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I am delighted to bring the debate to Parliament.
Sport has the power to change lives, and we know that being physically active is one of the best things that we can do for our physical and mental health. Recent global research shows that levels of physical activity are declining in most developed countries, with large-scale changes in patterns of work and leisure leading to less active lifestyles. In Scotland, evidence shows that we are, in contrast to that global trend, succeeding in maintaining rates of participation. We are also seeing a number of positive signs, including a significant rise in recreational walking.
In my time in post, I have seen how people of all ages and backgrounds can change their lives and feel a sense of empowerment, supported by sporting organisations across Scotland that provide them with the tools that they need to achieve their personal goals. Changing lives is about using sport and physical activity intentionally as tools to achieve increased participation and wider social outcomes. Doing that can help to support wellbeing and resilience in communities, which is an important aim in the active Scotland outcomes framework.
Evidence has shown that being active can bring about positive changes beyond participation. It can impact positively on the health, wellbeing, skills and learning of individuals and on the health of communities by ensuring a more inclusive and healthier nation. Following the “Sport for Change Research” report, which was published in 2017, the Robertson Trust, the Scottish Government, sportscotland and the former sport for change network—all the changing lives through sport and physical activity programme partners—are committed to embedding a changing lives approach in Scotland’s sporting system. The approach aims to use sport and physical activity to create wider benefits in health, education, communities and the economy.
Being physically active has the potential also to bring about positive and often interrelated changes. However, while participation in sport and physical activity can bring about positive change, that does not happen automatically for everyone. We need a clear intention to bring about change. That is most likely to happen when we have a clear focus on what change we are seeking to deliver, who will experience the change and how we will know whether it has happened. I am keen to get buy-in and support for the changing lives approach across sporting and non-sporting organisations, and that we continue to build on the great work that is happening already across Scotland, through partners and programmes including the cashback for communities scheme and projects that are supported in community sports hubs.
For example, last year I visited Fairfield community sports hub, in Dundee. With funding—targeted at hubs in areas of deprivation—from sportscotland, it has launched a sports employability programme. It is run in partnership with Dundee City Council adult learning service and targets unemployed men and women in the local community. It mixes desk-based learning and practical sport coaching qualifications, thereby supporting participants back into work. The programme has also partnered with the local prison to engage with inmates who are on day release.
Football and football clubs can also be a powerful force for good in communities, and a range of programmes that are led by the Scottish Football Association and partners are delivering a wide range of outcomes. Football acts as a hook to attract people to participate in a range of activities. The pioneering and hugely successful football fans in training—FFIT—programme, which is directly funded by the Scottish Government, is a notable example. Football engages people who are not attracted by traditional interventions. They are often people who most need help and whom we must therefore reach. Countless other programmes are delivering outcomes across a range of portfolios, including health, education and justice.
We need to work together to gain a better understanding of the needs of the wider communities and individuals with whom we are working, in order to identify target groups and to develop appropriate services and activities for people. I want the barriers to participation—real or perceived—to be removed. It sounds obvious, but benefits can be achieved only if people participate. We need to understand who is and who is not participating in sport and physical activity, and what barriers people face that stop them from participating.
It is fair to say that one barrier to getting more people cycling and walking is the lack of safe infrastructure. Currently, the Government spends a measly 3 per cent of the £2.4 billion transport budget on that specific infrastructure. Does the minister intend that we will do better in the future? We are about to miss the target of 10 per cent of journeys being made by bike by 2020.
We need to work together across the system to remove barriers. Alison Johnstone mentioned one barrier, and she will be aware of the significant increase in funding in that respect. There are some fantastic projects that are in their early stages. For example, I am really excited about a project that would make more of Dundee’s streets suitable for cycling. Clearly, there is work to be done to take the majority of the population, who currently do not cycle, with us on that journey. If we want more of our road space to be safer for cycling, we need to accept that there will be less space for motor cars, especially on established streets. There is a sacrifice to be made, but, if we work together, we can take the whole community with us on the issue. That is one barrier, and we need to work with local government and other partners across society to address it.
Barriers to participation in sport and physical activity can be complex and varied. They include lack of confidence and negative experiences of sport and physical activity in a person’s past. Considering those barriers, and how they might be stopping some of our community from participating, will help us to deliver services and activities that attract the widest range of people, including those who, traditionally, are least likely to participate. I want inclusive, accessible and stronger communities that seek to support those who are inactive to get active. The aim should be to provide everyone with the chance to get involved, no matter their age or ability. I also want more family sessions that involve the whole family supporting each other to take part in sport and physical activity.
