Community Sport Inquiry

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 20 September 2012.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Elaine Smith Elaine Smith Labour

The next item of business is a debate on motion S4M-04179, in the name of Duncan McNeil, on the Health and Sport Committee’s inquiry into support for community sport. We are very tight for time and I call on Duncan McNeil to speak to and move the motion in a tight 10 minutes.

Photo of Duncan McNeil Duncan McNeil Labour

Today we have deliberately moved the goalposts, Presiding Officer, but at least the playing field is level—and, if you are lucky, it is even a state-of-the-art 3G playing field.

I should explain that this debate on grass-roots sport comes not on the back of a published report, but midway through an inquiry by the Health and Sport Committee. It is not the first time that a parliamentary committee has sought wider input in this way—my colleagues on the Education and Culture Committee would confirm that—but it is a first for the Health and Sport Committee. I would like to give a sense of the evidence that we have heard to date and I hope to do that within the allotted time.

The message is that the committee welcomes members’ views, whether they are those of back benchers, ministers, or members of the cross-party group on sport. I am confident that the redoubtable convener of that group will have a thing or two to tell us later.

I do not know whether any members went along to salute our Olympic heroes in Glasgow or Edinburgh last weekend or were among the 15,000-plus who turned out to welcome Andy Murray home. That inspiration, bounce and energy is something that we all want to continue into the build-up to Glasgow 2014. It was well described by a witness from Active Stirling, who told the committee about Andy Murray tweeting his 400m “split time” as compared with Mo Farah’s. It caused quite a stir online, apparently. The witness also said:

“It is not about someone trying to be a gold-medal tennis player or 10,000m athlete, but it is vital that we capture the motivation that performance sport can give to physical activity.”

There was mention of a “double-strand pathway”, which sounds high-falutin’, but just means both focusing on the elite side and ensuring that my granddaughter will still want to go swimming when she is a teenager.

Our inquiry addresses three policy strands: the contribution of volunteers, the impact of sports clubs on their communities, and the importance of facilities—or, if you prefer, people, participation and places. It is people—the volunteers and the can-doers—who make community sport what it is.

A gentleman from Argyll and Bute Council told us:

“community sport hubs are not about buildings ... They are about people”.

Leisure and Culture Dundee said that sports development through the hubs was about nurturing volunteers to pursue their

“ambitions, dreams, visions, and aims”.—[Official Report, Health and Sport Committee, 4 September 2012; c 2525, 2520.]

We were told that volunteers should be given clear information about what was being asked of them and what they could expect in return. Atlantis Leisure, which is widely seen as a paragon of community-led facilities, talked about taking

“the pain out of volunteering”.

Its chairman told us that if administration was the issue, it would do the administration. He also said:

“If the netball girls said, ‘We’d love to get new tunics, but we can’t afford them,’ we would get them tunics.”—[Official Report, Health and Sport Committee, 11 September 2012; c 2585, 2586.]

He said that small things made a big difference.

Other witnesses spoke of the social value of local clubs. We were told that the clubs provide a network of volunteers, foster a sense of belonging, and bring people together through a sense of pride and collective purpose. It was even suggested that their strength can provide an indication of the levels of wellbeing in our communities.

Development of community sport hubs is the prevailing direction of policy, and we heard much that sounded positive in that regard. However, several witnesses advised us not to overlook the clubs and individuals—who we all know about—that do valuable work outside that model.

It is crucial that we increase participation, particularly among hard-to-reach groups such as young people in deprived areas, teenage girls, black and ethnic minorities, people with disabilities, those who have been put off sport at school and the older generation.

It was Mark Twain who said:

“I am pushing 60. That is enough exercise for me.”

That might be apt in my case. However, as more of us live longer, such a view becomes less tenable. Indeed, one witness talked about a demand from the over-60s and over-70s for something called walking football, which, given his recent five-a-side injury, might be something for my deputy convener. I do not know what Bob Doris would say to that—I think that he already practises it.

Photo of Margo MacDonald Margo MacDonald Independent

For the member’s information, I think that there are already volunteers available to take people through walking football. They are called Rangers.

Photo of Duncan McNeil Duncan McNeil Labour

Margo MacDonald will not draw me on that one. I am feeling enough hurt as it is. I am still not ready to talk about it, and certainly not publicly.

We were told that accessibility is not just about affordability or proximity. A witness said that it is also about

“allowing people who are entering their working lives, and beyond that, to find time in their day to take part in sport.”—[Official Report, Health and Sport Committee, 11 September 2012; c 2608.]

At the other end of the age spectrum, Swimming Scotland reported that 25 per cent of children leave primary school unable to swim, and that that figure is highest in poorer areas. One of Save the Children’s Scotland’s ambassadors, 16-year old Stefanie, said:

“We’re just asking for the opportunity to swim … this is really important because it means you can stay safe, fit and connected.”

Teenage girls are one of the groups that it is notoriously hard to get into sport. NHS Scotland therefore chose to try something different in putting together the fit for girls project. Rather than seeing the girls as the problem, it asked whether it might not be better to seek their buy-in at the point of design. The Robertson Trust echoed the approach, pointing to the success of its girls on the move initiative, which it said was achieved by allowing the target group to have a say in the development of the programme in a way that ensured that the girls were able to take part in activities that were of interest to them, such as dance, boxercise and yoga. The result of that approach was an impressive rate of continued participation, promoting personal development alongside the girls becoming more active.

We frequently hear that there are not enough facilities, that they are expensive, that they are difficult to reach, or that they are of poor quality. Access to the schools estate and the facilities that are springing up appears to be a recurring theme in our evidence. Sportscotland is to report on the matter, and that report will be keenly read, even if it is published outwith the timeline of our inquiry.

Schools are part of what is out there—or, perhaps, what is not out there. I was amused to read a submission from Ayr United football academy. Asked to list three issues about facilities, it wrote:

“1) Lack of, 2) lack of, and 3) lack of—in no particular order!”

Surely we can address some of those problems.

Of course, even when there is somewhere for people to go, there is a concern about how the place will be treated. The secretary of Broxburn United Sports Club was relieved to report that his fears had gone unrealised. He said:

“When we built the new facility, I was really worried about vandalism, but nothing like that has happened … in the two years since it opened. It has been great, and the kids treat it as their place now”.—[Official Report, Health and Sport Committee, 11 September 2012; c 2605.]

Before I finish, I want to touch on a theme that recurs through much of the committee’s work: preventive health.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

It is your last minute.

Photo of Duncan McNeil Duncan McNeil Labour

I should recognise that you have blown the final whistle and sit down.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

No, you have another minute.

Photo of Duncan McNeil Duncan McNeil Labour

In that case, I will address the issue of preventive health.

A number of witnesses mentioned the idea of general practitioner referrals to sport, but the most progress has been made by Atlantis Leisure. Its chairman told us that although the project was only a year old, the results were already “stunning” and he described the project as “a game changer”.

I am conscious that a lot of our evidence so far has come from exemplar organisations. I think that committee members would agree that their enthusiasm and what they achieve in our communities comes across in their evidence. Their enthusiasm is infectious. However, we must recognise that we are dealing with the enthusiasts—the really committed people who are delivering.

I will definitely sit down before the Presiding Officer blows the final whistle.

