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I am delighted to address Parliament on youth sport. I am sure that members agree that it is an important subject, but I will spend some time outlining why I believe it is important.
The benefits of sport for those who take part in it are clear and we know that meeting the physical activity guidelines can deliver dramatic improvements in managing and preventing disease. In Scotland, inactivity contributes to nearly 2,500 deaths each year and leads to significant financial costs for the national health service.
However, the benefits of being active are not limited to the physical. Participation can help young people to develop self-discipline and self-confidence, and can help in their ability to develop relationships with peers and adults and in their success at school.
Getting things right in relation to youth sport can create the basis for lifelong habits of being active. We know that 73 per cent of children already meet the physical activity guidelines, but getting more young people active is, I am sure, something that every member in the chamber supports.
On top of the developmental and health benefits, youth sport can contribute to Scotland’s sporting success. We are all aware of the fantastic success that Scottish athletes had in last summer’s Olympics and Paralympic games in winning 13 medals, which was more than in any previous games, but that must not be the high-water mark. If we take the right actions now, elite success in the future can be greater still, and I am confident that we will see that next year in Glasgow.
All that explains why I am determined that we raise our ambitions for youth sport. I am also determined that our actions on youth sport are informed by the widest possible set of experience and knowledge. The young people’s sport panel has already made a valuable contribution and will continue to be involved with other stakeholders.
This debate is an opportunity for members to bring forward their ideas and suggestions, and I look forward to hearing them. I intend to publish a draft youth sport strategy in September and to give Parliament a further opportunity to debate, discuss and make suggestions on the subject at that time.
It is important that we begin to look beyond the current targets and the horizon that we are currently aiming for to consider what we might want to do around youth sport in the future. I look forward to continuing that dialogue with members from throughout the chamber, but I will outline what I see as being some of the key elements in ensuring success in youth sport.
It starts pre-school, because we need to provide a strong foundation. We know that play is central to how children learn, for both cognitive and softer skills, and that outdoor play in particular can be a major contributor to improving outcomes around physical activity and healthy weight. Scotland’s first national play strategy, which will be published later this month, will set out our vision for play and the action that we are going to take to achieve it. Of course, actions are already in place. The go2play fund provides £3 million to promote the benefits of free-play opportunities and good-quality play spaces for children. Among other things, it has supported the deployment of play rangers, which has allowed children to play in spaces that are familiar to them, such as their street or local park, while giving parents peace of mind and encouraging positive interaction between children and their local community.
School age provides the opportunity to build on the early foundations. Once children learn to throw, catch, run and jump, a world of different sport and physical activity opportunities is available. School often provides young people with their first taste of structured sport and access to local sports clubs. It also provides an opportunity to try a range of different activities and sports. That includes swimming, and I hope to announce shortly what additional support will be made available through the successful swimming top-up programme.
I am convinced that quality physical education provision is the bedrock for ensuring that every child has access to structured PE. That is why we committed about £6 million last year to put in place support mechanisms for schools throughout Scotland to meet the commitment to deliver at least two hours of PE in primary schools and at least two periods of PE in secondary schools for pupils in S1 to S4 by 2014. That is a commitment that, interestingly, the UK Government dropped in October 2010, which makes the Tory amendment a little rich and which is why, as Alex Johnstone will not be surprised to hear, we will not be supporting it.
The Government’s commitment is delivering results—we saw that in the healthy living survey results for last year, which showed that 84 per cent of primary schools and 92 per cent of secondary schools were meeting the commitment, up from 3 per cent and 46 per cent respectively, in 2004-05. There are also now more PE teachers than at any time since 2006, so we are hoping to see continued success when the next results are published on 25 June. We hope to complete the journey by 2014.
Of course, as well as staff, the provision of high-quality facilities plays an important role in provision of PE in schools. The Scottish Government is supporting substantial investment in sporting facilities in new schools across Scotland through the £1.25 billion Scotland’s schools for the future programme. On that basis, I am happy to accept the Liberal Democrat amendment.
To date, local authorities, supported by Government funding, have invested around £24 million in sporting facilities in the 18 schools that have been completed or are under construction. As the Liberal Democrat amendment says, it is important that those schools are easily and widely accessible to the public.
Our flagship active schools programme builds on that core provision by providing opportunities for children and young people to participate in sport before, during and after school. Unlike other areas of the UK, we chose not to reduce our investment in school sport and, since 2007, sportscotland has invested more than £80 million in that programme. Last year alone, the programme provided around 5 million opportunities for young people to take part in more than 70 different sports and activities. We know that there is a particular issue around participation in sport by girls. The active girls programme provides £500,000 a year to increase participation among girls and young women in PE, physical activity and sport, and is delivering for key outcomes. The programme is doing very positive work, a lot of it around dance, which has attracted a lot of girls back into being active in the school environment.
It is important to celebrate the successful models that are already in place in primary and secondary schools. With that in mind, I previously announced the introduction of the school sport awards, which will recognise schools’ achievements in increased PE delivery, in accessibility of schools’ facilities to their local communities and their greater offering of extracurricular sports activities. The awards will be introduced first in North Lanarkshire, West Lothian and Argyll and Bute from the start of August 2013—the next school term—with a view to their being rolled out nationally in August 2014. I hope that Parliament will welcome that, because I think that it is important to recognise in a visible way the good work that schools are doing when they do all the things that we ask them to do. I look forward to seeing schools gaining the awards.
We are continuing to improve Scotland’s sporting facilities and have invested more than £70 million to deliver some world-class venues. Members will be aware that the First Minister announced today a new cashback for pitches fund of £3.15 million to help to install a Scotland-wide network of full-size 3G pitches for youth football and rugby. That is an example of where the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 is helping to support young people in areas that experience problems with antisocial behaviour and crime.
With more than 2,500 schools in Scotland, there is an opportunity to ensure that communities can benefit from year-round access to the facilities. Clearly, many schools excel at that. Members will be aware of our commitment to ensuring that at least half the proposed 150 community sports hubs will be located in schools.
The latest of the 114 hubs that are currently being developed is in Callander. The McLaren community sports hub will bring together McLaren high school, McLaren community leisure centre, Active Stirling and Stirling Council, along with more than 15 local sports clubs and will help to improve the sporting offer in Callander.
I think that we can go further. I want to explore with partners the possibility of reaching a position in which all secondary schools have the opportunity either to be a community sports hub or to have access to one. We will be discussing that as we take forward the youth sport strategy.
It always amazes me to hear that in Scotland more than 195,000 people volunteer within the 13,000 sports clubs, thereby helping to support the 900,000 registered members. Those are amazing statistics, but we want to build on that. The Commonwealth games provides a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make lasting improvements in Scottish sport and to bring wide-ranging benefits to individuals, businesses and communities throughout the nation. We are all aware of the fantastic part that was played by the Olympic games makers in the London Olympics; we must harness the enthusiasm of volunteers here to deliver an inspirational Commonwealth games to secure a long-lasting legacy.
I discussed volunteering at length at last week’s Health and Sport Committee. I do not have time to go into all the details here, but a lot of very exciting activity is going on within our communities. However, we have a real opportunity to use the excitement of the Olympics and the Commonwealth games to do even more, which is why sportscotland is providing a package of further support, which includes regional development managers to work directly with clubs and governing bodies to help local clubs to grow and thrive. That work will continue beyond 2014 and will therefore be yet another example of how we are delivering a lasting legacy.
We already have a number of legacy programmes under way, which are using the games to inspire a generation of young people. Let me mention just a few. The youth legacy ambassador programme is engaging young people throughout Scotland in creating a positive and meaningful legacy for local communities. There are currently, across 25 local authorities, 83 youth legacy ambassadors who are fuelling community pride and passion in the games.
Game on Scotland, the national education programme for the Commonwealth games, is helping our children and young people to develop as responsible global citizens and will transport them to the heart of the games, providing a wide variety of rich learning experiences and opportunities.
We have the lead 2014 partnership, which harnesses the enthusiasm of our young people to help to create the next generation of young sport leaders, and through which 80 student deliverers were trained in each of the years 2011 and 2012, training around 800 pupils in schools in each of those years.
We are also working with NUS Scotland and the further and higher education sector to focus on making a positive impact on the future of young people through the wealth of volunteering and training opportunities that will be available in the run-up to the games.
Would it not be fantastic to continue that track record of hosting events by hosting the youth Olympics in 2018? We want to propel the youth Olympic games and the Olympic values across the globe, while providing the safe and warm welcome for which Scotland is renowned. Thanks to our proven ability to deliver and plan for world-class sporting events, the Glasgow games can focus on global youth outreach and we can project the youth Olympic games across the world, while inspiring the young people of Scotland to become champions in their lives. It is a tough competition, but the Scottish people have backed the bid in their thousands. That support is vital to persuading International Olympic Committee members of the merits of our bid, as is the welcome cross-party support in this place.
We are grateful for that continued support as we get ever closer to decision day on 4 July in Lausanne. I fervently hope for a successful outcome; I am sure that members all hope that, along with me.
I have outlined my intention to publish the draft youth sport strategy in September and for that to be informed by the widest possible knowledge and experience. I hope to hear some new ideas today from members, but I would be very happy to involve members over the summer in that process and to bring the draft youth sport strategy back for members’ comments.
That the Parliament acknowledges the important role that sport plays in the lives of children and young people by helping to create a lifelong habit of being active; recognises the potential that youth sport can have in improving physical and mental wellbeing and establishing sporting success in Scotland; agrees that every effort should be made to harness the motivational potential of the Commonwealth Games in promoting youth sport; notes the Scottish Government’s commitment to publish a draft youth sport strategy in September 2013, and recognises Glasgow’s bid for the Youth Olympics in 2018 as evidence of the commitment to delivering a sporting legacy.
With just 407 days to go until the start of the 20th Commonwealth games in Glasgow, it is fitting that we take stock to consider whether we will achieve the legacy, particularly for our young people, that is so much part of our ambition for the games.
As someone who was closely involved at the very beginning of the planning for Glasgow 2014, I can tell members that, even before the decision to bid was made, we knew that there would have to be a lasting and measurable legacy from the games if we were to make the investment of time and money worth while. There were people then who said that a legacy of anything more than a few additional venues could not be achieved, but I believed then that they were wrong and I maintain that position to this day.
However, we recognised that we would achieve a legacy of improved health and physical fitness only if planning began the minute we made the decision to bid. In other words, the legacy would need to be delivered even if the bid was unsuccessful. I am pleased that the current Scottish Government has indicated that it also takes that approach, and I give it credit for that.