Person-centred approaches such as youth work and community development approaches focus on the needs, skills and aspirations of individuals and communities. By building on sports development and person-centred approaches, we can create services and activities that meet the needs of communities and our target groups.
Our staff and volunteers across the country are one of our most valuable resources. If we engage people from the communities in which those staff and volunteers are working, we will provide reliable and knowledgeable role models. We need to ensure that everyone is well supported and committed to what we are trying to change, by developing a range of appropriate skills through person-centred and sports-development approaches.
For example, practitioners can use the thrive toolkit, which brings together learning about what works in helping inactive people to become active. It promotes a small-steps approach to supporting people on their active journey and recognises that small things can make a big difference. That toolkit has led to the development of the actify project, of which members will be aware.
However, the fact is that no one organisation has the ability to make changes within its communities on its own. Finding like-minded organisations or groups with which to collaborate in communities can make a bigger impact for everyone. We must do that across society, and work with organisations and sport groups.
The changing lives through sport and physical activity programme is very important in supporting organisations to use sport and physical activity to achieve positive individual and community change. Sportscotland, the Scottish Government, the Robertson Trust and Spirit of 2012, together with partners, are delivering a wide programme of support and funding that supports organisations to use sport and physical activity intentionally to achieve positive individual and community change as a core element of the existing world-class sporting system.
To support community-based sport and physical activity, projects across Scotland have benefited from a £1 million fund as part of the changing lives through sport and physical activity programme. Launched in April 2018, the fund has, over the past while, been benefiting 17 projects nationally. There are a number of examples that I wish I had time to cover, but I really do not. The programme and fund are aimed at projects that demonstrate a clear commitment to the key themes of sport for inclusion, sport for health and wellbeing, sport for skills and sport for communities. I see that capacity-building work as being very much about ensuring that the changing lives approach is sustainable and becomes embedded.
I would like to see everyone recognising the power of using sport and physical activity intentionally to bring about positive change for individuals and communities across Scotland. I am looking forward to hearing about the progress of the funded projects and wish everyone involved well in their endeavours.
We should have had much more time for the debate.
That the Parliament recognises that sport and physical activity can bring about positive change beyond participation that benefits the health and wellbeing of individuals and improve their skills and learning; acknowledges that it makes communities better connected and more socially cohesive, ensuring a more inclusive and healthier nation, and recognises that this can be achieved by sporting and non-sporting organisations working together to use sport and physical activity to intentionally bring about both increased participation and wider social outcomes.
I thank the Scottish Government for the opportunity to speak on this topic. Like the minister, I wish only that we had more time in which to do so. We will support the Government motion and the Labour amendment.
I could quite easily make this speech in Westminster, as it would be just as relevant.
On Tuesday, I spoke to a representative of Children 1st, who wanted to tell me how he got into the parkrun habit; how he had been joined by his sons; how one of his sons had received the prize for the most personal bests in the parkrun last year; how his neighbour had then joined them, along with one of his son’s friends, who went on to get his t-shirt for completing 10 parkruns, which was the first thing that he had ever won; and how they understood that, in order to beat their time, they would have to go out running during the week.
That one story has everything that we need to know about the impact of sport and physical activity: it speaks to attainment, ambition, resilience, confidence, inclusion and discipline—all within an active families framework. Those are life lessons learned far away from a class room, but they are important tools for achieving in the classroom that, along the way, have a hugely positive impact on physical and mental health.
If we want to tackle lack of attainment, many of the tools that a student needs are better learned outside the classroom than in it. Eye tracking, co-ordination and balance are crucial to attainment in the classroom—I remember saying that last year in a debate, led by Liz Smith, on the STEP programme. I do not know how many decision makers in this place—or in any other place for that matter—fully grasped that concept.
“not funded properly. We’ve strangled the life out of the youth services in this country ... Politicians ... still really don’t get that ... They don’t understand what sport is doing at community level.”
I would go further than that. The poor health issues that are preventable and in which sport and physical activity can play such a key role include obesity; chest, heart and stroke conditions; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; type 2 diabetes; musculoskeletal conditions and arthritis; poor mental health; and preventable cancers—the list goes on and on. Those conditions cost the Scottish economy about £30 billion a year and, according to the Health and Sport committee investigation, that figure is rising. Physical activity is also a key element in rehabilitation.