I move,

That the Parliament notes that the Health and Sport Committee is undertaking an inquiry into support for community sport, focusing on the contribution of people, particularly the role of volunteers, the contribution of local sports clubs, both to the preventative health agenda and their communities, the role that community sports hubs should play in encouraging sport in local communities and the importance of places for sport in terms of availability, accessibility, affordability and the quality of facilities, and that, in order to inform its final report, the committee would welcome the views of all members on these key themes and what has emerged so far in evidence.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

Thank you very much. We are incredibly tight for time.

Photo of Shona Robison Shona Robison Scottish National Party

I am very pleased to take part in the debate and welcome the Health and Sport Committee’s inquiry into community sport.

I had the great privilege of attending the Olympic and Paralympic games. There were, of course, a considerable number of outstanding performances in both. As a nation, we saw some great performances from the Scottish Olympians within the team. Those athletes have inspired many to set themselves goals, work hard and be all that they can be. Of course, it is now about keeping the momentum going for two years towards 2014.

I was particularly pleased to hear in John Swinney’s budget statement that we have an additional £1 million to support our athletes as they prepare for the games in two years’ time.

One of the abiding memories of London 2012 is the contribution that was made by the volunteers—the games makers—and it was good to see many of them at the parade last Friday. The army of volunteers gave their time freely to support the delivery of what was undoubtedly the most successful Olympics and Paralympics ever.

There are undoubtedly lessons to be learned as we take forward our preparations for 2014 and reflect on the role of volunteers more generally. I know that the role of volunteers is an important area for the inquiry, because we must not underestimate the impact of volunteering in sport. Volunteers make a vital contribution to sport daily, from washing strips to sitting on the boards of governing bodies—it is all important. The voluntary sporting community comprises about a fifth of the population, who are members of Scotland’s 13,000 sports clubs. That is an enormous effort and a cause for celebration—I reiterate that it is a key priority for the Scottish Government as we head towards Glasgow and beyond.

Sportscotland is working in partnership with Volunteer Development Scotland and other key stakeholders to ensure that the volunteer workforce is recruited, trained, supported and rewarded for its valuable contribution to Scottish sport and wider civic society. We cannot take volunteers for granted and we must ensure that we support them as best we can.

Elite athlete performance has been the focus of attention over the past few weeks as a result of the great performances that we have seen, but the most important outcome from 2012 and 2014 is the legacy and ensuring that Scotland becomes a more active nation. The need to tackle levels of inactivity in the population is well known. Although 72 per cent of young people meet the recommended levels of activity, only 39 per cent of adults do. Of course, older adults are even more of a challenge.

Photo of Hanzala Malik Hanzala Malik Labour

Will the Government consider rolling out free places for our schools to enable youngsters to participate in sporting activities? More important, will the Government ensure that all the small groups and clubs throughout Scotland have facilities given to them free of charge until the Commonwealth games? That would be a good pilot project to enable us to see whether youths take up sport and to establish the benefits that would be created if we continued such an initiative in future.

Photo of Shona Robison Shona Robison Scottish National Party

The community sport hubs are part of the solution to that, because one of sportscotland’s requirements for a hub and the partners within it concerns affordability and ensuring that affordability issues are not barriers. It is not just a case of affordability; we need to ensure that hubs and the clubs within them are welcoming to everyone. That welcome is as important as the money or the physical access.

Physical inactivity kills more people worldwide than even obesity or alcohol excess. It is the cause of some 2,500 deaths a year in Scotland, costing the NHS more than £90 million a year. There is a big gain for us if we can get people to be more active. Progress is being made on the national physical activity implementation plan that I announced in May. That will explore opportunities to embed physical activities in all areas of Government policy. One such initiative is our investment in paths for all, which has succeeded in making 10,000 people a year more active through walking—a very simple activity. I was very pleased to hear John Swinney’s commitment in the budget of £6 million additional funding for cycling initiatives, given that cycling is another easy way to encourage people to be more active.

Increasing opportunities for everyone to be more active lies at the heart of our legacy ambitions and sport has a role to play in that effort. Community sport hubs are very important and I was pleased that Duncan McNeil referred to the hubs in positive terms. In my view, they are the answer to unlocking some of our resources, whether that is in the schools estate or in clubs. We need to open those doors to wider membership.

The community sport hubs are very well located in the heart of communities. Our priority is to have 150 hubs established by 2016, with at least 50 per cent based in schools. Sportscotland is making great progress in supporting local authorities. A total of 66 hubs are now up and running, offering a wide range of sporting activities.

Photo of Jenny Marra Jenny Marra Labour

A number of community sport hubs are looking to take over buildings that are owned by city councils, for example in Dundee. I am sure that the minister knows about that. Will she work with the local authorities to make it easier for them to buy those facilities from the councils?

Photo of Shona Robison Shona Robison Scottish National Party

We have begun to do that, and there will be further announcements on the community management fund in due course.

I highlight the importance of schools. We are making very good progress in the area of physical education and active schools, but there is more to be done. I announce that we will be developing a new sports strategy that is designed to increase activity levels among young people. Included in that strategy will be an examination of the role of competitive sport. I want to involve a new youth sport panel—many of whom have joined us and are in the gallery today—to help us inform and shape our policy on sport and physical activity. I hope that that initiative will be welcomed. I would be happy to speak to the committee about it in more detail when I give evidence next month.

Thank you, Presiding Officer. I look forward to hearing the comments of members across the chamber.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

I call Patricia Ferguson, who has a very strict five minutes.

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour

I congratulate the Health and Sport Committee for holding this short debate and for the inquiry that it has commenced. I also congratulate the convener on his excellent exposition of the issues under consideration.

This has been a remarkable summer of sport, with tremendous athletes—too many to mention individually—participating in the Olympic and Paralympic Games. As if that was not enough, Andy Murray proceeded to complement his Olympic medals with his first grand slam trophy.

Even great athletes have to start somewhere, and over the years I have listened to many of them talk about how their careers began. For some, it was an enthusiastic teacher at school who spotted their potential and for others, a parent encouraged them to get involved. For many, a particular coach whom they encountered early in their career set them on the path to success.

Not everyone will be willing or able to make a career in sport, but coaching staff are also crucial to the enjoyment of sport. I suggest that the committee give, in its deliberations, serious consideration to the role of coaching staff. Many are volunteer workers or parents who have taken on the role because of the interest of their daughter or son. I cite as a good example Sapphire-Gymnastics Club in Glasgow, which is run by parents and has its own mums’ gymnastic display team. We require coaches to be checked by Disclosure Scotland and we want them to be trained to a level that allows them to safely operate in their sport and it should not be any other way. It is a facility that all Scotland will be proud of. However, do we support people enough in the process? Is gaining qualifications too expensive for them? Is there a way to help them to continue and to recruit others to share the job?

Facilities are also key, and nowhere are they more important than in our schools. A school can be the community hub that supports an area’s sporting life. In my constituency, John Paul academy now operates its own football academy for pupils. The minister might like to visit that, in connection with the announcement that she made today. That football academy is possible only because the school has the pitches for it and has extremely enthusiastic staff and pupils. I am sure that the committee will look at the availability of facilities and the cost to clubs of using them.

Duncan McNeil was right to mention the issue of encouraging women and girls to remain active throughout their lives. For many women and girls, the lack of quality changing accommodation to accompany what might be good playing fields or other sporting facilities can be a serious deterrent.