When I read the motion for today’s debate, I was a little bit disappointed by its content—if the minister will forgive me—because it seems to suggest that the Commonwealth games will motivate young people to get involved in sport. I am sure that the games will do that, but every year during Wimbledon the streets and parks are full of young people carrying tennis rackets, which are quickly consigned to a cupboard after the men’s final. The Government’s motion does not explain how it plans to harness that motivation to make sporting activity the norm rather than the exception.
That said, the minister’s speech has gone a considerable way towards reassuring me, and I welcome what she said. The opportunity to contribute to the youth sport strategy, which will be published in September, will be helpful and will no doubt be taken up by interested members.
It is vital that we get this right, because the games provide an opportunity to influence a generation—and beyond—of young people to live healthy and fulfilled lives through sport; that opportunity must not be squandered. The investment of money, time and reputation will be repaid not just by Scottish success on the track or in the arena, but by a step change in physical activity levels in this country from now on. We know the difference that an active life makes to our health, but we must not discount the effect that it has on the quality of life or on the opportunities that it can open up to individuals and communities.
So how do we do that? Well, I probably agree entirely—just about—with the minister. In my view, we should begin in nursery schools. As the minister said, it is important that children learn to be physically literate: to run, to jump, to throw and to catch. To that short list, I would add “to swim”, which we should encourage at the earliest opportunity. Any skill that is learned early becomes second nature and is more likely to be carried into future life, so I am pleased to hear the minister say that we are to have a play strategy, too. Often, play is discounted as something that is just about fun, without its inherent benefits being considered. Some really good progress is being made in that area.
Speaking of education, I welcome the progress that has been made on achieving the physical education targets, but I must say that the targets are supposed to provide a minimum requirement. PE must be supplemented by other activity, if it is to have the desired effect.
We should also ensure that the minimum standard applies to school pupils who have a disability. Although some activities may need to be adjusted to take account of their requirements, disabled young people also need to be physically active. Research that has been carried out by Scottish Disability Sport suggests that disabled youngsters do not currently attain the recommended levels. That is just not good enough. I hope that the youth sport strategy that the minister is due to publish will address disability sport.
Recently, I had the opportunity to visit Scotstoun leisure centre to see some of the young people who take part in sports that are specifically designed for young people with disabilities. I have mentioned this in the chamber before in an entirely different context, but let me mention it again. We all know that participating in sport can be expensive, but the cost of a walking cycle for a disabled 10-year-old is more than £1,000, whereas a regular bike for a 10-year-old costs less than £200. That makes it clear just how expensive it is to encourage the involvement in sport and activity of disabled young people, who already experience other barriers in their daily lives.
The minister was quite right to identify that more work needs to be done to encourage the involvement of girls in sport. We know that the level at which girls participate in sport and activity drops off at around the age of 12, so it is welcome if additional effort is being put into encouraging girls to be active, at least, if not to be involved in sport.
If we ever doubted the importance of sport in relation to health, a quick look at the helpful briefing from the Scottish Sports Association would put us back on track. It includes some interesting statistics from the chief medical officers of the United Kingdom, who tell us that there is a strong correlation between regular physical activity and reductions in the risk of many health conditions, including a 20 to 35 per cent lower risk of cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease and stroke; a 30 to 40 per cent lower risk of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes; and a 20 per cent lower risk of breast cancer.
Those are diseases with which Scotland is all too familiar. If the generation that follows us can, by remaining active, reduce the incidence of just those three conditions, it does not take much thought to appreciate the benefit to their lives that that could bring and the money that could be saved in the long term from the health budget. To my mind, investment in sport and physical activity is investment in preventative medicine.
The basic skills that I said should be learned by all in childhood must continue to be encouraged throughout a child's education and beyond. As a keen walker, I would be the first to say that it is not always necessary to have world-class facilities to stay active, but there are many sports for which facilities are necessary. That is particularly the case as people progress through the ranks, and there is no doubt that a well-trained, experienced and committed coach makes a real difference to a sporting career. Therefore, we must invest in facilities in schools and in communities.
In that respect, I heartily agree with the amendment of my Liberal Democrat colleagues. Indeed, I would go further and say that sportscotland should be involved in planning new schools because, over the years, the organisation has built up a wealth of experience on how facilities can be organised and run, and that expertise could usefully be harnessed.
I have lost count of the number of people who have told me that they took up coaching not because of their own interest in sport, but because their son or daughter wanted to take part in a sport that was not on offer in their area. The coaches who dedicate themselves to supporting young people in their communities must in turn be supported in their efforts. Becoming qualified and putting in the time can be an expensive business, so the idea of employers giving volunteers paid time off bears further consideration.
As the minister mentioned, school sport awards have an important role to play. I think that that idea will prove to be extremely popular in our communities. I sincerely hope, too, that the youth sport strategy will provide pathways for our young people and will join up the efforts of all the organisations that can help them along that path.
Some years ago, the idea of an entitlement to culture for every young person was developed but, unfortunately, it did not make it through the change in Government. I think that there is merit in suggesting that there should be an entitlement to sport and activity for our young people—something tangible to which they know they are entitled that is a legacy that they can take from the Commonwealth games.
Through clubgolf, we already offer all primary school children the opportunity to experience golf. Perhaps a similar system could be put in place for sport more generally that would give young people an entitlement that offers them the chance to have a broad but meaningful experience of sport and allows them to follow their own pathway to whatever level it happens to take them.
I welcome the minister’s announcement about pitches and cashback for communities, but I have argued previously in Parliament that money that is raised from the cashback for communities scheme should be distributed such that the communities that are most affected by crime receive the greatest proportion of the money that is recouped from criminals. Those areas are also the areas where young people are least likely to have the opportunity to participate in sport, so it seems to me that we could better target the proceeds of crime at those communities, to ensure that all children have good experiences as they grow up.
Thank you, Presiding Officer.
The 2011 Commonwealth youth games had a legacy plan, which was good to see. That will carry through to 2014, and I am delighted to hear about the good work that is being done by the legacy ambassadors and by others. However, it is important to remember that that work also links to the Glasgow 2018 youth Olympics bid and, as the minister said, it is now less than a month until we hear the announcement on that.
This is an exciting time for young people in Scotland to have an interest in sport and to be involved in sport, and I hope that our enthusiasm will help to motivate them to make a lifelong commitment to it.
I move amendment S4M-06921.2, to insert after second “youth sport”:
“and recognises that access to quality sporting facilities and trained coaches help to motivate and encourage continued participation in sport”.
This week, I had the pleasure of attending an international karate festival in Aberdeen run by the National Karate Federation. The event attracted some 200 athletes from home and abroad, and nearly 600 spectators were packed into a limited viewing area. I thoroughly enjoyed the display of high-quality karate, and I commend Mr Ronnie Watt OBE, who also holds the order of the rising sun for his work with martial arts, for devoting so much of his time and energy to making the event a resounding success. The event benefited charity, too, with a collection at the door for the Grampian Cardiac Rehabilitation Association.
Let us compare and contrast that success, which was achieved with no financial assistance from outside sources, with the Scottish Government’s performance on sport. In its 2007 manifesto, the Scottish National Party pledged
“To help Scottish children develop the habit of physical fitness we will ensure that every pupil has 2 hours of quality PE each week delivered by specialist PE teachers.”
However, it emerged in 2010 that only 35 per cent of primary schools and 17 per cent of secondary schools were providing two hours of PE a week. That led to another policy sidestep from the Scottish Government, which decided to change the focus—for secondary schools, at least—from two hours to two periods a week, and which set a target for achieving that by the 2014 Commonwealth games. The target may ultimately be achieved, but it is outrageous that even that modest ambition has taken a full seven years to be delivered.
I am sure that the minister will get the opportunity to reply at the end.
The fact is that the Government just cannot get kids into sport for a paltry two hours a week, even where, using the historic concordat with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, it has the greatest potential influence. The motion is therefore an exercise—if members will pardon the pun—in anodyne self-congratulation.
In reality, there is grave concern that too much of the sports industry remains unregulated and that sportscotland is too concerned with introducing English-style coaching excellence regimes into elite sport, while doing too little to address the pseudo-commercial businesses that are left to indulge themselves in whatever sporting practices they see fit.
Sports coaches are so concerned about practices in some clubs that I was prompted to put three written questions to the minister last year about coaching standards and unregulated facilities. The answers disappointed me, as they did the coaches concerned, and they failed to address the real concerns about the low level of qualification and expertise required to start up a sports club.
One such example that has been shown to me is that of a franchise opportunity that involves the franchisee doing a five-day course that qualifies them to open their own sports club. I am sure that the majority of people would agree that five days appears to be an extremely short period of time to turn someone who may have little sporting experience into a fully qualified instructor, especially given the possibility of injuries to young athletes arising from poor-quality coaching.
I want greater participation in sport, which not only brings health benefits but teaches discipline and team working and comes with great socialising opportunities. Sports clubs, especially in rural areas, are extremely important for those reasons.
I am deeply concerned that, while NHS Scotland encourages parents to get their children active and into sport for the long-term benefit of our population, the education minister tinkers with the curriculum for excellence and the sports minister promises glossy strategies and programmes for the people while delivering only for a sporting elite in the hope that it might inspire others. The Scottish Government’s record to date would hardly put it on the winner’s podium. Considerably more can and must be done to encourage greater participation in sport.
It is also vital that the Scottish Government takes on board the concerns of highly qualified coaches about the lack of regulation among those who operate outside the system. The bottom line is that, when an individual or family decides to take up a sport, they must be able to have confidence that what is on offer is of suitable calibre and is taught appropriately.
Like everyone else in Scotland, I am very much looking forward to the Commonwealth games and I am certain that they will be a great success. There is no doubt that the investment in facilities will benefit young Scots for a long time to come, but the greatest service to the people of Scotland would be a regulated and supported sporting pathway, starting in schools and being progressed via a properly regulated sports industry that is fit for a modern Scotland. If the Scottish Government is capable of delivering that, it will have delivered a legacy that will benefit young Scots for years to come.
I move amendment S4M-06921.3, to insert after “Scotland”:
“; notes with concern however that, six years on, the Scottish Government has still not delivered on its pledge to ensure that all school pupils have access to two hours of PE per week”.
I am happy to speak in this useful debate on youth sport. The starting point for me was when I was reading my papers for tomorrow morning’s Public Audit Committee, in which the committee will consider the “Commonwealth Games 2014 Progress report 2: Planning for the delivery of the XXth Games”, which is one of the standard reports that the committee gets.
“There is no specific funding for legacy but the strategic partners have aligned their existing initiatives”.
She goes on to say:
“In the current economic climate other public and private organisations may find it difficult to invest to achieve a long-term legacy.”
That suggests the challenge that there is in relation to legacy. For there to be significant and long-term progress in youth sport, the Government, all the agencies and local government will have to make a long-term commitment to face the challenges.