That suggests to me that the Scottish Government is prepared to pay for the consequences of physical inactivity, rather than invest in enabling activity. Between the health and education budgets, the Scottish Government spends the best part of £18 billion a year, yet it allocates only about £40 million to sport.
For me, a good sports policy is a good health policy and a good education policy. It is also the best policy for social cohesion that I can think of. On the same TV programme on Tuesday, Daley Thompson said that sport is
“not the complete answer or the only answer but sport can change lives for the better. Sport is the most potent social worker in any community!”
Sebastian Coe and Daley Thompson are from such disparate backgrounds, but they are close friends who were brought together by sport. Sport has the ability to see past colour, creed, religion or social background and join people with a common passion and respect. In today’s world, is that not what we are striving for?
When it comes to funding, what are we doing with the proceeds of the sugar tax, for example? How about keeping schools open during school holidays for activities? We know that health inequalities are exacerbated in school holidays and that food bank usage spikes. Surely school activities during school holidays would be a positive use of those funds. Extracurricular sport is essential if we are to give access to opportunity. I think that that speaks very much to the Labour amendment.
Here we are, sitting in this place and, like many other forums, talking shops and conventions, having the same conversations over and over again while so many outcomes remain unchanged. I am sure that members from all parties who are taking part in this debate agree on the potential for sport to have a hugely positive influence on both health and education. However, it is doubtful whether many politicians or civil servants have the background or knowledge to appreciate fully the power of sport. I would love to bring somebody like Kelly Holmes in here so that there would be an opportunity to hear from someone who has lived sport, because it has shaped who she is. Through her organisation, she is now helping thousands of disenfranchised children to find their way back into society using sport as a medium.
Sport has the potential to offer children an alternative path in life—not necessarily into a life of sport—by enabling them to re-engage. We have to make sport accessible to all and make it easy to participate. I have a few suggestions in that regard. It is obvious to me that there should be a physical education specialist in every primary school. We should fully utilise the school estate, especially at the end of the school day before pupils go home, and recognise the importance of extracurricular activity. We should not wait for pupils to come to sport but bring sport to them. We should use schools as community hubs outside school time, including in school holidays, when activity and a healthy meal can continue to be part of the day for all pupils.
We should also connect PE lessons with what is on offer in the community and ensure that what is learned in PE can be applied on an on-going basis. If there is a desire for a certain activity, we should bring in the relevant national governing body to help deliver on that passion. We need to look to the third sector and the clubs and organisations that deliver on that agenda and look at how we recruit into the third sector. Dr Frank Dick wrote a really interesting paper on that that is definitely worth a read. We must ensure that there is a pathway for young sportsmen and women to travel and a destination on that path that matches their ambition.
Presiding Officer, there is so much more that I would like to say on this topic if I had a bit more time, as you know. The Government motion suggests its intent, and I genuinely believe that that is the direction of travel that the Government wants to go in. However, the current system is a very long way from delivering what it can on this agenda and there is much more to be done if we are to truly recognise the importance of sport and realise its potential for the people of Scotland.
I move amendment S5M-17034.2, to insert at end:
“; recognises that sport should be available to all, irrespective of background or personal circumstances; considers that sport in school and in extracurricular activities is the best way to ensure access for all; believes that physical education should reflect the sporting opportunities in local communities and local clubs, and considers that investment in sport should reflect the positive impact that it can have in the health of the nation and attainment in Scotland’s schools.”
Thank you, Presiding Officer. Sport and physical activity are the ideal social prescribing tools and the key preventative spend for the health service, but it is also crucial for the economic productivity of our nation. I will give members an example. Scientists at the University of Alberta observed 2,400 families and found that spending two hours or more a day on devices such as smartphones was linked to high rates of behavioural problems in younger children but that that was offset by participation in organised sport. The leader of the study, Dr Mandhane, said:
“It wasn’t physical activity on its own that was protective; the activity needed to have structure. The more time children spent doing organised sports, the less likely they were to exhibit behavioural problems.”
The key is to normalise activity, by which I mean making it regular and measurable. It might include, for example, a 10,000-step target; a daily mile; and taking the stairs, not the lift. When I was on the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body, we had a discussion about member room allocation, and one wit, who will remain nameless, suggested that the rooms on the highest floor and furthest from the lift should be allocated to members most in need of physical activity.
My football club, Inverness Caledonian Thistle—and I should, at this point, refer to my entry in the register of members’ interests—offers exercise classes to fans who are over 50, including walking football, which has been very successful. Indeed, during the Presiding Officer’s tour last year, I watched a game of walking football at Charleston academy in Inverness, and one of the star players had early-onset dementia.