We have in my constituency the possibility of a paddle-sports centre being created on the Forth and Clyde canal, which would give people the opportunity to become involved in canoeing and kayaking. If the funding applications succeed, that facility could also help to keep elite paddlers in Scotland, as they would no longer have to enrol at the University of Nottingham to use the facilities there. The flexibility of facilities is also important.

As Duncan McNeil and the minister said, and as is identified in the motion, sport hubs are valuable tools. However, when we consider that the number of sports clubs in Scotland is at least 80 times greater than the number of planned hubs, it is clear that a lot more needs to be done to support our local clubs.

I said at the beginning of my speech that the committee is to be congratulated on securing this debate on grass-roots and community sport, and it should be, but I am genuinely disappointed that the Government has not yet arranged a debate that would give us all the opportunity to celebrate the outstanding achievements of our athletes in the Olympic and Paralympic games and, of course, Andy Murray’s first grand slam victory.

The 80,000-plus people who turned out in cities across Scotland last weekend demonstrate that enthusiasm has not waned, so I respectfully ask the minister to agree to a debate at the earliest possible opportunity—perhaps one without a motion, so that we need not divide.

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour

I am in my last minute.

Such a debate would give us all the opportunity to celebrate this wonderful summer of sport and to discuss in a serious and considered way how we can harness all the interest and enthusiasm in order to ensure that Scotland has a sporting legacy that takes us to the Commonwealth games in 2014 and the youth Olympics in—I hope—Glasgow in 2018, and which leads to us all becoming part of a fitter and healthier nation along the way. I wish the committee well in its deliberations.

Photo of Nanette Milne Nanette Milne Conservative

Now that we are halfway through the Health and Sport Committee’s inquiry into community sport, and now that governing bodies, clubs and participants in sport have made us aware of many of the issues that affect the success of community sport, I am pleased that we are having the debate, which gives members who are not on the committee the opportunity to present their thoughts on how we should encourage and support sporting activity in our communities.

Surely there could be no better time for looking at how we provide sporting opportunities for people of all ages in Scotland. We have a serious and increasing obesity problem, even among children and young people, and far too few of us achieve even the recommended minimum level of activity each week, despite knowing that a lack of physical activity is the greatest contributor to coronary artery disease.

Despite that background, we have just enjoyed a summer of fantastic sporting success in the United Kingdom, in which Scottish athletes featured highly on the Olympic medals table and which culminated in Andy Murray’s enormous achievement of winning the 2012 US open.

We saw the excitement last week in London as the Olympians and Paralympians toured the capital city. On Sunday, large crowds of people were out in Edinburgh to applaud Sir Chris Hoy and other Scottish athletes. In Dunblane, the excitement of youngsters as they queued to meet Andy Murray was palpable. However, that buzz will fade. It might not happen until after the Commonwealth games, but fade it will, unless we take steps to involve many more people in sporting activity.

Many of the people who have given evidence to the committee have stressed that activity must start in childhood and must be fun for participants. As Kim Atkinson of the Scottish Sports Association said:

“Primary schools provide the opportunity for ... every young person to be physically literate—to run, jump, throw, catch and swim ... if being regularly active is a cultural norm for children ... if it is fun and they develop confidence, that is a great start. If they decide in later life that they want to take part in sport A or activity B, they will have the skills and confidence ... and they will think that taking part will be fun.”—[Official Report, Health and Sport Committee, 4 September 2012; c 2509.]

However, there are at present not enough qualified PE teachers in Scotland to help our youngsters to achieve physical literacy. There are only 1,500 full-time qualified PE staff in post, which is a drop of 7 per cent since 2007. That must be a concern for a Government that aims to ensure that all primary school pupils receive two hours per week of formal PE, and which has preventative spend as a key commitment.

It has been estimated that increasing physical activity by 1 per cent per year for five years would save nearly 160 lives per year, so increasing levels of participation in sport and physical recreational activity must be the cornerstone of discussions on a strategy for sport, and must link in with other policy areas such as health, education and the local environment.

Much of the evidence that the Health and Sport Committee has received so far has focused on two issues: volunteering and the development of community sport hubs. Volunteers are the lifeblood of the 13,000 sports clubs in Scotland, and they provide coaching, competition and development opportunities for young people at community level. Many do not even view themselves as volunteers, but merely as friends or relatives of club members who are just helping out. Skills of all kinds are required, including coaching, fundraising, secretarial work, training and participation in governance.

There are barriers to volunteering that could easily be overcome, such as a perceived lack of time, a lack of knowledge of how to get involved and a lack of confidence or support to start volunteering. The Scottish Sports Association is calling for more businesses to become involved by allowing employees time off for volunteering through a programme of employer-supported volunteering. That could be particularly useful in more deprived areas where it is harder to recruit volunteers.

Interest is growing in community sport hubs, which bring together in one place local sports clubs, volunteers and other local groups such as schools and youth organisations to share facilities and information on becoming involved, and to provide access to local people. There are already a number of very successful ventures, which have inspired more and more local people to become involved in increasing numbers of activities. Those ventures should be used as role models to improve access and facilities throughout Scotland.

I like the suggestion from the Paths For All Partnership, that consideration be given to renaming community sport hubs as active community hubs in order to maximise accessibility, on the assumption that physical activity will stimulate further interest in sporting activity for people of all ages who might otherwise never become involved.

We live in potentially exciting times for our nation’s health and wellbeing. I hope that the committee’s inquiry will help to inspire communities to build on the excellent examples that already exist and to achieve a legacy of a fitter, happier, active and more community-spirited nation as an appropriate tribute to the recent successes of our magnificent sporting heroes.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

We move to the open debate, which is oversubscribed. I can give members a maximum of four minutes at present, but if they were to take a bit less time I would appreciate it.

Photo of Richard Lyle Richard Lyle Scottish National Party

As a former member of the Health and Sport Committee, I welcome the debate on support for community sport, and I compliment the convener and deputy convener on bringing the matter to the chamber.

Sport is the lifeblood of any nation. In Scotland, there are many sports, which are run by thousands of volunteers. I am informed that there are nearly 13,000 clubs and 150,000 volunteers running various sports clubs throughout Scotland. Volunteers are the unsung heroes and deserve all the help that Parliament can give in order to ensure that they can all take part in their sports, and to ensure that volunteers are encouraged. I welcome the committee’s inquiry.

I welcome the support that the Scottish National Party Government is giving to sport through various projects, and the substantial funding that has led to much-needed facilities being built throughout Scotland. I compliment sportscotland on what it has given to and done for various clubs in Scotland.

Over the summer I was able, along with other members of the Health and Sport Committee, to visit facilities that are being built in the east end of Glasgow to accommodate the 2014 Commonwealth games. The Commonwealth sports arena is a facility that will serve the people of Glasgow well, as it incorporates the Sir Chris Hoy velodrome, a sports track, sports halls, a sauna and a plunge pool. I am sure that members will welcome the millions of pounds that have been spent on the Glasgow area, and I am sure that the facilities and houses that have been built will enhance the life of people in Glasgow as a whole.

The Government has also provided significant money for the establishment of sports hubs, with nearly 141 to be opened. Sports hubs are a welcome addition to the facilities that are already available in schools. Most hubs have been implemented through the work of councils, and I commend the minister for her work in that field. Pardon the pun, please.