That is why I wanted to pick up the point about schools in our amendment. Schools are where the debate about the long term should be. As the minister said, the Government is investing considerably in a new school building programme. In many ways, it is doing no more than previous Governments did, but that is as it should be. One or two councillors of no political persuasion have observed to me that the approach is in, in effect, private finance initiative by the back door—but that is for another day and another debate.
Patricia Ferguson made a point about sportscotland. Surely we should be using our leading agency, with all the expertise that it has put together since 2000, when it produced a paper on the school estate being widened out for community sport in its “Guide to community use of school sports facilities”. Sportscotland should be integral to the process, but from my quick bit of research into the way in which the Scottish Futures Trust is building schools, and the way in which the hubcos around Scotland are acting, that does not appear to be the case. As Patricia Ferguson mentioned, sportscotland is not therefore directly involved, which is a mistake.
If the minister takes one idea from me for the strategy that she will publish in the autumn, it would be to change that approach. After all, the organisation is currently carrying out a research study on sports facilities across the school estate in Scotland. The research is being done by Sheffield Hallam University, which is due to produce its findings this summer. I would have thought that that would be an integral part of assessing where we are and what needs to happen.
It is one thing to make the very welcome announcement about cashback for pitches as the minister did—or was it the First Minister?—but if we look closely at what the Scottish Futures Trust is doing on school buildings, we find out that it does not directly involve sportscotland, as I believe it should, in an assessment of what the correct facilities should be for the development of sport in schools.
The Parliament considered the issue through its Health and Sport Committee’s pathways into sport inquiry back in 2009. The committee recommended that sportscotland should be a statutory consultee for any proposed development of a school. That might be an academic point, because a statutory consultee will be consulted at the end of a process rather than the beginning. I would rather that, instead of following that recommendation, the minister ensured that sportscotland is involved not only in the future but from now on—I cannot believe that it is not happening now, although I have heard from the horse’s mouth that it is not.
In addition, a closer relationship with the Scottish Futures Trust should immediately be put in place for what is our premier sports body. Sportscotland is also responsible for implementing the active schools policy that started under the previous Government and has rightly been carried on by the present Government. I understand that the sportscotland board will consider an extension of the policy in the coming months. If we believe in the active schools programme, logically we should take forward active consideration of how sportscotland works with local government to achieve the right facilities in our schools.
The minister referred to community sports hubs. I forget her figures and she will correct me if I have them wrong, but my figures are that 75 per cent of the hubs are expected to be in the school estate. If the minister is aiming for all to be in the estate, I completely agree with that as it is eminently sensible and the way to go. However, we are some way away from some but not all education authorities—to say nothing of some headteachers—accepting that schools are a complete community asset. From personal experience, I know that many still consider their schools to be a school first and a community asset second.
Just to clarify, 50 per cent of the community sports hubs, which is 150, will be within secondary schools. However, we are looking at what happens next, and discussions are taking place in relation to the youth sport strategy on every secondary school being a hub or having access to one.
I am happy to accept that point and agree with that approach.
The Scottish Sports Association has given a briefing to members for this debate in which it highlights the importance of places in the same way:
“school fields, pools, halls and gyms are Scotland’s great untapped sports resource - if we can open up existing and new schools every community can be active.”
That seems to me to be the essence of what we should be achieving to ensure that we have a lasting legacy for the future.
I move amendment S4M-06921.1, to insert after second “youth sport”:
“; notes research from Join In highlighting the ongoing volunteering efforts of many Olympic Games makers; further notes the increased appetite among the public to get involved in volunteering, which, it believes, demonstrates one important way in which major sporting events can deliver a legacy benefiting grassroots sports; recognises the importance of ensuring that all new primary and secondary schools built through the Scottish Futures Trust include sports facilities that are widely and easily available to the public”.
I am delighted to be speaking in support of the minister’s motion. I believe that the Government has ambitious plans to create a lifelong habit of sporting activity, with all the social and health benefits that accompany a more physically active lifestyle.
The notable success of Scottish athletes in the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics has helped to raise the profile of sport across Scotland already, but we also have a fantastic opportunity for the whole country in next year’s Commonwealth games not only to encourage talented young sportsmen and women to succeed but to encourage all our young people to be more physically active and to see participation in sport as something for them all. I therefore warmly welcome the Government’s commitment to deliver a youth sports strategy.
We know that physical activity is important and that around 48 per cent of Scottish adults actively undertake the recommended minimum weekly levels of physical activity. However, 73 per cent of our children meet the minimum levels, a figure which includes an increase in the percentage of girls doing 60 minutes of moderate activity every day, which is encouraging. That is important since, as the minister said earlier, physical inactivity contributes to 2,500 deaths a year, which has a significant financial cost to our NHS. Indeed, it would be fair to say that increasing their levels of physical activity is one of the most effective measures that anyone can take to help protect their long-term health prospects. It is key to our preventative health agenda.
I want to reflect on what some of the national policy direction looks like at a local level, since it is at that level that young people can most readily engage in sport. In Dumfries and Galloway, the local authority has integrated its active schools and community sports programmes, so that, where there was once a division between what was provided in a school setting and what happened in the wider community, there is now a joined-up approach.
Active school officers are responsible for sporting activity from pre-school fun to working with teenagers and community sports clubs. I am advised that that arrangement is the first of its sort in Scotland, and I hope that the minister will consider it when preparing the draft strategy.
Using that structure, Dumfries and Galloway is already embracing the spirit of the Olympics and the Commonwealth games through its active games, which took place for the first time last year. Active games, which are badged “A Games for Dumfries and Galloway”, are linked to both the London 2012 and Glasgow 2014 legacies. The 2012 active games saw 450 children compete in eight sports across three venues, and the events received funding support from EventScotland, Legacy 2014 and high-profile local sponsors. The games were designed to involve all of a geographically widespread region, with every cluster of primary schools competing in the qualifying events and heats. This year, children will compete in athletics, cycling, badminton, swimming, gymnastics, netball, tag rugby and swimming. The final will be held on Saturday 7 September in Dumfries, and I very much hope that it will eclipse last year’s success.
Dumfries and Galloway is not only off to a good start with its active games. Working with sportscotland, the local authority is rolling out 3G artificial sports pitches in strategic locations, all of which have an element of community sports club involvement in the administration and operation of the facilities as well as in their use.
The use of school facilities, to which the minister referred, is also taking shape. For example, the new Dalbeattie learning campus is likely to have a climbing wall built into its specifications because there is currently no such facility anywhere in the region. Community use will be specifically designed into the new campus.
In addition to all that, Dumfries and Galloway has been establishing itself as a destination for international competition in its own right. The Dumfries ice bowl, which is an absolutely fantastic facility, will host the world mixed doubles curling championship and world senior men’s and women’s curling championships next year. More than 30 senior teams from around the world are expected to compete, along with a similar number of mixed doubles teams.
The same venue will host the under-20 world ice hockey championship this year and the under-18 world ice hockey championship next March, having successfully hosted the women’s under-18 world championship qualification tournament in October last year—an event that I remember very well, as I was there for the opening game. I am sure that all those responsible for the hard work that has secured the growing reputation as a venue for international events would be pleased to welcome the minister at one of those events, should her diary allow.
That is an important achievement for Dumfries and Galloway and one that I fully support. It is also important because, like the Commonwealth games, it brings elite-level sport closer to home, which is important for our young people.
I believe that encouraging our young people across the board into greater participation in sport is a valuable and worthwhile aim. It will be good for our health and wellbeing and will show clear benefits in long-term health prospects for the population. It is also fun, and I cannot think of anything better than encouraging our children to have fun.
There is good work under way already. The examples that I have highlighted demonstrate that that is the case. We are approaching 2014 with solid local activity already enthusing our children and young people. I very much hope that Glasgow’s bid to hold the youth Olympics in 2018 is successful on 4 July. I believe that that is a positive starting point and I am happy to support the motion in Shona Robison’s name.
I welcome the opportunity to speak in the debate, given the national significance of next year’s Commonwealth games.
I see this as the perfect time to highlight the great work done in my region by North Ayrshire Council, which, under previous Labour administrations, put in place many programmes and initiatives that have benefited individuals across the local area.
North Ayrshire Council, KA Leisure and NHS Ayrshire and Arran have placed an emphasis on jointly providing opportunities for everybody in North Ayrshire to be active, involved and inspired. With more than 50 sporting clubs in North Ayrshire, it was worrying that, in 2008, the local authority held a worse-than-average position in relation to 38 of the 61 indicators of the health and wellbeing profile.
In 2010, KA Leisure launched the fit for the future strategy to meet the national outcomes in the national performance framework. More importantly, the strategy aims to tackle health inequalities, especially given that the estimated cost of physical inactivity in Scotland for 2010-11 was £94.1 million. That money would be better spent on early intervention, as prevention is better than any medicine.
I call on the Government to ensure that it is taking steps to support future generations into success in youth sport, the legacies of the Olympic and 2014 Commonwealth games, and the legacy that can be provided if Glasgow is successful in winning its bid for the 2018 youth games. However, there has to be more than a legacy for Glasgow; the Government must take steps to ensure that the legacy can be enjoyed across Scotland. We must ensure that my constituents who live only 40 minutes from Glasgow can benefit from the governmental spending that Glasgow will get. What legacy arrangements has the Government put in place for other areas to ensure that the benefits extend far beyond the location of the games?
In 2012, I noted that the sports minister announced the funding for a national sports centre, with an investment of £25 million. I was delighted to support my Labour colleagues on the council with plans to place a bid for a football academy to be established in Largs at the existing Inverclyde sports centre, especially given its links with world-renowned football managers such as Sir Alex Ferguson and José Mourinho. However, it seems that the Government’s change in the criteria from a football academy to a national performance centre means that Largs is no longer a contender, even though officials in North Ayrshire Council had begun to prepare a bid. It seems that the real reason why the council was dissuaded from placing a bid is that the decision had been taken out of its hands by the continual moving of the goalposts—if members will excuse the pun—in altering the criteria.
Does the member not welcome the fact that more sports will be involved in the national performance centre rather than the centre just being about football? The sporting world in Scotland certainly welcomes that fact; surely the member welcomes it, too.
Yes, but it would have been useful if that had been clear in the criteria from the outset.
The three sites that are now being considered for the academy—in Edinburgh, Dundee and Stirling—are all on the east coast or are central. As much as I welcome the investment for any future sporting heroes whom we may produce, it is disappointing that the project will join a long list of sporting investments lost to the west of Scotland.
