have 10 seconds left. The cashback scheme is clearly important, and James Dornan and Humza Yousaf referred to the social integration it fosters through the sports it helps to provide.
I am sorry if I have not been able to mention all the first-time speakers, but I will end where I began, by saying that their contributions were truly excellent and that I hope they will continue to enjoy their time in the Parliament.
I am grateful for the way in which members have responded to the debate. Like others, I praise the excellent maiden speeches that we have heard this afternoon from members on all sides of the chamber.
I said in my opening remarks that I would come back to a couple of issues. I turn first to sportscotland and the reforms that are aimed at bolstering the accountability of the Scottish sports governing bodies. All investments made by sportscotland are now linked strategically to agreed outcomes that reiterate the key priorities for funding. That is important because it links directly to targets for increasing participation, which means a focus on getting children and young people into sport. Also involved are requirements for volunteers and coaching and elite performance, which is important as we look towards raising the bar from Delhi and increasing our medal take. Real progress has been made with regard to how resources were given out previously.
I also mentioned broadcasting in my opening remarks—as have others during the debate. I share the view expressed by Scottish Rugby that we need to increase the level of rugby coverage on terrestrial and satellite television, but I would go further and say that we need to increase the level of broadcasting across a range of sports. I know that other members support that view.
As the First Minister said in his statement to Parliament last week, many of our leading cultural figures have backed the call for a Scottish digital channel. In the previous parliamentary session, as we know, the call for a Scottish digital channel was unanimous across the chamber. I believe that such a channel would provide a unique platform for Scotland to showcase the full range of sporting events that take place throughout the nation, and I urge members to support us in that cause.
I stressed in my opening remarks the important role of schools in instilling in their pupils a lifelong passion for sports and physical activity. Our new school sports award programme will give that due recognition, but we should remember the excellent work that is already under way in promoting school sports. Events such as the Bank of Scotland national school sports week, which I will launch next week, play an important part in maintaining our children’s motivation and enthusiasm for sport. More than 175,000 pupils participated in last year’s event, and this year’s event is destined to be even more popular. Our proposals will complement rather than replace the important role that the private sector plays in promoting sports and physical activity.
I will now consider some of the issues that members have raised; I apologise if I do not manage to get round them all. I will attempt to write to members who have raised specific questions if I do not manage to answer them.
Richard Simpson asked in his opening and closing speeches where the community sports hubs are and where they will be. Well, they are everywhere and they are going to be everywhere. The aim is to have at least 100 community sports hubs in all 32 local authorities. I am happy to provide members with a list—although I will not do so just now—of those hubs that have been approved so far.
Richard Simpson asked about the community ownership and management fund that we have announced today. There will be an initial budget of £500,000 to get that off the ground.
Richard Simpson also asked about the legacy of the Commonwealth games, how successful they will be and whether their success will just be measured by the Scottish health survey. It will not. There will be other measurements, such as what the community sports hubs and active schools deliver in the way of increased participation, and of volunteers and their activities. I will be able to lay all that out in more detail in a debate about the Commonwealth games that is to be held later this year.
Several members mentioned swimming. I remind members that sportscotland has encouraged the swimming governing body with an investment of a significant amount of money during the past few years. We also invested a significant amount of money in the swimming top-up programme, to ensure that every child can swim before they leave primary school. That is the right focus because it targets those who are unable to swim. There is an equalities agenda around that situation and it is important to focus on it.
Richard Simpson raised the issue of Alva pool, which Keith Brown, the constituency member, has already brought to me. I have encouraged sportscotland to engage with the community organisation about the pool. Running a swimming pool is not an easy thing for a community organisation to do but sportscotland will continue to provide the help and advice that it is currently providing.
Humza Yousaf made another great maiden speech; he talked about the self-belief and optimism running through Scotland’s veins as we look forward to the major events that are coming our way. I could not agree more.
Patricia Ferguson talked about a national plan for sport, which we already have to some degree, although aspects of it might sit in different places. There is an issue about bringing that plan together as a cross-Government initiative to look at the value of sport. I will consider that.
The school sports awards are exactly what Patricia Ferguson was talking about when she mentioned a sport version of the eco-schools model. The awards reward excellence in sport. They should not end with the Commonwealth games and we want to ensure that they do not.
Tavish Scott’s point about leadership is very important. If we could bottle the leadership that is shown in many schools and transport it to all our schools, we would solve a lot of the problems that we face with participation in PE, sport and other physical activity. We therefore need to look closely at leadership and how we encourage it.
James Dornan, who represents the home of Scottish football, talked about the halcyon days of times gone by. Perhaps we can rekindle that spirit. His point about traditional Scottish games is important and one on which we should perhaps reflect.
George Adam made another great maiden speech and paid tribute to Jim Mitchell. He also talked about St Mirren. I had the great experience of visiting St Mirren. I was impressed with the facilities and with the example of what a community club can achieve. They see themselves very much as a community club.
Drew Smith made another very good maiden speech. I remember the walk in Fife; it was a beautiful day. His point about supporters’ involvement in football is one that we take seriously. We also take seriously our partnership with Glasgow City Council for the delivery of the Commonwealth games and I assure members that that partnership will continue.
Clare Adamson pointed to the international children’s games and Siobhan McMahon mentioned the volunteer interest that we have. That is something we could capture for the Commonwealth games, which will need 15,000 volunteers. Perhaps we will come back to that.
I correct Mary Fee on an important point. There has not been a reduction in the number of active school co-ordinators. The full-time equivalent hours are as they were but those who were in part-time appointments are now in full-time appointments, which is a point that Mary Fee praised during her speech. I hope that she can be advised on that point.
I thank Margo MacDonald and the cross-party group on sport for their kind comments. I have some sympathy with the suggestion that we need to pull together physical education, physical activity and sport. We should not see them in isolation; rather, we should see them as things that come together as an offer to children. We can consider that.
I will provide more details about the school national awards scheme in due course. The clubgolf effort is providing a lot of new junior members for golf clubs, and we should not underestimate its importance.
The debate has been very positive. My door is open. We do not have all the good ideas, although we have many. I look forward to working with members across the chamber in the next few years.