I note that the number of sports hubs that are to be provided is to be increased. I agree with sportscotland that every effort should be made to raise the number above even that. I quote the comments of Stewart Harris of sportscotland, who has said that he wants to be greedy:

“Every single secondary school in Scotland would be a Hub of some sort not just for sport but for ... community activities.”

The governing bodies are doing a huge amount of work to support volunteers through partnership programmes and with support from sportscotland, working with local authorities and sports councils. Let us also not forget the work that is being carried out by NHS Scotland, which is adding in the design of sports hubs as a health-promoting resource that provides access to advice about smoking—I should maybe take that advice—healthy eating and alcohol. E-learning resources are also providing individuals with support and advice on the benefits of physical activity.

I think that I am going to beat four minutes, Presiding Officer.

Everyone must commit to aiding in the promotion of sport, and in helping in the work that is done by thousands of volunteers. I compliment the Health and Sport Committee on an excellent report.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

Many thanks. I am most grateful.

Photo of Kezia Dugdale Kezia Dugdale Labour

I welcome the opportunity to speak in the debate this afternoon. I also welcome the community sports hubs, which are a critical part of the agenda.

However, I will speak about the 13,000 clubs throughout Scotland that are a step below the hub model, or would not benefit directly from it at the moment. I will talk about two clubs in Edinburgh with which I work closely. The first of those is Lochend Youth Football Club, which has huge ambitions to grow and develop as a local club. It is just 10 minutes up the road and has a fantastic view of the Salisbury Crags—it is a great place to visit if the minister is ever short of places to go.

The club is desperately keen to take more ownership of the facilities that it uses. It currently has its eyes on the Seafield pitches down in Malcolm Chisholm’s constituency, which are currently run by Edinburgh Leisure. The club would like to take ownership of those pitches, as it is the only club that uses them just now and believes that it could run and maintain them better. Crucially, it would not have to pay the extortionate letting fees week after week. The club could do so much more with the facilities if it ran them, and as a Co-operative Party-sponsored MSP, I could not agree more with that. I will work directly with the club to help it to realise that ambition. That will be easier now that City of Edinburgh Council is run by both Labour and the SNP, who are committed to a co-operative council agenda.

The club could also be assisted greatly by the Government’s move towards community ownership. There are many good examples throughout Scotland of clubs taking ownership of the facilities in which they operate, but the examples have often been born of crises, for example when a facility is closed by a local authority or needs help. We should see that agenda as being a progressive step for all community sports facilities. It should not be just about the crisis point; it should be about the development of clubs and helping them to become sustainable in their own right.

In June last year, the sport minister announced a community ownership support scheme worth £500,000 of funding. I asked the Scottish Parliament information centre to dig out a bit of detail about whether that money had been allocated yet. Sportscotland seems to think that it is coming in its direction, but it is not sure when and it does not really know whether it will administer the fund or when it will be able to start giving out that money. In fact, sportscotland is beginning to think that it might be linked to the Government’s proposed community empowerment and renewal bill, which has now been delayed for a further year. So, it could be up to three and a half years before any of that money lands in the hands of the people who desperately need it. Can the minister comment today on how quickly clubs might be able to aspire to access that cash? It would be very welcome.

The other club that I will talk about is the City of Edinburgh Basketball Club, which is based in Portobello high school. It has its own problems at the moment, because Portobello high school desperately needs a school building and there is a huge debate about the site for the new school. I am doing everything that I can to support it in finding a site. The City of Edinburgh Basketball Club has a huge number of young teenage women participating in a competitive team sport. That is fantastic and we should do everything that we can to support them. The club wants to grow and to have a more sustainable future. It is considering becoming a social enterprise so that it can access more pots of cash.

I am trying to bring together Lochend Football Club, the City of Edinburgh Basketball Club and Lochend Amateur Boxing Club into one east end team sport effort, so that I can help them to access funding streams that are currently just for multi-sport clubs.

There is a development worker in Social Enterprise Scotland who focuses on sports development. She does a fantastic job, but her post will exist for only six months more. It is part funded by sportscotland and part funded by the Robertson Trust, but I understand that the trust has removed half the funding for the future. The fact that the person who is charged with enhancing the sustainability of sports clubs is about to have her post taken away speaks to the issues that we are addressing. I would really like the minister to commit to extending that post and to addressing some of the issues that I highlighted.

Photo of Gil Paterson Gil Paterson Scottish National Party

When taking evidence on support for community sport, the first and most vital factor that strikes us is that, without the army of volunteers, sport—and, for that matter, healthy activity—would grind to a halt.

We are blessed with 150,000 registered sport volunteers in Scotland, but it was evident from what sporting agencies, sporting professionals and volunteers who are involved in sport told the committee that, over and above those 150,000, there are many mums, dads and others who provide significant assistance but do not consider themselves to be volunteers.

One approach taken by those who seek to encourage more volunteering is to target parents who participate in sports in which their children are involved. Those parents have a number of skills that are invaluable but, sadly, once their children move on or give up on the sport, the parents also drop out. The aim is to find ways of encouraging them to continue to participate long after their children move on. One way to do that is to work across sports, drawing on the strengths in one organisation or sport and spreading them across a host of others. That cuts down on duplicated models and ensures that the small pot of dedicated volunteers with experience is not spread too thinly.

Sport hubs provide an excellent opportunity to gather the best of volunteering talent from across the community so that the back-room staff—or, if I can use the term loosely, the voluntary administrations—are not duplicated sport by sport or club by club. Hubs also enable the use of facilities to the fullest capacity and ensure that they are as accessible as possible. For instance, if a school that is full of equipment, playing areas and gym halls is used only during school hours, that is a waste of scarce resources that could bring much benefit to the wider community.

Of course, there are barriers to be overcome if we are to use such facilities fully. School buildings that were built through the public-private partnership are an obvious example. The cost of hiring out space and equipment in such buildings is vastly overinflated, which is a clear barrier to local clubs. Also, some local authorities can be too precious about the use of resources in a school and restrict the times when the facilities are available or who is permitted to use them in the first place.

Sometimes, people in power take their eye off the ball and do not realise that schoolchildren need to be catered for not only during school hours, but outwith those hours. However, if schools truly become part of the community, behaviour in school and towards schools will be positive. An added benefit is the prospect that, if encouraged from an early age through school or local clubs, people will engage in long-term activity that will enhance their lives and lead to their volunteering in later years.

I was extremely impressed by the genuine enthusiasm and commitment of those from across the sector—the professionals, individuals and volunteers—who gave evidence. Their enthusiasm was palpable. The Parliament should recognise the hard work and commitment of professionals and volunteers that keep Scotland active.

I support the motion.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

I must point out to members that there really are no extra seconds available.

Photo of George Adam George Adam Scottish National Party

I, too, welcome this debate on the Health and Sport Committee’s inquiry into support for community sport. My time on that committee was oh so short. I was a member for only two meetings, one of which was about this inquiry. I was there when Duncan McNeil heard about walking football for older people. I have been told that I have had that style of play for a number of years. It might be something to do with age.