I am honoured to represent an area that has many successful junior teams and clubs that are run by the hard work of thousands of dedicated volunteers. I am delighted when I hear of their sporting successes and when they have been successful in gaining Big Lottery Fund funding, but I know that it is a constant struggle for those clubs to remain solvent, despite their hard work and dedication. The continuation of those clubs and the opportunities that they provide for young people across the region often depends on the capacity of their members to complete funding applications. Perhaps the minister can give some thought to providing support to help people to complete funding applications.
It is true that many well-established organisations, such Kilwinning Community Sports Club and the Evolution Skatepark in Stevenston, have become social enterprises to try to become self-sufficient, but they are still largely reliant on grants to update and enhance their facilities for members. I call on the Government to consider putting more support into aiding the viability of local clubs that provide sporting opportunities and inspiration to our young people every day, particularly in areas where there are clear health inequalities, such as North Ayrshire. We need to ensure that grass-roots sport funding is both constant and available, because to truly ensure a future legacy there needs to be real and long-term investment in everyday sporting opportunities.
I look forward to the publication of the youth sport strategy in September this year.
I welcome the forthcoming Scottish Government strategy on youth sport. I also welcome the fact that it will be a draft strategy, which will give all interested stakeholders the opportunity to work constructively to develop the strategy in a collegiate way. That is the right way in which to proceed.
We all want to ensure that the potential legacy from Glasgow’s Commonwealth games is maximised, as it should significantly increase youngsters’ interest in getting involved in sport. However, just as significant, as the motion states, we want to create a lifelong habit of being active. It is not just about getting young people active; it is about keeping them active. If I have time later, I will say more about that.
Undoubtedly, investment in sporting infrastructure and funds for specific initiatives to support schools and sports clubs to get many more young people active are crucial. I will note one or two of the investment priorities alongside community sport hubs, which deliver a significant cash saving to many clubs that work together. The £7.4 million capital spending budget to transform local sports facilities throughout Scotland is money that local clubs can access, and the £10 million legacy 2014 active places fund has already awarded cash to 24 community projects. Those are two examples of funding being leveraged in.
I want to talk about how we should direct future investment. We need a full audit to determine where there are lower levels of sporting participation among young people. Just as important is how we tackle the problem that exists. Is it an issue around volunteers or the range of sports clubs and sporting opportunities that are available? Is it a lack of access to qualified coaches? Is it a facilities issue? Is it to do with the cost of access? Is it down to the fact that there is a weak sporting culture in some areas? Those are potential barriers to participation in sport, and we must have that information before we can direct funds to tackling the issues through the opportunities provided by the Commonwealth games.
We need a baseline against which to measure any future success in terms of sporting participation and, crucially, to inform future investment. As part of that baseline to inform future investment, we should consider how we can prioritise investment in areas of particular deprivation and areas with particularly poor health outcomes. Unfortunately, those are often the same areas, but those are two clear criteria for the direction of funding to get young people more physically active.
There have been some really good signs. For example, there has been an investment of £2.2 million in developing a paddlesports centre at Pinkston in Glasgow, with £1 million coming from the Scottish Government. That crucial initiative is driving regeneration in a deprived area. Just as important, a network of youth clubs in the area are now forming their own canoe club to get physically active. Those are opportunities that would not otherwise be available to the people of Maryhill, Springburn and beyond. I am delighted by the joint work that Glasgow City Council and the Scottish Government are doing on the bid to host the youth Olympics in north Glasgow. We will see 400 new social rented houses delivered in that part of the city because of the Scottish Government’s commitment, irrespective of whether the youth Olympics bid is successful. We all want the bid to be successful, but it is important that that investment is leveraged in irrespective of that.
I will say a little bit about the cost of accessing sports facilities. I recently met the football club North Kelvin United, which told me that it was trying to keep costs as low as possible. However, even if the club charges only £3 or £4 a week for young people, the cost for a family with two young boys to get them actively involved in sport can add up to £10 a week if they are bought a can of juice as well, and a lot of families on benefits do not have that money. We must think carefully about that. I give credit to that club because, for the first time, it is launching a girls’ football team. We all want young girls to get more physically active.
We need to consider how we support success in deprived communities, where there are examples of sports clubs that are doing well, and how we help them. It is incumbent on me to mention the formidable Alex Richardson, from the gladiators weightlifting project, who gave quite dramatic evidence to the Health and Sport Committee. He has informed me that, in the recent championships in Austria, young kids from the east end of Glasgow won two gold, four silver, and four bronze medals and that others were highly placed. He pointed out that, should the 2018 youth Olympics bid be successful, many of those young people will qualify for it. However, those young people should be taking part in the 2018 youth Olympics irrespective of where it is held. Therefore, my plea is that sportscotland, the Scottish Government and others work strategically to ensure that young people who could be sporting icons in their local communities can excel at the highest level. In gladiators, we perhaps have an example of how that could be done.
My final point concerns the oldies. We want young people to get physically active, but they eventually get old. I therefore suggest that Glasgow should put in a bid for the 2021 world masters games for the over-35s. Young people will—we hope—reach 35 at some point in their lives, so I hope that the minister will back that bid. I have written to Glasgow City Council about that, too—I have asked that it sees those games as part of the legacy to keep people physically active throughout their lives—so that we can work in partnership to deliver for the city and for Scotland.
Dundee has been campaigning for nearly two years to bring the national football academy to our city—the ideal chance to encourage youth participation in sport in our city. We expect a decision this summer. The Minister for Commonwealth Games and Sport has passed responsibility for the decision to the Deputy First Minister, so we look forward to Nicola Sturgeon’s decision.
Dundee’s bid, which is excellent, meets all the stage 1 criteria and beyond. Dundee City Council is working hard to secure the academy for our city at the final stage this summer. Dundee’s competition is from the other two finalists, which are Heriot-Watt University and the University of Stirling. I was keen to find out how much capital investment each of the three finalists had had over the years since devolution. However, I was told that the Scottish Government does not hold information on how much capital or sports investment has gone into each constituency or postcode.
I understand that the Scottish Government does not hold investment figures for Dundee City East or Dundee City West, or any other constituency in the country. However, the Minister for Commonwealth Games and Sport will know as well as I do that we could pull together the information and make educated estimates of the amount of support that each community has received. Stirling and Heriot-Watt universities have received millions of pounds of central Government investment, but the minister will be acutely aware, as I am, of the general lack of investment in Dundee and in the area where we have proposed that the football academy be located, at the back of Lochee.
The strength of the Dundee bid is that it is a community bid. It is backed by everyone whom I speak to in the city—I am sure that the Minister for Commonwealth Games and Sport would agree that she would struggle to find someone in our city who does not want the football academy to be located there. Six thousand people have taken the time to sign up to the campaign, and there is cross-party support from Labour and the Scottish National Party.
The campaign and bid have come from our community—sports clubs all over the city have asked for sign-up sheets for players, coaches, grans, granddads, aunties and uncles. Our proposed site is in an area that is badly in need of economic regeneration. Our bid does not have the advantage of pre-existing university facilities to build around, but that was intentional because we want Scotland’s football academy and sporting performance centre to be located in a community that would feel its benefits the most.
To build around an already sophisticated sports complex at either of the two competing universities, benefiting an already privileged university community, might be a missed opportunity; to use foresight and commit to encouraging sport where it is most needed, in communities that have high levels of unemployment and deprivation, is an exciting and tempting decision for the Deputy First Minister. She could decide to put Scotland’s new sports academy in a community that is crying out for change and desperately in need of investment. We in the community—in our thousands—have asked the Scottish Government to put its confidence and trust in Lochee and Dundee.
Dundee has been Scotland’s forgotten city for too long. The Scottish Government’s current commitment to Dundee is welcome, but it is not enough. When I ask in the Parliament about jobs for Dundee, John Swinney tells me that Dundee is getting the Victoria and Albert museum. When I ask about access to music tuition in Dundee, Fiona Hyslop tells me that Dundee is getting the V and A.
I hope that the sports minister agrees with me and with many people in our city that as wonderful as the V and A project will be for Dundee, it is not enough to address a long-term lack of investment in our city and not enough to inspire a generation of youth sport participation. The football academy would be a major step in the right direction. It would encourage a new generation of sporting heroes in our city and it would provide a much-needed economic boost for Lochee and Dundee.
I am delighted to speak in a debate that is about celebrating and building on Scotland’s success in youth sport. I will focus on how youth sport is being supported in the south-west of Scotland, although I should say to my constituents that anything that I say will only scratch the surface of what is going on in the region.
Dumfries and Galloway has benefited from the cashback for communities fund. There has been Government investment of £1 million in three third-generation pitches, in Annan, Dumfries and Stranraer. Annan Athletic Football Club unveiled its new 3G pitch—the first of its kind in Dumfries and Galloway—in December 2012. The pitch was funded by sportscotland and Dumfries and Galloway Council, as well as the Government. The Scottish Football Association played a key role in advising the Government about where to allocate funding. I have been to Annan Athletic’s ground, and the pitch is certainly being well used for community activities and youth development. Annan Athletic has first-class community engagement, and the new surface will facilitate a massive increase in capacity, enabling all sections of the club to grow.
Easy as it is to get carried away talking about football after Scotland’s recent win against Croatia, I do not want to concentrate on football. I want to talk about a sport in which Scotland regularly reaches world-class heights: curling.
There is disagreement about the origins of the sport. In his 1884 book, “Curling: the Ancient Scottish Game”, Dr James Taylor wrote:
“There is good reason to believe that Curling originated in Scotland, probably in the south-western district of the country, which has always been its stronghold.”
However, I am aware that the Netherlands and Belgium have a strong claim as the home of curling.
What cannot be disputed is Scotland’s pre-eminence in the game and the south-west of Scotland’s disproportionate contribution to getting Scotland to that position. Scottish women are world champions at the moment, and the team’s skipper, Eve Muirhead, is certainly in the running to be Scottish sports personality of the year.
Eve Muirhead curls with the Dunkeld curling club, which is based in Pitlochry. Less well known is that her teammates all hail from the south-west of Scotland. They include: Anna Sloan, who is 18 and comes from Lockerbie, who plays third for Eve’s junior rink and skips her own ladies rink; Vicki Adams, who plays second, who is 23 and comes from Stranraer; and Claire Hamilton, who is also 23 and is from Dumfries, and who currently plays lead for the Scottish champion rink. Hamilton was a member of the Anna Sloan rink that won the gold medal for Great Britain in the 2011 winter universiade. Hamilton played for the team’s alternate and also played third for Sloan that year.
The girls are looking forward to the winter Olympics in 2014 in Sochi in Russia. Scotland, England and Wales all compete separately in international curling. By an agreement between the curling federations of those three home nations, only Scotland can score qualification points on behalf of Great Britain—because, obviously, we are the best. Team GB has qualified for the 2014 Olympics and is currently standing third in the world.