However, I am concerned that poor levels of participation in sport are exacerbated by deprivation. Figures from the 2017 Scottish health survey revealed that
“adult physical activity” rates
“were significantly associated with area deprivation”,
with such activity
“highest ... in the least deprived areas” and lowest in the most deprived areas. I am sure that we all know from personal experience that taking part in sport comes with a price tag for, say, clothing, equipment, club membership and class fees, and low-income households are far too often priced out of sports clubs, gyms and activities, even if they exist in the local community.
Lower physical activity levels were also associated with age and sex. For example, only two thirds of adults met the guidelines for physical activity, while lower levels of activity were associated with increased age, as one would expect, and with being female.
The other main strand of my amendment is recovery and rehabilitation, which we have heard about already from Brian Whittle. Physical activity is, of course, crucial to recovery from illness and injury, but it is also a key factor in maintaining the wellbeing of people who are living with long-term conditions. According to the 2017 Scottish household survey, individuals living with long-term conditions are, as one would expect, far less likely to be physically active; in fact, the figure is 40 per cent, compared with 89 per cent for people with no condition. There are clear gaps in the provision of appropriate physical activity programmes and rehab support in Scotland’s communities.
Of course, members should not take just my word for it. Arthritis Research UK has called on the Scottish Government to support local healthcare providers in boosting programmes for people with musculoskeletal conditions. Moreover, Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland estimates that 70,000 people in Scotland could benefit from pulmonary rehab, but currently there is only capacity for 6,000. I should point out to the minister that in my own health board in Highland, an estimated 3,400 patients with COPD would benefit from such rehab, but there is capacity only for 307, a shocking 9 per cent of the total.
School activities are vital to closing the participation gap. As members will know, Scottish Labour established the active schools network in 2004, and we want an increase in the levels of free and affordable sport. Brian Whittle has already referred to the soft drinks industry levy, and I hope that, when he winds up, the minister will address that point. Finally, the United Kingdom promised £1 billion-worth of funding for school sports between 2017 and 2020, so can the minister—if he is paying attention—confirm in his closing remarks that the Scottish Government will commit to ring fencing the Barnett consequentials to fund free sport in schools?
I welcome this important debate. As John F Kennedy said,
“physical fitness is not only one of the most important keys to a healthy body; it is the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity.”
I move amendment S5M-17034.1, to insert at end:
“; notes with concern the deprivation gap in levels of physical activity and considers that, regardless of background or ability to pay, physical activities should be accessible for all; appreciates the importance of appropriate physical activity for recovery following illness or injury, and believes that the Scottish Government should work to address the gap in provision of community-based exercise initiatives such as pulmonary rehabilitation.”
I draw members’ attention to my entry in the register of members’ interests.
I welcome this debate on the positive effects of sports and physical activity on Scotland’s population, and I thank the many organisations that have provided briefings for it. I will say at the outset that the Scottish Greens will support the Government motion and the Labour and Conservative amendments.
The health, social and economic benefits of physical activity are well publicised and there is compelling scientific evidence that regular physical activity is beneficial to both body and mind. I am pleased that the Conservative and Labour amendments address the issue of access, because I, too, want to focus on that.
I welcome the Government’s motion and its recognition of the many benefits that sport can bring to communities. I am sure that we all recognise that there is still great variation in the ability to take part in sport and physical activity across the country. As David Stewart mentioned in his contribution, there is an explicit link between deprivation and physical inactivity. Although I agree that it would be wonderful—and it must be our aim—for everyone in Scotland to be able to ride their bike to school or work, join a local football team if that is their thing, or simply go for a walk in their local park regularly, it is still an oversimplification to say that that is always a matter of choice.
Sports facilities can be prohibitively expensive for families—that is, if they are available at all. In my region, Meadowbank stadium is closed for long-overdue refurbishment. However, to fund that work, part of the site has had to be sold off. Such a model is unsustainable: we cannot fund future refurbishments by selling off land for housing. Much needed though more housing may be, we must sustain and maintain leisure and sports facilities in Scotland and invest in them; otherwise people will find it much more difficult to lead the healthy, active lifestyles that we want them to have.