I have been quite interested in getting hard-to-reach people engaged in sport in my constituency. This year, I played football with Brian Thomson, who is a constituent of mine and who has played football with St Mirren and the acquired brain injury group in Paisley. People can therefore talk to one other about all their issues and problems, get involved in sport and enjoy playing football. Seeing them progress has been extremely good. The group has got to the stage at which it is developing its own football club further; in fact, it is talking to the Scottish Football Association about having an acquired brain injury football league so that it can play other teams in a mini-SPL five-a-side league. I played for those players for an hour and a half and was very sore the next day. They played at a very good level and enjoyed the football. It showed the difference that such a project could make to their lives.

Another good example is the Renfrewshire street stuff project. Working with St Mirren, that project manages to take football, other sports and a rugby coach out to certain communities in which the police say that there are hotspots. The project can get people involved and see whether anyone has the ability and talent for sport. Indeed, simply being involved makes a massive difference to many younger people. I have gone to see things many times, and some of the stories would make members’ hair curl. The work is extremely challenging, but it makes a big difference. In some areas, it has brought down antisocial behaviour by around 25 per cent, so it obviously works.

The minister was correct when she said that one of the biggest things in the Olympic games was the volunteers. It has already been mentioned that there are 150,000 volunteers in sport. They do not see themselves as volunteers, as they are involved with their clubs.

One of the biggest issues that came out was that the rugby organisations, particularly the Scottish Rugby Union, said that the club structure is the most important thing that they develop. The more established clubs have a community feel about them. I know that we are aiming for that with the hubs, but it is difficult and challenging for us to get all the clubs together in hubs. In the same evidence session, I think that it was said that a whole stack of clubs from different sports were working together in Broxburn.

In my area, the traditional Kelburne Hockey Club—which, incidentally, gave us Emily Maguire, who was a hockey bronze medallist this year—has always excelled as a club and a sporting organisation because they have had generation after generation of talent and the involvement of generations of parents. We must find a way of ensuring that we get everyone together so that all the hubs are like that. In Paisley, we have reached the stage at which even the amateur boxing club is involved in one of the hubs. That means that it is engaging all the time. People talk to one another and know exactly what is happening with everything else.

Money is always a major issue, of course.

Photo of George Adam George Adam Scottish National Party

I am aware of that, Presiding Officer.

We managed to put in £10,000 per hub from the local authority. We must ensure that we give all the clubs a reason for getting involved in the hubs so that there are benefits for them as sporting organisations.

In the time that I have been involved, I have seen the difference that can be made in people’s lives, which is the most important thing. People can become healthier and be given an opportunity to be all that they can be.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

Thanks very much, Mr Adam. We are extremely tight for time, so speeches of up to four minutes would be welcomed. Less would be more in that regard. I will let members know about cuts that I will have to make.

Photo of Jenny Marra Jenny Marra Labour

The Minister for Commonwealth Games and Sport will not be surprised that I will start by talking about our campaign to bring the national football academy to Dundee, especially as I spent many days this summer running about wearing a T-shirt that said exactly that. She will also know that over 5,000 people have signed up to the campaign to bring the academy to Dundee and that nearly 1,000 people have e-mailed her letters outlining the reasons why it should come to our city. There is a lot of support for it in Dundee.

This summer the national football academy project was described as Dundee’s sporting V&A, which is a sign that people are keen to make it happen. The working group, which is supported by the minister’s Scottish National Party council colleagues in Dundee, is now at an advanced stage and has taken trips down to the centre in England to put our bid together. I am delighted that the minister outlined the timetable for the bidding process just a couple of weeks ago. Dundee is united in wanting to bring the football academy to our city.

I want, though, to ask the minister a couple of questions about the budget commitments to the national football academy. Can she clarify in her closing remarks whether the funding will be available for the national performance centre? I have just totted up expenditure in the Scottish Government’s budget for the young Scots fund, which amounts to £24.7 million over three years. However, if I understand it clearly, the Scottish Government promised £25 million to the national performance centre, so the commitment to the young Scots fund already falls slightly short. In addition, when giving evidence to the Education and Culture Committee last year, Fiona Hyslop committed other moneys to the tune of about £8 million from the young Scots fund for other cultural projects.

Those commitments are in excess of £32 million, but there is only £24.7 million in the budget over the next three years. I would be grateful if the minister could clarify in her closing remarks how much will be spent on the national performance centre, whether it will all come from the young Scots fund, which seems to be a bit elastic, and whether additional funds might be made available to fund it from the sports budget.

I was very excited this summer by our tennis success, so much so that when Andy Murray took on Roger Federer in the Wimbledon final, I decided to survey our tennis facilities in Dundee. I spent a day going round with a video camera—the video is online if anyone wants to see the state of our facilities. We had a lot of interest after posting it. For example, Judy Murray tweeted me and made the powerful comment, which Tennis Scotland representatives agreed with when I met them, that we need good facilities if we are not just to encourage children to try sport, but to maintain their interest and keep them coming back to sport.

I do not know whether the minister has had a chance to see the video, but it is clear from it that the facilities across our city are different in different communities. Indeed, in Lochee, the facility is rather disgraceful, being overgrown and having no lines on the courts.

Photo of Shona Robison Shona Robison Scottish National Party

Is Jenny Marra trying to say that what she describes is a recent phenomenon? Does she accept that, if there is a problem with the facilities, it tends to go back a few years to a previous Administration’s tenure?

Photo of Jenny Marra Jenny Marra Labour

The minister makes a fair point, because there has been underinvestment for years. However, it is about life chances and opportunities for our children, so she should look seriously at the issue.

Photo of Mark McDonald Mark McDonald Scottish National Party

As I will join the Health and Sport Committee next week as a new member, I feel that I will join the inquiry in the role of a half-time substitute. I look forward to playing an active role in the remainder of the inquiry. I was not a member of the committee when I made my bid to speak in this debate, but that is how life works out sometimes.

I, too, was interested in the notion of walking football. It made me think that John Park has been telling tales about my midfield performances for the Parliament football team. I make him look quick, so that must be where the comment came from.

The Olympics and Paralympics over the summer made me cast my mind back to when I was an active member of Aberdeen Amateur Athletics Club, which was a good few years and a good few stones ago. However, I recall that when I was a member there was a young athlete there—a sprinter—who competed well as a young lad. His name is Neil Fachie, and he was a gold medallist in cycling at the recent Paralympic games. That emphasises Patricia Ferguson’s point, which is one that I recognise. Elite athletes do not just happen; they often get their start in sport in community clubs, with the coaching and encouragement that they get at that level. As Patricia Ferguson said, often a keen PE teacher or other teacher who takes a sports club spots a child’s potential to develop their skills.

Patricia Ferguson might be worried that I am agreeing with her so much, because I also agree about the role that coaches play. Before I was elected to the Parliament, I was a youth football coach for Dyce Boys Club FC. Coaches have a key role and are often dedicated volunteers. Sometimes they are parents whose son or daughter is or has been involved with the club and who want to give something back.

The key considerations are qualifications and support. I was lucky in that Dyce Boys Club was proactive about putting coaches forward for coaching badges as well as first aid courses, so that coaches could react if there was a significant injury and a player needed assistance on the pitch. That does not happen at every club, and often there is no such support network. We need to consider what we can do to encourage people to get their coaching badges and so on, because that will help the children who are involved in the club to get better at the sport.

Photo of Margo MacDonald Margo MacDonald Independent

Does the member agree that it would be a good idea to have some sort of national training scheme for officials, which clubs that do not have a lot of money could buy into?