This morning, I was pleased to receive an email from Anna Sloan of the women’s champion team, in which she reflected on the importance of good facilities in building her expertise. Anna trains at home from Wednesday to Saturday, mainly at DGOne and the David Keswick centre in Dumfries. In the lead-up to the Olympics she will be based in Stirling during the winter. Both she and her teammate Claire Hamilton said that their success in curling was due to their families and to the tradition in the south-west. She said that it seemed only natural that she curled; all her cousins did, too. She began her training at the Lockerbie ice rink, which reopened this year after receiving a sportscotland investment of £214,000 to enhance its facilities.
That shows the worth of investing in tradition. There is a tradition of curling in south-west Scotland, probably in the same way that there is a tradition of cross-country skiing in Norway or of long-distance running in the Horn of Africa. Therefore, I would welcome the minister’s assurance that we will also invest in our traditional strengths here in Scotland by considering the inclusion of curling in the draft youth sports strategy.
The motion and amendments rightly draw attention to the Commonwealth games and their legacy. I want to make mention of some of the world-class winter sports events that will take place in the south-west next year, on which my colleague Aileen McLeod has already touched. In April and May 2014 the Dumfries ice bowl will host the curling world championship mixed doubles and the curling world championship senior men and women’s events. Those events are expected to attract at least 7,000 visitors to Dumfries next year and will help to build on Dumfries ice bowl’s vision of striving to be the leading ice sport venue in Scotland. The ice bowl has recently seen considerable upgrading to its curling rink and its stones. It is also home to the Solway Sharks ice hockey team—the current English national league north division cup winners and division 2 champions—which has won 10 major titles since 1997.
Aileen McLeod spoke about the 2012 active games. I am delighted that the ice bowl next year will add to that, not just with curling but with the under-18 and under-20 ice hockey male championships.
I was delighted this year to attend an event that encourages local people to volunteer for ice bowl events. Those volunteering roles will include school visits, school liaison and coaching.
Curling is coming home to the south-west of Scotland next year and I am sure that everyone in the chamber will welcome that.
I am delighted to speak about Scottish sporting success and the Scottish Government’s aspirations for the nation's sporting future. With the Commonwealth games and the Ryder cup due to arrive in Scotland in 2014, the issue of sport and of achieving a sporting legacy is of particular importance. It is widely hoped that those elite sporting events will inspire and encourage Scotland’s youth to participate in a variety of sporting activities, thus raising social capital and benefiting communities and society as a whole.
In a bid to highlight the potential for greater sporting participation, the Scottish Government has initiated measures that seek to attract youths from all socioeconomic backgrounds to sports and physical activities that they might not otherwise have considered. The Scottish Government is developing the youth sport strategy, which is designed to encourage young people to partake in physical exercise by making sport accessible and enjoyable.
The young people’s sport panel is to be a key contributor to that youth sport strategy. The panel comprises 16 young people and is formed through a partnership between sportscotland and Young Scot. It has two principal objectives: to influence and shape the future of sport in Scotland and to raise its profile. The panel hopes to harness current sporting excitement to motivate and encourage young Scots to participate by highlighting existing opportunities to those who may be unaware of the diverse sporting activities available to them.
Further, the Scottish Government is a champion of physical education in schools and has demonstrated its commitment to youth sport and fitness through two core initiatives. The pre-school children’s play strategy is in development, and the Scottish Government initiated the go2play scheme in 2012. For children of primary and secondary school age, the Scottish Government aims to increase the frequency of physical education lessons to approximately two hours per academic week. It supports the implementation of that initiative with £5.8 million of funding over 2012-13 and 2013-14.
In a bid to maximise youth potential, more than 900 pupils from throughout Scotland are to participate in the youth volunteering and leadership programme lead 2014. That programme, delivered through collaboration between the Youth Sport Trust, sportscotland and Glasgow 2014—the Commonwealth games organising committee—has been designed to encourage young people to become sporting ambassadors, and enhance skills that could be utilised in other areas of their lives. The skills gained from such participation could be invaluable attributes when they enter the labour market.
Youth volunteering opportunities such as those that are offered by lead 2014 reinforce the excellent work that is done in the community sport hubs, of which there are two in my constituency, and through the active schools network. Indeed, volunteers are an integral part of the sporting infrastructure, with 150,000 volunteers currently involved in sport in Scotland. The development of youth volunteers is vital to the continued existence of that infrastructure.
The success of the cashback for communities scheme, which was launched in 2007, must be stressed if we are to celebrate Scotland’s success in youth sport. The contribution of the scheme to sport and sports facilities is by no means insignificant, with £8 million invested in sport alone thus far and a further £16.7 million committed to projects through to 2014. That initiative is unique to Scotland. By using money recovered under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 and investing it in community programmes and facilities, largely for the benefit of young people, it tackles social exclusion and attempts to re-engage disaffected youths in education and promote health and wellbeing, primarily in areas that have been affected by crime and antisocial behaviour.
The scheme funds partnerships with Scottish sporting associations to deliver projects in all local authority areas in Scotland. The programmes offered are designed to be accessible to all, irrespective of race, class, gender, economic circumstances and physical ability. They are also designed to be individually developmental, with emphasis on the changing of behaviour and attitudes, as well as on improving personal and physical skills.
In the 2012 report into the cashback Scottish athletics programme, the most popular response when organisers attempted to discern what difference the programme had made to the lives of the 8,000 young people who took part was “stopping getting into trouble.” That response highlights the requirement for such schemes. Cashback provides young people with activities to keep them socialised and engaged with the community and society as a whole.
It is hoped that the long-term outcomes of the cashback for communities programme will include young people becoming successful learners with improved life chances. Indeed, recent evidence has found that there is a link between sporting participation and an improvement in educational attainment. Therefore, sport can be used to engage young people, especially those who face further social exclusion as a result of poor educational achievement.
The Scottish Football Association schools of football programme, which is supported by cashback, attempts to re-engage such young people in areas of social deprivation. The programme has observed progress in student attendance, behaviour, academic attainment and motivation. Other sporting programmes supported by cashback have witnessed similar results. Thus, it is clear that sport can be used to prevent any future social exclusion of Scotland’s youth.
I congratulate Glasgow youth Olympics bid team on the positive impression that it has made on the International Olympic Committee’s youth Olympic games evaluation commission. Scotland is one of three countries shortlisted to host the youth Olympics in 2018. If the games were to be secured for 2018, that would create further opportunity to progress the legacy of the 2014 events.
I welcome the chance to contribute to this debate. It is important that we do all that we can to develop a passion for sport in our young people.
It was an Austrian industrial manager, Johann Rosenzopf, who suggested that we should have a youth Olympics. That was a response to growing global concerns about childhood obesity and falling youth participation in sport. I will not repeat the many comments that colleagues have made about the health benefits of being active and about preventative spend. It is sheer common sense to invest in sport at this time.
It is important that we encourage a passion for sport among our young people, so we have to do all that we can to ensure that they have opportunities to find the sport that is right for them. If someone is passionate about a sport, it is more likely that they will exercise. They will want to practise and play the games that will make them better at their sport. They will be moving rather than sitting. Some sports require more running than others, but all require some level of activity.
Involvement in sport also encourages social interaction. Young people spend time developing relationships with team mates. They might meet people from different schools, different workplaces and different areas—people they might not come across otherwise. Young people learn to work together. Sport is fun, yet they have a goal. It stops our young people constantly telling us that they are bored. It gets them away from screens and gives them something positive to do. It teaches many life skills, too: time management; getting something such as their kit ready; and goal-oriented thinking. It lets them see that if they work and practise, they can achieve something. Those transferable skills can be applied to exams, learning skills in trades and so on.
Sport helps young people to de-stress. They can forget about school and the pressure of exams and they become mindful of what they are doing in the moment. If someone is learning the high jump, for example, they cannot be thinking about their homework or the other pressures in their life. That is healthy for our young people. Their self-esteem develops, too, through encouragement of and praise for their efforts. Whether they are experts or not, they learn that, if they strive, they can improve. That empowers them and develops a positive, healthy attitude.
As I have said before, it is important that we give children every opportunity to try out a wide variety of sports, whether that is free running, BMX or mountain biking—it might be something away from the main stream. I would like the Scottish Government to ask young people what they would like to see in the youth sport strategy and what the barriers and incentives are. Bob Doris spoke about the costs to families. Accessing an athletics track, buying some spikes and so on may be beyond some people’s incomes—although I know that my local club has a second-hand policy whereby people hand in gear, and we should encourage that. However, there are opportunities in our daily lives to encourage young people to be active. The bikeability scheme whereby every child in Scotland should learn to cycle is important, but we are still relying on volunteers to come forward; we are relying on parents. It is the same with coaching.
Last week, Edinburgh hosted its traditional annual interscholastics, but not every school in the city had a team. I would like to know why, because young people are being deprived of an opportunity. If schools are relying on one teacher who is simply unavailable on that day, we have to ensure that there is a fall-back. I would like a basic commitment from local authorities that all schools will compete in the interschool competitions in their area, and if they do not, we should ask why.
It is fair to say that we are a sports-mad country, but I would like to see more people move from spectator to participator. This year, we are sandwiched between the Olympics last year and the Commonwealth games next year. We have the world athletics championships in August, and I am sure that we will see some of our excellent young Scottish athletes, such as Eilidh Child, who has already won a gold and a silver medal at the European indoor championships earlier this year, and Lynsey Sharp, the European gold medallist. They will have a chance to develop and become household names before we all have an opportunity to see them in Glasgow next year. That will have an impact. Positive role models are part of the picture of encouraging more people to take part in sport.
I welcome Glasgow’s bid for the youth Olympics. It has certainly been well received in the press, and rightly so. I state also my support for Edinburgh’s bid to become the site of the national performance centre. The bid has much to commend it: the site would be close to some of the less affluent city sights, which would be very welcome.
I also support Bob Doris’s call for Glasgow to host the 2021 world masters games. If the bid is successful, I will ensure that I am fit to participate—no pressure there.
The amendments have much to commend them. Two hours of PE in primary school is the bare minimum that we should be considering; and high school pupils need more than two periods. High school is the point at which PE traditionally loses young people, particularly young women. I would like there to be a focus on having much more time than that. I believe that the minister realises that two periods is not sufficient.
I welcome the minister’s comments on play. If we encourage play, we encourage physical literacy and self-confidence and we make it more likely that our young people will go into sport.
On the youth sports strategy, I would like us to ensure that Government bodies have funding for coaches. We are still too short of them. There should be a voucher system to enable young people to try different sports—I recommend that members consider the club golf model and the work that Triathlon Scotland is doing. I would like the Government to make a commitment to ensure that every child in Scotland learns to swim by a certain age—I am not an expert, so I will not suggest an age, but we should find out the optimal age by which a child should learn to swim. We would not want our children to leave school without being able to read and write; let us make it the same for swimming.