We also need to ensure that appropriate infrastructure to allow walking and cycling is in place. A recent study on inequalities in active travel found that people who lived in the most deprived areas were more likely to undertake journeys on foot or by bike than those who lived in the least deprived. As the minister will appreciate, walking does very well as far as gender equality is concerned: 69 per cent of men and 71 per cent of women take part in recreational walking, which bucks the usual trend. Greater investment in walking and cycling infrastructure will benefit people who live in areas of deprivation and will help to reduce health inequalities.
Greens have had a long-standing policy—for as long as I can remember being a member of the party—that active travel should receive at least 10 per cent of the transport budget. That is backed by the Scottish Directors of Public Health and many more. It would bring our spending levels up to £25 per head, which would put us on a par with the Netherlands. If any member is interested in having a look at the data for that country, they will see that it is not suffering from the obesity epidemic that we have here. As Brian Whittle said, we need to build activity into daily life. We might not always have the time to do something specific, but if we can get some exercise on our way to and from work, that is helpful.
We know that access to local good-quality green space improves people’s physical and mental health. It is estimated that parks and green spaces save the national health service £111 million per year, based solely on the estimated reduction in visits to general practitioners. Greenspace Scotland tells us that 90 per cent of urban Scots say that green space is important to them. However, one in four Scots says that the quality of such space has declined in the past five years. Public parks and sports areas account for just 4 per cent and 9 per cent of green space, respectively. As austerity continues to impact on public sector spending, council expenditure on parks and green spaces has continued to decline. We must ensure that we see leadership on that coming from the Parliament and that people have access to facilities and spaces in which they can run, walk and play.
In closing, I mention that the Government, or one of its agencies, previously produced a report on the amount of green space and playing fields that had been lost. I would be grateful if the minister could look into whether that information is available, because I am finding it hard to get hold of.
Presiding Officer, sport inspires us. Tomorrow night, my nine-year-old son will have the great dilemma of whether to wear his Sadio Mané shirt or his Mo Salah shirt when I take him and his older brother down to Anfield to watch the title run-in.
Brian Whittle is right, and I am going to take up his challenge. From time to time, we have debates on this subject, and we talk around these issues. I have heard Brian Whittle make many positive contributions such as the one that he made earlier. I have certainly heard one sports minister after another making the kind of contribution that Joe FitzPatrick rightly did today and saying many things that we can all agree with. However, what matters in this area is making things happen.
On that principle, I got some people together to try to build what the golf foundations of Paul Lawrie in the north-east and Stephen Gallacher in West Lothian are doing. We hope to take our proposed programme around Scotland to ensure that it is available to all. We had a very useful meeting with the Deputy First Minister, which we requested because of the very point that the sports minister made in his speech, which is that it is not just about sport; in fact, sport is neither here nor there. What is important is participation by people from every background. For example, children with disabilities can try golf, too. The programme is all about the broadest possible advantages that sport can bring, which the speeches that have been made so far have rightly mentioned. That kind of initiative is particularly important for the future of golf—Scotland is the home of golf, so we must continually stress the need for work on such projects.
The initiative is about so much more than sport. It brings advantages, such as improving young people’s self-esteem through their ability to take up a new game that they have not tried before. If they like it, they can stay with it and take that experience through life. After all, golf is one of the sports that are easy to play one’s whole life—although I know Brian Whittle’s golf game, so perhaps a better way to put it would be to say that it is a sport that it is possible to play one’s whole life.
Alison Johnstone made the point about infrastructure and facilities. In Shetland, we built an indoor facility with a 60m by 40m fourth-generation pitch some years back, which is linked to the new Anderson high school in Lerwick. It provides state-of-the-art facilities. The best thing about it is that mums and dads can take their wee ones to football or rugby training, for example, and it is inside. It is not heated or anything and it does not need to be. Shetland’s climate is not always what people see when they watch Shetland drama programmes on the telly—occasionally it rains and blows a blinkin hoolie. The advantage of that facility for junior coaching in particular is phenomenal and is already paying off.
I take Alison Johnstone’s point that such facilities need to be much more widely available around Scotland and certainly in the far-flung parts of the country.
Shortly, the Shetland women’s netball team will play in the final of the Evelyn Beattie quaich. Last weekend, they beat the Glasgow South Saltires—I apologise for being in Johann Lamont’s patch—and they are now into the finals. That is a great achievement for the Shetland women’s netball team. The Shetland women’s hockey team play Orkney this weekend in the semi-final of the Scottish district cup and I hope we win—I am glad that Liam McArthur is not here. As I am on the topic of women’s participation in sport, I will say that the Shetland women’s rugby team has had a phenomenally successful year. That sport is growing and developing in my part of the world, as it is across the country.