Photo of Mark McDonald Mark McDonald Scottish National Party

I am always interested in such things. We must think about what we can deliver with the resources that are available. The member made a valid point. Many clubs have tight resources and I know from my time as a youth football coach how expensive it is to run a football club.

Community sport needs local support. I was disappointed by the vote in Aberdeen City Council on the football hub and community stadium. Council chiefs met SFA officials in August to discuss the council’s wish to set up a regional hub for football in Aberdeen. The SFA responded that it did not need to set up a regional hub, because there were three suitable facilities in the pipeline—the sports village, the Cove Rangers FC stadium and the Aberdeen FC stadium—which could deliver that. The Labour Party then told the SFA to stay out of politics, despite having invited the association to comment in the first place, and then voted down the community stadium, by taking the lease back on land at Calder Park. We need to look at what local councils are doing as well as at what the Government is doing.

Photo of Alison Johnstone Alison Johnstone Green

This is a timely debate, because we are hearing a lot about the Olympic legacy, preventative spending and community empowerment.

I welcome Duncan McNeil’s comment that we must support elite and grass-roots sport, and I welcome the focus on what volunteers and local sports clubs bring to this important agenda. I support the Scottish Sports Association’s call for employer-supported volunteering. People who volunteer not only give something to the community but get a lot back. Volunteering empowers people, giving structure to their day and building skills and confidence. Supporting volunteers is a win-win approach.

It is certainly not just about buildings. Colin Keir and I can testify to our early days in Edinburgh Athletic Club, in a little hut on Ford’s Road, where it was about a community of people taking part in a sport about which they were passionate. However, buildings matter. When Liz McColgan spoke at the festival of politics recently, she said that just after the Olympics 112 youngsters came to her local club, where there was only one toilet—and they had each paid £3. If we are going to build on the legacy, and as we build towards the Commonwealth games, we need to be ready for such an inspired rush to take part in sport.

Groups of cyclists are running the velodrome in Edinburgh—they are not a geographical community, but they are very committed to looking after what can only be described as a fairly neglected asset. I ask that buildings that are built for the 2014 Commonwealth games be better maintained than those that were built for Edinburgh’s Commonwealth games have been. It is one thing to unveil a plaque and say, “Wow, look at this!”; it is quite another to invest in the facility for the long term.

Community sport hubs have a great part to play in complementing existing sports provision, but we have to back that up with other activity. We are still striving to reach two hours of PE each week, delivered by a qualified PE teacher. It is important that children have access to such quality provision by someone who has been trained for several years; volunteers have their place, but sometimes we see very young volunteers who simply do not have the experience, as yet, to take on classes on their own.

In Edinburgh Athletic Club, we have a waiting list for juniors who want to get involved in track and field—that waiting list is purely because we do not have enough volunteer coaches—and that is a club that supports volunteer coaches and pays fees to take them through their coaching qualifications. Brian Whittle, a former Olympic medallist, has asked that we look at better funding for coaches, and that is worth investigating, given the demands on time and finance that many volunteers face, which some can afford, but some simply cannot.

We need to look at the fact that our elite athletes often have to compete with organisations. We have arms-length companies delivering sports facilities, as we do in Edinburgh, that have commercial interests and, sometimes, for example, the indoor track in Edinburgh is let out for antiques fairs and children’s clothes sales, which prevents athletes who desperately need access to the only indoor facility in the region from training in that way that day.

I thank the committee and all the witnesses for their work. We are all committed to ensuring that access to sport in Scotland is the norm and that it becomes part of everyday life. I warmly welcome that commitment, and I will do all that I can as we strive towards that goal.

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party

I congratulate the committee on securing this excellent debate on community sport.

It is worth remembering that, 100 years ago, mortality in life was infection based; today, it is based largely on chronic disease. Underpinning the chronic disease that kills so many in our society is obesity and lack of physical activity. I am grateful to my party whips for putting me in my new office on the fifth floor of the MSP block, which has meant that I am fitter because I do not use the lift. I will be monitoring the activities of everybody in the chamber and beyond because 90 per cent of us could use the stairs, and we should be doing so and setting an example by exploiting the opportunities that we have to become fitter.

As a minister, I walked 550 miles. That sounds a hell of a lot, but that was over the course of five years. I can compare that with the training schedule of the elite athlete in my family, who has twice been a world orienteering champion, which is 160 miles a week. That neatly leads me into something that I have not heard mentioned at all in the debate, which is the natural asset that is on our doorstep and which we have in abundance in Scotland—a rural environment where many sports can be undertaken, access is easy and the cost is often modest. Orienteering is an excellent example of that; all that is needed is a pair of running shoes, the open countryside and a few people to organise things. It is not an elite sport—it is not in the Commonwealth games or the Olympics—but it is one that engages huge numbers of people across Scotland, and it can be entered at every level of fitness and age. There are string events for children in primary 1 and 2, and there are people in their 90s who are still participating in the sport.

Age—I am the second oldest person to speak in the debate—should not be, and is not, a barrier to fitness. In Australia 30 years ago, I happened to see on morning television in the hotel that I was staying in somebody being interviewed who, for the fortieth consecutive year, had won the over-40s marathon. The man was over 90 and he was as fit as a 40-year-old. That opportunity exists for us all, and we should encourage people to use recreation as a gateway to sport, because sport is, of course, about competing. If we compete with people, we get engaged and reinforced and there are social benefits.

Speaking of social benefits—to diverge on to a seemingly quite different subject—I see that, according to a report published today, 703 pubs have shut in Scotland in the past five years. “Oh good—we’re much fitter,” you might say, but some of the more successful pubs that have survived as community pubs are now getting their own sports teams. It is sometimes the case that quite unlikely places can be a spur to getting people engaged in physical activity and community sport. Let us be innovative: let us look to the countryside and even to our pubs for opportunities.

Perhaps the convener of the Health and Sport Committee was unwise to quote Mark Twain, who, of course, was one of the least fit people. He said, “Giving up smoking is easy. I’ve done it thousands of times.” That is not the example that we want to encourage.

Photo of John Park John Park Labour

I declare an interest as a director of Scottish Women’s Football.

I welcome the opportunity to speak in the debate and congratulate the Health and Sport Committee on bringing it to the chamber. Much of what we have been talking about is to do with the challenges that we face at the moment and what we would like to see in the future, but we should consider some of the achievements that have been made over recent years. I am not talking only about sporting achievements but about achievements in organising sport and making it happen in communities across Scotland.

I remember playing summer league football in Fife when I was 11 years old, which is a few years ago now. It was 11 against 11 on a full-size park—22 boys playing on a Saturday. We were the only teams of that age group playing. Now, I often go to the same park, which is in Pitreavie in Dunfermline, on a Saturday morning and see 1,000 boys and girls playing there, as well as all the parents, coaches and everyone else who is involved in making that happen. The reality is that the facilities have not changed much in those 20-odd years. Although we have managed to do great things in organising sport and widening access to it, we still face a challenge on facilities.

I have been involved in Bayside Football Club in Fife, which started in 2003 with 13 players and two parents. It now has more than 400 registered players, 80 coaches and 24 teams. It is therefore understandable why there is such pressure on our sporting facilities.