I suggest that we organise a cross-sports coaching conference at which we can hear from the people—volunteers, largely—who support our athletes. Finally, there should also be a basic commitment from local authorities.
I welcome the opportunity to debate the positive issue of supporting a sporting nation, particularly as I am a member of the Parliament’s Health and Sport Committee.
I want to start my speech by talking about what sport means to people who take part in it. Sport is something that we can all do, be it by taking a walk down the Royal Mile to Parliament in the morning, having a run around Strathclyde Park in Motherwell or making a visit to our local gym. The benefits of that type of sport and others are numerous, including improved physical and mental wellbeing, which has a number of positive knock-on effects. The benefits of sport and leisure cannot be ignored, and I am therefore delighted to note that the Scottish Government will publish a youth sport strategy later in the year. I hope that it will outline and enshrine the values and methods of sporting participation, which is of great importance to future generations. Actually, in the sunshine yesterday, my grandson was in a swimming pool—I say to Alison Johnstone that it is happening.
I want to highlight two examples of good practice and hard work in my region. The active schools network aims to improve motivation and attitudes among children and young people and, in doing so, to increase their achievements in school and their contribution to the community. It does so through sport and increased physical activity and has the added effect of increasing the number of young people who become youth leaders. The initiative is an example of good practice and helps to meet one of the targets for the Scottish Government and, more generally, this Parliament, in that it creates strong sporting foundations at pre-school level and creates physical education provision in primary and secondary schools.
My second example of good practice is the good work of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth games youth legacy ambassadors. I highlight in particular the work of Scott Lamond, April Crane, Craig Rutherford, Julie Dobbin, Stacey Smith and Jordan Linden—six North Lanarkshire ambassadors who are working hard to promote the legacy of the games and who are ensuring that the message about healthy living and participation in sport, as well as culture, is promoted in the run-up to the games and, indeed, after the games.
Scott Lamond and Jordan Linden opened the get active Lanarkshire event at Strathclyde Park last weekend. The event was aimed at promoting the get active message to young people and all of the people of Lanarkshire. The ambassadors’ role is supported by the Scottish Government and Young Scot, highlighting a commitment to ensuring that the Commonwealth games are an outstanding success and that there is a lasting legacy from Glasgow 2014.
I welcome the creation of community sport hubs in local authorities throughout the country. Last week, I complimented the chief executive of sportscotland on his vision. I also complimented the minister on the work that is being carried out. I want more sports hubs. There is one located in Bellshill in my region but I would like more.
Nowadays, community sports facilities are often built in conjunction with a new high school or a new primary school. That is a good idea. It puts across a message to young people that from a grass-roots level, sport and education—two cornerstones of a healthy lifestyle—are interlinked.
I welcome the Scottish Government’s vision in the creation of at least 150 community sport hubs across all Scottish local authorities. That action, along with others, will help to deliver a sporting legacy fit for a generation.
Glasgow has placed a bid to host the youth Olympics in 2018 and has been shortlisted. Along with other members, I await with excitement the decision on the host city in 23 days’ time. I am backing the bid and I look forward to hearing the decision—a decision that I hope will be in Glasgow’s favour and will continue Scotland’s success.
I compliment all volunteers who take part in sport on the unpaid time that they give to their sport. I also compliment a chap called Jim Hughes, who is a boxing coach in my region, particularly in the Bellshill area. Jim regularly trains more than 60 young people—girls and boys. He has given those young people self-esteem and has won various awards throughout the region.
My son never liked football and found his niche in volleyball. A number of years ago, I had the excitement of seeing him play for Scotland at Breda in Holland. We should encourage our children to participate in sport because that is what our children should do.
I speak in support of Patricia Ferguson’s amendment to the motion. I welcome the minister’s commitment earlier to build further the links between sport hubs and schools. Encouraging young people to participate in sport is not just about nurturing the star athletes of tomorrow; getting children involved in sport in the long term ensures that we create a healthier and happier society for us all.
Unfortunately, Scotland has a reputation—fair or not—for an unhealthy lifestyle, particularly with regard to food, alcohol, cigarettes and inactivity. With the 2012 Olympics still fresh in our minds and the Commonwealth games and the Ryder cup coming to Scotland next year, there has never been a better opportunity to encourage people to get involved in sport and enjoy a healthy life.
As proposed in Scottish Labour’s 2011 manifesto, I believe that that should start with ensuring that every pupil in Scotland enjoys at least two hours of physical education a week. I would welcome it if the Scottish Government delivered on its 2007 commitment to ensure that all pupils receive two hours of PE a week and not just, as in some areas, two periods in secondary school. I am disheartened by reports that 16 per cent of primary schools are still not meeting their target. I hope that the minister will ensure that that changes.
I acknowledge the Scottish Government’s efforts to encourage young people to get active with the implementation of the take life on scheme and the provision of free swimming lessons for pupils from deprived areas. That is a tremendous development. However, we all agree that more can still be done. I believe that the best and most effective way to increase youth participation in sport is to target support at schools, teachers and—as previous speakers have alluded to—the helpers who, often acting in a voluntary capacity, support them in delivering sport. There are countless opportunities to get school pupils more involved in sport, both as part of the physical education curriculum and in external sports teams and groups.
The main barrier appears to be a lack of clear information, support and guidance for teachers who seek to access funding. From personal experience, I know that the costs involved simply in running a school football team can be very significant. Hiring transport to attend games each week can cost hundreds of pounds, without taking into account the other costs involved.
Does Mr Pearson have any thoughts about the public-private partnership contracts that were signed under the previous Labour Administration? For example, when Craigmount high school was rebuilt under PPP, the school lost half its playing fields, and its only remaining grass playing field, which used to be a football pitch, is not kept to a sufficient standard because the PPP contract designated it as a green space. As a result, the school has to send its football teams, of which there are a few, to various centres around the city.
Mr Keir will not be surprised to know that I have limited knowledge of that example, but I can tell him that, day and daily, schools throughout Scotland need to utilise bus companies either to play an away game or to receive a team from elsewhere for a home match. As I alluded to, those costs need to be met by many, if not all, schools across Scotland.
Often, teachers who voluntarily give up their time to run clubs and teams become the victim of their own success, because costs and time commitments escalate. We must ensure that teachers who are willing and able to provide pupils with the opportunities to get involved in sport are sufficiently supported and encouraged. In many secondary schools, the senior school leavers could—as some currently do—play a part in motivating younger pupils to become involved in sport. Perhaps the minister could consider whether there is an opportunity for senior school leavers to be employed on a part-time basis back in their home schools to assist educators accordingly.
If children participate in two hours of PE each week, they are more likely to get involved in sports clubs and organisations outside the school. With more and more people working in office environments these days—although the reduction in exposure to dangerous physical working conditions is obviously positive—it is more important than ever that we ensure that people develop an active lifestyle that they can maintain throughout their adult life. The need for that is illustrated by the fact that only 45 per cent of men and 33 per cent of women in Scotland currently meet the Government’s targets for a healthy level of physical activity.
Participation in sport is about far more than ensuring that our national teams can compete with the world’s best. As well as allowing children from all backgrounds to socialise together in a healthy, fun environment, such participation improves social skills, reduces health risks, takes the pressure off our national health system and teaches discipline, teamwork and hard work to those who might otherwise fall outside the system.
In conclusion, I remind members, if they need reminding, that literally hundreds and thousands of young people compete each week for the Cameronian cup, the Scottish shield and the British cup championships. In addition, dance teams from almost every school in Scotland send girls to participate in the Scottish national dance championships. We should laud and encourage such developments for the future. I look forward to a healthy future for Scotland.
The minister must wonder why on earth I am speaking in a debate on sport—so do I; I will tell her why later.
The Scottish Sports Association said:
“Primarily, sport is fun.”
I have to disagree: sport is not fun, at least not for all of us. I am not at all sports mad. It is well known that my DNA contains not one gene that is interested in sport. I do not even like watching or listening to it, and that includes Wimbledon, so I am a hard case. There are quite a few of us about across the generations.
In my youth, it did not matter as much. We ran about the council scheme streets, played peevers, skipping and statues, climbed and balanced on high walls—we had never heard of health and safety—and did “One, Two, Three O’Leary” with our tennis balls. I will provide a glossary later. It was hard for my parents to reel me in at night to take me home. I did not sit in a dark room exercising my digits playing virtual games. I did not know why adults were in the house at all. I was out running about the streets. Therefore, there are huge issues for today’s toddlers and schoolchildren.
The word “activity” has slipped into the debate, which I prefer to “sport”. They are not the same. For me, sport was competitive, as it often should be. As someone who dropped her egg right at the start of the egg-and-spoon race, I soon lost interest in that competitive pursuit. That was compounded when, at the age of 11 and a half, a hockey stick hit my bare shin on an ice-cold day while I was playing on a brick-hard pitch. That ended my interest in sport totally. However, I danced competitively as a teenager and practised several days a week because I loved it, so I was fit, those early activities on Scotland’s streets aside. Dancing should form part of the activity that we are talking about, as opposed to “sport”, a word that is anathema to some of us.
Although I applaud the opportunity that the Commonwealth games provide to endeavour to engage with our young people, I will say what I have said before: in the previous session of Parliament, when I was convener of the Health and Sport Committee—how much I suited that role—we found no evidence whatever that such international sporting competitions had a lasting legacy. Patricia Ferguson gave the example of tennis rackets appearing on the streets temporarily during Wimbledon. That is what we found, whether in relation to the Olympics in Australia or similar events elsewhere: any benefit was temporary. I hope that the Scottish Government will break the mould, but it will not be easy.
As members might have guessed, I am a conscript in the debate and a sceptic, which I think is a very healthy position to take. I want the Commonwealth games to cowp us out of our armchairs and sofas and to get us to do anything that exercises our limbs. As Patricia Ferguson did, I think that we should use the word “activity”, instead of just talking about sport, which will put people off.
PE teachers have an important role to play. I got off to a really bad start with mine, not surprisingly. I was asked to vault the horse, after which I propped myself up against the wooden bars. When I was challenged to vault the horse again, I said that I had already done it. “Once was enough,” I muttered under my breath. My relationship with my PE teacher went from bad to worse after that. The attitude of the gym teacher is extremely important for people such as me. I was a bit of a snob in those days. I rated academic competitiveness and achievement way above physical prowess. I was wrong to do so, but that was the attitude that I had.
Having disagreed with the SSA’s view that sport is fun, I agree with it when it says that sport—in this case, I mean “activity”—can have
“a positive impact on academic performance”.
People such as me will never play a decent game of tennis or table tennis. I was all right at skiing, but that was about the only sport that that was true of. People who are not going to be good at such things should not be put off by use of the word “sport”.