Whatever the sport, we often think that people take part just on the day of the game, but to do a sport properly it is necessary to train and practise during the week. The big challenge that we face is to do with the use of sporting facilities not just for game time but in the middle of the week, particularly in the winter months, when it is a bit more difficult and challenging for parents and volunteers to help out.

There are still a number of significant barriers to participation in sport. That came up in the recent festival of politics event in the Parliament that I was fortunate enough to chair, which Alison Johnstone mentioned. We had excellent contributions from people such as John Beattie, Liz McColgan, Alison Walker and Kim Atkinson, but what stood out were the contributions and questions from the volunteers and other participants. Their eagerness, thoroughness and enthusiasm should make all of us as parliamentarians want to create the right climate for them to succeed and make a difference for our young people, and allow them to continue to take part in sport as they get older, perhaps not on a competitive basis.

I turn to the role of sport in providing access to employment, which has not been mentioned much. There is an anomaly that I would like to raise with the minister. The apprenticeship framework, “Achieving Excellence in Sports Performance”—which, essentially, is for professional athletes—is taken forward only by football clubs. Our apprenticeship system is such that—quite rightly—everyone has to have employed status, but there is a lack of employment opportunities in a number of sports other than football. If we could address that anomaly and allow people to achieve excellence in those other sports, it would make a huge difference.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

I call Margo MacDonald. I regret that I can give you only two minutes, Ms MacDonald.

Photo of Margo MacDonald Margo MacDonald Independent

I, too, regret that time is tight. However, thank you for the two minutes, Presiding Officer.

I have brought with me a great gust of information from a recent seminar on this very topic at the cross-party group on sport. Obviously, I will share it with the convener of the Health and Sport Committee.

The business of a tennis academy surfaced this afternoon. Instead of taking a decision on that right away, perhaps we could consider a broader academy—a racquets academy, because Scotland does well on racquet sports. People have had to leave Scotland to find badminton facilities. The world squash champion went to England and changed his nationality so that he could play. There is a good argument for looking at that.

I would be careful about assuming that sport can be stimulated simply by the provision of facilities. The minister will know about Lochee. Because the right person was not there at the right time to be enthusiastic and to start building, they ended up with this thing like the Atlantis leisure centre in Oban. Twenty years ago, a group of people said that they would take over the swimming pool, and they now have the most fantastic set-up. That is why it is important that the issue of volunteers is looked at and that volunteers are given training to build confidence and knowledge. Many of them need that training before they can even begin to think about doing anything to help in their communities.

There is a model that the minister might want to look at. The Robertson Trust, to which Jenny Marra referred earlier, is a successful trust that goes into small community development and support for sport.

Lastly, I commend the speeches by Alison Johnstone and Mark McDonald as being chock-full of common sense. I hope that the minister and the committee convener read all of them.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

We move to the closing speeches. I call Liz Smith. Up to four minutes, please.

Photo of Elizabeth Smith Elizabeth Smith Conservative

This has been a very insightful debate. Clearly, the major question is where we go from here. How do we turn the celebration, the warm words and the good will into concrete actions? I have listened extremely carefully to the suggestions from members. Broadly speaking, there are four things that we have to do. I suggest that the starting block is to ensure that we build on projects that we know have worked and for which there is therefore quantitative and qualitative evidence that progress has been made.

We all have constituency examples of such projects but, to my mind, the first issue is not just the extremely important one of expanding the numbers involved; it is much more about the quality of the experience. As other members pointed out, it is about an on-going experience on a longer-term basis.

Secondly, it is about access to professionally trained PE teachers and trainers, as well as making life very much easier for people to volunteer. I note carefully what the Scottish Sports Association said about employer-related schemes. John Park made a good remark about the apprenticeship scheme. There are obstacles in the way of people, who are more inclined to opt out of volunteering than to opt in.

It is good to hear that the Scottish Government is about to build in a new sports strategy. That is essential. It is also good that the Government is making some progress on the two hours of PE. However, I ask the minister urgently to address the problem about qualified PE teachers, of whom we have seen a decline. Margo MacDonald has made the point several times in Parliament that quality in PE teachers is essential.

The third issue is improving facilities, rather than just having more of them. Jenny Marra said that some of the tennis facilities in Dundee are simply not acceptable. No one will be attracted to play when playing fields, changing rooms and—sadly, in some cases—pavilions are run down and there are considerable restrictions on facilities.

However, it is also to do with ensuring that whatever strategy we come up with fully articulates with policies in other portfolios, whether that is in health, transport, housing or education. Those are the things that will make us succeed.

I am sure that we were all overawed by what happened in the summer in the Olympic and Paralympic games but, after listening to the athletes talk on television and reading what they have written in the newspapers, I note what comes across loud and clear is that what mattered most to them was what happened at a young age and the inspiration they had in their early years. Andy Murray talked about entering a major tournament at the age of 12—indeed, Luke Patience has mentioned getting into rowing at the age of seven—and we need to captivate, inspire and educate children at that young age and urge them to aspire to that kind of performance.

If we urge communities to build on the examples that we know have worked, we can create a much more prosperous country and make individuals, families and the communities where they work happier and healthier. That is the real legacy and we have to learn the lessons of what our sporting heroes have told us.

Photo of Mark Griffin Mark Griffin Labour

We have heard of lots of positive examples in constituencies across the country where community sport is thriving. Although those projects are already up and running, we have to use the enthusiasm generated by the Olympic and Paralympic games and the upcoming Commonwealth games to get more people to participate in sport. The health and wellbeing reasons for being involved in sport and physical activity are well rehearsed and widely agreed; the challenge now is to get out and just do it, and community sport can play a massive part in that respect.

After what can be described only as a thoroughly inspiring summer of sport, lots of people want to get involved in sporting activity and we must ensure that our facilities are available and affordable. As Duncan McNeil pointed out, that will undoubtedly mean working with local authorities to open up the school estate.

More important, we must support the people who give up their time to volunteer in our community sports clubs. Without existing volunteers—and if we do not encourage new volunteers—we will not be able to accommodate the increasing number of participants that we hope to see. As a result, we must incentivise volunteering, whether through the partnership between sportscotland and Young Scot that gives young volunteers points on their Young Scot card for undertaking volunteer hours; through encouraging employee-supported volunteering programmes that, as Nanette Milne pointed out, benefit the employer, the employee and the wider community; or through the community sports leadership award, which can lead to a national governing body qualification. The latter can help by giving people experience to use in Universities and Colleges Admissions Service applications to further and higher education institutes and can provide payback in the form of support for active school sports clubs during volunteering hours. In the examples that I have seen in central Scotland, there has been very high uptake of the community sports leadership programme, particularly by female students, and it has proved to be very valuable.

As well as incentivising volunteering, we must also break down existing barriers. At the last meeting of the cross-party group on sport, we heard from different organisations that have had fairly big difficulties in securing disclosure certificates for their volunteers. As soon as one person mentioned the phrase “disclosure check”, there was a free-for-all, with organisations piling in to tell their own stories about the length of time that it has taken their volunteers to get certificates. Some might well have been put off as a result and are now lost to volunteering. I realise that disclosure checks are essential for those who wish to work with vulnerable groups, but the Health and Sport Committee and indeed the minister should look at Disclosure Scotland’s performance and the length of time that it sometimes takes to issue certificates to volunteers.