Although I am quite sceptical, I held a sport summit in my constituency—I called it that because I like alliteration—to find out how we could make our pupils more active. By engaging with Midlothian Council, Scottish Borders Council, sports co-ordinators, the police and other agencies, I found that we had to talk about healthy eating at the same time as looking to have children who were active. Adolescent girls—some of them, anyway—want to look pretty and attractive; they do not want to look sweaty on a hockey pitch. Therefore, activities such as dancing and aerobics could appeal to them. I know that it is difficult for others who are sporty to understand, but that is how many of us feel.
That is how we are looking at the issue in my area, but we are also looking to engage with local food shops, because there is no point in young people having those activities at school if they then go away and have a bag of chips on a roll.
That is my contribution, which is what happens when you are a conscript.
Christine Grahame gave us a litany of all the sporting and gym equipment that she did not like. I would have thought that, after the vote on courts this morning, she should be more worried about the high bar—but maybe that is just me.
I confess that I sensed a slight frisson of—how can I put it delicately?—atmosphere between Jenny Marra and the minister in an intervention. I have fallen into a few political traps in my time, and I certainly sense a political trap being laid for the minister by Jenny Marra over the national performance centre for sport. If the minister’s colleagues do not award the centre to Dundee, Jenny Marra will no doubt slam the Government for that; if they award it to Dundee, she will undoubtedly take the credit. That is the benefit of the great political traps of our day.
That exchange brought to mind the importance of the national performance centre for sport. I rather agreed with the minister’s response to Margaret McDougall, who made the case for locating it in Largs, because it struck me that having a centre for more than just football—one that covers a range of sports—is the right approach for Scottish sport more generally. The case for that approach is well proven.
I have been to Heriot-Watt University to be talked through the bid that it has submitted. I must confess that, like Alison Johnstone, I find its bid pretty compelling, but, in fairness, I do not know in any detail the benefits of either the Dundee bid or the Stirling bid, which I am sure are equally strong. I guess that that is ultimately a decision for the Government. However, on the principle of a national performance centre and of £25 million being invested in sport for the long term, I endorse the approach that the Government is taking. As other members have said, we are a sport-mad country. When we take an international view of investment in other countries, we see that they have been down this route over many years and across many sporting disciplines. Such investment is an important principle and a practical measure that can help considerably.
On sport more generally, I believe that the Riccarton bid would be stronger were consideration given to the stadium issue that bedevils Edinburgh to this day. Stadiums matter, but elite athletes matter more, because they inspire young people. We have heard about curling and about many different sporting figures, and it is healthy to concentrate not only on our well-known and exemplary elite athletes but on the many unsung heroes who support people at all levels.
I sneaked a look at the British Lions this morning, and it is quite nice to see a young Hawick lad called Stuart Hogg playing fantastically well—indeed, starring—at fly half. As a representative of a rugby-mad town such as Hawick, he is certainly the epitome of youth sport.
Alex Johnstone raised an important issue about participation or “activity”—a term that other members have also commented on—versus elite sport. If we are to inspire the next generation and encourage more young people to follow different sporting disciplines or to take part in a range of sports and then decide which one they want to pursue, we need a bit of both.
What really struck me about the Olympics was how much money went in from the national lottery to deliver for sporting success, and how focused that funding stream was on success, both for young athletes coming through and for more established elite athletes. There was no room for failure, and sports that did not match up to the agreed targets simply had their funding reduced. Irrespective of how that approach develops in future, Scotland faces a challenge: UK-wide lottery funding is fundamentally important to the number of young Scots who can make it.
Is the member aware that one of the difficulties with the current funding arrangement through UK Sport is that although Scottish swimmers gave a strong performance in the Olympics, as we hope they will next year, that was not necessarily recognised when it came to deciding which sports were successful or otherwise at the Olympics?
I hope that the minister is not running down what team GB achieved. Nationalist members can shake their heads if they want, but given that the minister has raised the issue, I note that Sir Chris Hoy and other great Scottish Olympians have made the point that they got where they were and achieved so much for Scotland and for team GB because of the funding that came into their sports. Chris Hoy has said that he would not have achieved all that he achieved if he had not trained in Manchester regularly. I hope that those who want to separate us from all that do not dismiss that argument lightly. [Interruption.]
It is a serious point. If members talk to anyone who is seriously involved in athletics, they will find that they think that it is a serious point, too. I hear that SNP members on my left dismissing it, but members need to talk to those who are involved in athletics to understand the point.
Does the member agree that it is significant that a number of the gold medals that were won by Scottish athletes were won as part of a team GB team in a particular sporting event or category? [Interruption.]
It is disappointing to hear SNP members criticising that point. Katherine Grainger would not have won her gold if she had not been competing with another athlete from another part of the UK. That is statement of fact. She has said it, so let us recognise that.
On young sportspeople and school pupils who have to travel from the far-flung parts of Scotland, I heard a member say that she was concerned about being 40 minutes from Glasgow. Well, that is pretty close from my perspective. The other side of the coin for people from Shetland and Orkney is that the Scottish Government has just cut the funding that was available for group discounts on ferry vessels, which are how we get to Aberdeen and then into sports on the mainland. It is all very well talking up all the other funds but the Government is cutting a really important fund that helps swimmers, fencers, football teams and schools to take part in sport across Scotland. That is profoundly wrong. I hope that when the Cabinet visits Lerwick in July, it will change that policy for a rather better one.
Richard Lyle made a fair point about volunteering. To me, the many mums and dads who spend so much time driving their children, encouraging and cajoling them and dealing with the tantrums when an event, a game or a match is lost are the essence of sport and why so many of us are delighted to be part of it.
This has been an interesting, informative, and, on the whole, consensual debate. Many members have cited local examples of the importance of sport for our country as a whole and the need to involve people early in the many sports that are played across the land, from football to curling and from ice hockey to volleyball—and all the others. All members have stressed the importance of regular physical activity throughout life.
Alison Johnstone was right to highlight the social and psychological benefits of taking part in sport: the learning of discipline and how to get on with team mates, and the mental relaxation that comes with physical activity. I applaud her ambition to take part in the athletic events that Bob Doris mentioned. I am just sorry that my colleague, Liz Smith, cannot be here today to talk about her cricketing prowess and the regular coaching work that she still does with young people to encourage and train them in her sport.
I am not sure what active sport my colleague Alex Johnstone does these days but he was a bit of a legend in Aberdeenshire rugby circles in his youth, when he was tall and had a very slender physique.
I told him that I was going to say that.
Yesterday, I had the privilege of attending the installation of her royal highness the Duchess of Rothesay as chancellor of the University of Aberdeen. During the ceremony, six honorary degrees were awarded, one of which was an honorary doctorate for the great cycling athlete, Neil Fachie.
Members may be aware that Neil, a science graduate of the University of Aberdeen, came to prominence at the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing, when he competed in athletics before turning to cycling. Neil has the congenital eye condition retinitis pigmentosa, but despite that disability he has gone from strength to strength, his success culminating in the four gold medals that he won for Britain, breaking two world records and becoming the first Scot in the Paralympics GB team to win a gold medal at London 2012. Since then, he has become a regular ambassador for sport in schools across the country and is a proud representative of Aberdeen, Scotland and the UK. As others have said, when we discuss sport, we must not confine the discussion only to the able-bodied or ignore the influence that role models such as Neil Fachie can have on young people. Like Patricia Ferguson, I hope that sports for people with disabilities will feature in the forthcoming youth sport strategy.
Like all of us in the chamber, I watched with great enthusiasm last year’s Olympics and Paralympics and was overwhelmed by the sense of occasion and the unifying impact that it had on our nation as a whole. Similarly, I look forward to next year’s Commonwealth games, and I very much support the part of the minister’s motion that backs Glasgow’s bid for the youth Olympics in 2018.
As members will be aware, the Health and Sport Committee recently carried out an inquiry into support for community sport. I urge any member who has not done so already to read our comprehensive report, which was published earlier in the year. A clear finding of the inquiry was that we require a genuine and lasting sporting legacy from the forthcoming Commonwealth games, which will be watched by an estimated worldwide audience of more than 1 billion people. Ideally, such a legacy will result in a nation whose young people are physically active and regularly participate in sport.
People of all abilities, ages and backgrounds must be encouraged to participate and volunteer in community sport, and they should begin as young as possible. Witness after witness in our inquiry stressed the importance of volunteers for every sport, referring to them again and again as the lifeblood of sporting activity without which many sports clubs would not survive. As we know, many volunteers are parents. From making the tea, washing strips after the game and raising necessary funds to coaching team members, the activities of volunteers are legion. They are essential and we need more of them, so it is vital that the Commonwealth games are not confined to two weeks of entertainment. I was encouraged when, last week, we heard from the minister some of the detail about how the Government intends to encourage more volunteers into sport beyond 2014, as it is clear that barriers to volunteering still remain.
From our inquiry, we know that many people feel that they do not have the skills or the time to become involved in sports, whereas it was suggested that others would volunteer if asked but would need to be assured that they would have an enjoyable experience. People need to be given the right training. I agree with Judy Murray’s evidence about an inexperienced coach learning from an expert, which is akin to an apprentice learning from a master. I urge the minister to consider that when formulating the youth sport strategy.
As someone with a health background, I naturally hope that the most important legacy that will come from Glasgow 2014 will be the improved physical health of our people—and that must start with our young people. I fully endorse the Scottish Sports Association’s vision that all children should have the right to be physically literate and that their early education should help them to become regular participants in sport and physical activity. It is of great concern that a 2012 growing up in Scotland report noted that 22 per cent of six-year-olds are classed as overweight or obese, which often leads to other problems such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, osteoarthritis and various forms of cancer. We need to get young people moving, and participation needs to continue throughout life right into extreme old age.
In his amendment, my colleague Alex Johnstone rightly expressed his concern, which many of us in the chamber share, that despite the pledge made more than five years ago, the Government has yet to deliver access for schoolchildren to two hours of quality PE each week.
Patricia Ferguson’s amendment recognises the need for quality sporting facilities so that people are encouraged into sport and their interest is maintained. That was brought home to me when the Health and Sport Committee visited the splendid sports village in Aberdeen, which is very well used by those who access it. It was pointed out to us that there are several communities in the city who cannot access it for various reasons and that those communities also need good sporting facilities if they are to be encouraged to take up sports. I am therefore very supportive of the community sports hubs concept, which can make education facilities available to local people outwith school hours. It is encouraging that the school estate across Scotland is gradually opening up for community use, although there is still a way to go.