As I have said, volunteers must play a massive part in increasing participation; so, too, must our professional sports clubs. As well as inspiring people to get involved, they should in turn get involved in local communities. Many football clubs in the lower leagues have already adopted and developed community club models, but I believe that the bigger clubs, too, can make a contribution. For example, in my area, Celtic Football Club, as part of a series of sports schools that it ran across the west of Scotland during the summer, held a Victor Wanyama skills school in the newly opened Croy community sports hub. It had a great attendance and stands as an example of how bigger clubs can encourage participation and get more people involved by using their big names or elite athletes. More skills schools are planned for the October holidays.

I congratulate the committee on bringing this debate to Parliament, and I respectfully ask the minister whether she will bring forward a debate about the legacy of the successful Olympics and the upcoming Commonwealth games.

Photo of Shona Robison Shona Robison Scottish National Party

I will try to respond to as many points as possible. Duncan McNeil made some very important points about swimming. We have the top up swimming programme for children who cannot swim, particularly those from deprived areas, and it is working very well indeed. The active girls programme will try to bring together, across all schools, the best of what we know works for teenage girls more comprehensively than has been the case—there will be more information on that shortly. I agree with the point about GP referral. We have tried and tested that and we now need to make it happen as widely as possible. We are working on that.

Patricia Ferguson made a number of important points, one of which—Mark Griffin also raised it—was about a future debate. They may be aware of a commitment to hold regular updates and debate on the Commonwealth games. I suggest that that would be the way for us to reflect and to look forward, and I promise that one will take place before the end of the year.

Nanette Milne and Liz Smith mentioned PE teacher numbers, in which there has actually been a rise. In 2005, the figure was 1,821, and in 2011, it was 2,116. The overall number, which includes those who are centrally employed, is 2,182. However, we must recognise that primary school classroom teachers have a very important role in delivering PE. We are currently building on the good work of Education Scotland, making sure that those teachers have the skills to deliver quality PE to children.

Kezia Dugdale talked about the community ownership and management fund. I assure her that detailed work is taking place on that fund and that details will be announced soon. She talked about social enterprise work, and there is a good opportunity there. I will look at the issue of the post that she mentioned. I have met the lady concerned and I know that some good work is going on.

Jenny Marra mentioned a couple of issues relating to the national performance centre. I am sure that no one in the chamber would expect anything other than an open, fair and transparent process when £25 million of public money is allocated—I am sure that she would acknowledge that. I am surprised that she would cast doubt on the fund’s ability to deliver the national performance centre. She has been told—on a number of occasions—that the Young Scots action fund is a £50 million fund and that the majority of that money will come in 2015-16. The budget she referred to covers only up to 2014-15. I hope that no further doubts will be cast on the money for the national performance centre.

Alison Johnstone raised a number of issues relating to cycling. I had a very good meeting with her and the cross-party group on cycling, and I hope that they will welcome the £6 million of extra money in the budget announced by John Swinney earlier.

John Park made a very good speech, as always. I am pleased that he said that people in the modern apprenticeship programme quite rightly have employment status. I hope that he will share that view with his colleagues, given some of their responses to the apprenticeship programme. I will look at the new youth employment initiative, which Angela Constance and I launched, in relation to his points, as I thought that they had some validity.

I will end with a little more information about the new youth sports strategy that I announced earlier. There is an opportunity for us not only to harness the really good work that is going on, whether on PE, active schools or community sport hubs—all of that good work—but to look at what more needs to be done.

I hope that we can use the opportunity, over the next few months, to have a good look at what works, from the pre-school level right the way through to higher and further education, and how we ensure not only that we get children active at a young age but that we keep them active as they go through their formative years into their teenage years and beyond.

Working with key partners, we hope to be in a position to publish our new strategy next spring, with the involvement of the youth sports panel. I think that we are going to have a really good piece of work, and I look forward to members’ contributions to that process.

Photo of Tricia Marwick Tricia Marwick None

Bob Doris will wind up on behalf of the committee. Mr Doris, I would be obliged if you would continue until 5 pm.

Photo of Bob Doris Bob Doris Scottish National Party

I thank everyone who spoke in the debate for helping to inform the Health and Sport Committee’s inquiry into support for community sport. I assure members that we will consider all the comments carefully and that they will help to form our final report. Due to time constraints, I will refer to only some of the comments that have been made.

Our convener set the tone well by talking about hard-to-reach groups. Girls and a variety of other groups were mentioned, but one that was not mentioned was that of people with disabilities. Given the successful Paralympics that we have just had, it is important to put on record the fact that the committee will consider that group in some detail as well.

Volunteering is a vital component, and the value of volunteering was a thread that ran through the entire debate. I was particularly interested in Gil Paterson’s point that many people are volunteers because their sons and daughters are involved in sport and sometimes, when their sons and daughters move on, the volunteers also move on. We have to think about strategies to maintain that volunteering.

I am delighted that Patricia Ferguson supports my campaign to achieve a £2.2 million investment in the Pinkston paddlesport centre in Glasgow. Tim Baillie and Etienne Scott, the gold medallists in canoeing, were in the Parliament today, and I met them to discuss progress on the project, in which I know that the Minister for Commonwealth Games and Sport has taken an active interest. I thank the Parliament for the support that has been shown.

There is an interesting balance between elite sports and community sports. Alison Johnstone spoke excellently about how the support for elite sports is mapped out. At the same time, it is important that we should not just be cheering people on when we see them at events or on television; we should be getting involved in sports and physical participation ourselves.

PE was mentioned a lot. I will not rehearse those points, although I note that PE teachers are important. There has been significant progress in that area.

Photo of Bob Doris Bob Doris Scottish National Party

I am sorry. I do not have time.

Sport must be a part of the whole-school ethos, not just that of PE departments. That is why the active schools network is so important.

The Health and Sport Committee has received evidence from witnesses about the desire to achieve a closer and more integrated relationship between the NHS and sport, which various speakers referred to. I stress that much good work is going on in that regard, although it is thought that improvements could be made. I am delighted to see that there is a £100,000 investment from the Scottish Government to try to progress that further.

One of the issues with the GP referral system is that there is sometimes little or no choice. Dr Cindy Gray, who is a research fellow at the institute of health and wellbeing at the University of Glasgow, agreed with that and said that a real choice for patients is vital. Dr Gray is an important person to hear when we are considering whether we can justify additional spend in this area, as she is currently analysing the football fans in training programme that is supported by the SPL Trust. The programme involves SPL clubs working in partnership with GPs and patients, and uses the clubs’ brands to get more people physically active. That sort of approach can be pursued not just in football but in basketball, cricket and rugby. We should roll out that model in community sports. Choice is key. The analysis that the University of Glasgow is doing is also key, because we have to justify spending taxpayers’ money. Early intervention and getting people physically active rather than leaving them to suffer from ill health is the way to go, but we have to quantify the benefits of that approach.

I will finish with a suggestion of my own. During the evidence-taking sessions, there was much discussion of which sports gained benefit from cashback for communities and which did not. John Park mentioned apprenticeships and talked about the focus on that, as did Margo MacDonald. I suggest that we leverage a weighting of proceeds of crime funds into areas with great health inequalities. If we can invest more money in the areas and groups that suffer from health inequalities—whether through GP practices or community sports—we could make a real difference. Our committee might consider that issue.

The debate has been excellent. The committee will consider in detail all the suggestions that have been made, and we look forward to reporting back to the Parliament in due course.