The Conservatives welcome the Government’s commitment to publishing a youth sport strategy if that goes some way towards addressing the concerns that have been raised in the chamber. The strategy ought to set out where we progress from here, and I look forward to seeing the meat on the bones when it comes out in September. I have no doubt that this is an important area to which we will return in due course.
We will support Shona Robison’s motion and all three amendments.
As a number of members have said, Scotland is often tagged as the sick man of Europe. We have among the worst levels of obesity in the developed world, and an increase in physical activity is key to improving the health of the people of our nation and providing our young people with a better chance of a healthier life.
Figures suggest that just under 2,500 people in Scotland die prematurely every year as a consequence of physical inactivity. Levels of heart disease, stroke, colon cancer and non-insulin dependent diabetes could be significantly reduced if activity was increased. The chief medical officer Harry Burns confirmed that when he said:
“improving physical activity even by a small proportion will reduce levels of heart attack and stroke.”
Over the past few years, Scotland has hosted and participated in some once-in-a-lifetime sporting events. North Lanarkshire Council and South Lanarkshire Council hosted the 45th international children’s games in 2011, in which 13,000 competitors and coaches, representing 77 cities in 33 countries worldwide, made their way through the central belt.
The world’s eyes were fixed on London last year, as Scottish athletes, as part of team GB, achieved mighty feats in the Olympic and Paralympic games. We look forward to Glasgow hosting the Commonwealth games in 2014, which will bring athletes from across the globe to Scotland. I am sure that we all hope that Glasgow is also successful in its bid for the 2018 youth Olympics. We send the bid our full support from the chamber this afternoon.
Those events capture the heart of the nation. Figures show that thousands of Scots—young and old—increased their levels of activity post Olympics, whether that was swimming, cycling or simply going to the gym. Our challenge is to make sure that that increased activity is maintained beyond the honeymoon period after the games.
One of the best ways to drive up levels of physical activity is through a culture of regular exercise and participation in sport, and our schools play a key part in that regard. If we get our young people interested in a variety of sports from an early age and sustain their interest, we can fight the significant challenges that we face. As a councillor in North Lanarkshire, I saw at first hand the council’s excellent work in trying to involve as many young people as possible in a wide variety of sports through its active schools network. Crucially, the 23 active schools co-ordinators work closely with schools to improve the physical activity of all children and young people.
There are hard-to-reach groups across Scotland, as Patricia Ferguson and Nanette Milne said, and I am pleased that councils such as North Lanarkshire are taking a targeted approach to attracting into sports more girls and young women, young people with disabilities and young people from ethnic minority backgrounds and getting them to increase their participation.
It has been my privilege to go back to my old school, St Maurice’s in Cumbernauld, which is a sports comprehensive that encompasses the motto of “raising achievement for all”. The school recognises—as many members have done—that education is not just about academic success and uses sport to build self-confidence, improve attendance levels and increase attainment.
I have been able to go back every year when the school hosts an annual sport awards ceremony. St Maurice’s blazes a trail. The talents of young people from across the school are celebrated in every area—from football to badminton, from volleyball to netball, from rugby to basketball, and from gymnastics, table tennis, swimming and dance to dodgeball.
The school also encourages young people to participate in the community sport leader award programme. A number of senior school pupils, staff, former pupils and club and community coaches are involved in high-quality sport in the school. A key element of the programme is that students achieve their qualifications by delivering sports coaching to pupils in primary schools, and that then feeds into secondary schools. That takes sports coaching down to the earliest possible level.
Important as schools are in developing our young people and getting them interested in sport, a lot of work is done by volunteers in clubs throughout the country. There are 150,000 adults who regularly volunteer in sport. They coach young people, help them to hone their skills and generate that passion for sport that Alison Johnstone mentioned. Volunteers play an essential role in developing Scotland’s future sportsmen and sportswomen and in improving the health of the nation. It is therefore important that the Scottish Government and sportscotland do all that they can to break down some of the barriers that volunteers face.
The Scottish Sports Association’s manifesto for sport in Scotland highlights volunteers’ many difficulties with disclosure checks. Through the cross-party group on sport, many organisations and individuals have highlighted the time that it takes for disclosure applications to be approved and for certificates to arrive. That can often result in volunteers having to wait for considerable periods before they can commence their work, and it creates the very real possibility that many volunteers will be put off. No one disagrees that disclosure checks are essential for people who work with vulnerable groups, but the length of time that Disclosure Scotland takes to approve volunteers could reduce the number of available volunteers and so hamper the opportunities for young people to get interested in the wide range of sports that is essential.
I agree with Joan McAlpine that a wide range of sports is needed, although I contest the idea that the south-west of Scotland may be the birthplace of curling. Kilsyth certainly stakes a claim to be the birthplace of curling. We have our curling pond and we have even named a pub the Kilsyth Curling Stone after our fine curling traditions. Perhaps I will go back to the historians in Kilsyth and ask them to check their sources.
The need to support volunteers by speeding up the disclosure process relates to the point that was raised about support for volunteers to apply for grants. The clubs across the country that receive investment often have people with skills in completing grant application forms. It would be beneficial if volunteers were offered training in that area to ensure that grant support is spread as widely as possible.
I agree with my colleague Patricia Ferguson on the points that have been raised about the cashback for communities initiative, which I think sometimes spreads the cash uniformly across Scotland rather than targeting areas where the crime that most affects the community comes from. The cash would have a double impact if it were invested in the areas where crimes originate, with diversionary measures to ensure that the cycle does not continue with youngsters.
I welcome the Government’s plans to produce a youth sport strategy. I am sure that the minister will agree that the strategy must recognise the challenges that we face, which members have highlighted, and reflect the tremendous opportunity that we have in Scotland with the many sporting events that are coming up.
I welcome the positive contributions—perhaps with one exception, which I will come back to—that have been made from around the chamber.
I should have said at the start of the debate that we accept Patricia Ferguson’s amendment, which very much adds to the motion. She talked about how to harness motivation and about ensuring that we continue that through and beyond the games next year. I hope that I managed to answer in my opening remarks a little of what she asked, but it is very important that we remain focused on that.
Patricia Ferguson also raised the issue of school pupils with disabilities. We have supported Scottish Disability Sport in rolling out measures to improve delivery of sport for children with disabilities. I very much agree with members that that must be included in the youth sport strategy, so we will ensure that it is.
All that I will say in response to Alex Johnstone, apart from that he may have got out of the wrong side of the bed this morning, is that I could have understood his criticisms of our delivery on PE were it not for the fact that the Conservative UK Government dropped the target entirely in 2010. We have not done that; we have said that we will meet the target by next year. As many members have said, it is not the be-all and end-all. We agree that it is not, but it is an important part of the jigsaw; the school environment has an important role to play in ensuring that children are active every day of the week.
Tavish Scott mentioned the Public Audit Committee’s consideration of the progress report and its comments on legacy. The Commonwealth Games Federation co-ordination commission highlighted the legacy plans and described them as being world leading and as
“a blueprint for future ... Games.”
We are not complacent, but I hope that the way in which legacy has been built into everything that we have done from the moment the bid was won is something that future hosts will be able to emulate.
Aileen McLeod talked about the active schools games that are going on in her area, which are a good example of an improvement in the quality of competitive school sport. We want that to feature in the youth sport strategy, because there is room there for improvement. I will also be happy to take up her invitation, diary permitting.
Margaret McDougall talked about the need for the legacy to extend beyond Glasgow. I agree with her; I want to see a legacy for the whole of Scotland. However, to imply that the west of Scotland has not received substantial investment in sports facilities might be stretching things a bit too far; I do not think that that can be said to be the case. Nevertheless, there is always more to be done, and I want to ensure that we have, in North Ayrshire and any other part of Scotland, a genuine legacy from the games.
I also agree with Margaret McDougall’s point about social enterprise. There are huge opportunities for social enterprise in sport. There are some really good examples of that, although we can always do more.
Bob Doris championed the case for Glasgow hosting the world masters games in 2021, and the number of members declaring that they would take part was impressive. He also referred to the 24 projects that are being funded through the active places fund, which is a concrete example of how the legacy is being delivered to a number of communities through that community-based fund to improve community sports facilities the length and breadth of Scotland.
Jenny Marra rightly praised the efforts of Dundee City Council. I take issue with her speech only in that she implied that there has to date been little or no investment in sports facilities in Dundee, which is just not the case. I highlight the new multimillion pound Olympia leisure centre, which is about to open and has competition-quality swimming facilities; the new world-class gymnastics centre; the new hockey pitches and 3G pitches at the Dundee international sports complex; and the new outdoor velodrome in Caird park, to name but a few of the new facilities. That investment is important because, along with other cities in Scotland, Dundee is looking to host the pre-games training camps. I would not want Dundee’s portfolio of excellent facilities to be in any way undermined—it is important that it is able to promote them.
Joan McAlpine highlighted Scotland’s success in curling. We must have regard to our traditional sports, and a bit of rivalry seems to be developing about which area has the strongest links to curling. Irrespective of that, I wish Eve Muirhead and the team good luck in Sochi. I also assure members that there will be opportunities to develop and support our curling tradition.
Alison Johnstone talked about the power of sport and the need to ensure that young people are involved in development of the youth sports strategy. I assure her that the young people’s panel will do that—it will go out and talk to young people about what they want to see in the strategy, which is important.
Graeme Pearson talked about senior school leaders and leavers. It is important that senior pupils in schools are involved in leadership roles—it gives them fantastic skills development for the future. Of course, many of them have already been recruited into sport-coaching roles. He may be interested in the recent announcement on the expansion of modern apprenticeships in the sport and leisure sector, which creates opportunities for young school leavers who have an interest in sport.
Christine Grahame highlighted that dance appeals to girls. It does not matter to me what the activity is, whether it is dance or hockey. I have always said that as long as it gets young people hot, sweaty and active that does it for me. [Laughter.] Members should wipe that thought from their minds.
Christine Grahame also mentioned the sports summit. [Interruption.]
Information on healthy eating is important. The issue is not simply about sport; it is about everything that goes with sport, including a healthy lifestyle.
In response to Tavish Scott’s closing remarks, we should remember that Scotland contributes to the Olympics funding structure and to UK Sport. As is always the case, our athletes will train wherever they need to train—they go to the best facilities all over the world—and the funding follows the athlete. That is the case now, and I assure Tavish Scott that it will be the case after independence.
Nanette Milne mentioned passing on coaches’ experience to less-experienced coaches, which is also an important point, and Mark Griffin reminded us about the international children’s games and its legacy. I attended that event; it is another great example of Scotland’s capacity to attract fantastic events to our country. I, too, hope that we will see that long and growing list of major sporting events that we have managed to attract to Scotland being added to, and that we have the full support of all parties in the chamber in our hope that our youth Olympic games bid has all success next month in Lausanne. I thank members for their contributions.