Sport can inspire—on that point I absolutely agree with Brian Whittle.
We have heard some very interesting speeches and I agree with everything that has been said. I will not speak about the various clubs in my constituency as I would normally do, but I will speak about a very interesting project that I came across that was launched by the Scottish Government. I am the convener of the cross-party group on older people, age and ageing and I thought that I would speak with that hat on.
The focus of my speech will be a significant programme carried out by the Care Inspectorate. In 2016, the Care Inspectorate was commissioned by the Scottish Government to deliver care about physical activity—or CAPA, for short. The programme aims to improve the health and wellbeing, independence and quality of life of older people experiencing care at home or in care homes across Scotland. The independent research results have hailed the programme as a complete success.
The programme empowers care staff by giving them the confidence, knowledge and skills to promote and enable opportunities for movement for older people experiencing care. It was delivered across Scotland and involved 140 care services, including care homes, reablement services, day care, sheltered housing and care-at-home services.
The independent research commissioned by the Care Inspectorate, which I have already mentioned, found that older people involved in the programme had significantly improved their hand grip strength and their lower leg strength and had gradually increased their flexibility, which improved mobility and levels of independence and significantly reduced their likelihood of falls as a result of moving more. The research also found that people had been supported to feel
“significantly happier, more satisfied with their lives, more worthwhile and ... less anxious”,
after being involved in the CAPA programme.
People experiencing care also reported improvements in their quality of life, including a sense of purpose, being more socially connected—as is mentioned in the Government motion—having a greater sense of wellbeing, and being more confident as a result of moving more each day.
I want to highlight one particular strand of the CAPA programme that I found really interesting—it is an award-winning intergenerational project. It won the award for being the most inspiring and innovative project at the 2018 Scottish Government and Healthcare Improvement Scotland quality improvement awards.
The project is about bringing nursery school kids along to care homes. Members may have seen it on the TV, but it is not just on the television; it is actually happening throughout Scotland. Basically, local residents and kids from nursery schools are brought together, meaning that people are more active. The pilot project was set up with a group of residents, parents and staff from care homes and nurseries, who discussed what they wanted to get out of the project and ideas about what changes they could make to sessions to benefit both generations.
What were the benefits? Well, there was the obvious benefit of social interaction between the older and younger participants. In addition, as well as doing their 1 mile walk to the care home, the children actually started to walk more, and more quickly, improving their health and fitness. Those are nursery school kids.
The residents’ activity levels were measured at each session and the results showed much improved physical ability and wellbeing, and—as I said before—increased levels of happiness and confidence, and reduced anxiety. All of those went hand in hand with those projects.
As I said, such projects are present across Scotland; they happen across Glasgow on a weekly basis. However, they are sporadic—there are some in my area but not in others. The project model benefits everyone who is involved. I advocate such intergenerational work and would like to see it happen across more of Scotland. When the minister sums up, will she say whether there are any plans to push the programme out across the country?
I am pleased to take part in today’s debate on changing lives through sport and physical activity. Sport and physical activity can undoubtedly go a long way in improving the health and wellbeing of individuals, as well as having wider benefits for society.
The challenge—as Brian Whittle outlined—is encouraging more people to participate in sport and physical activity, and nowhere is that a bigger challenge than in deprived communities. Although sport and physical activity can provide significant benefits for everyone, our young people can benefit the most from sport and physical exercise through health benefits in later life.
I welcome some of the good work that the Scottish Government has taken forward, including the work around community sports hubs, which those of us who sit on the Health and Sport Committee have had the chance to visit. I visited the hub in Aviemore and was hugely impressed by its work. I also recognise the work of fellow St Johnstone fan, Aileen Campbell, when she was involved as Minister for Public Health and Sport.
Alison Johnstone and Tavish Scott both highlighted an important point in this debate—namely, that we need to actually make things happen. I am therefore very concerned about the cuts to sport and leisure budgets that we are seeing in councils across our country. For example, the City of Edinburgh Council has decided to make an 8.6 per cent cut to its sport and leisure budget, which is one of the largest of the council’s budget cuts. The council is strongly opposed to reducing funding and is aiming to take forward the healthier lifestyle programme, which the capital has said is one of its priorities. Those cuts mean that the cost of accessing services will increase, which goes against the strategy that the council has put forward.
Last summer, the City of Edinburgh Council proposed that sport clubs in the city would pay £35 an hour to use school sports halls, which would have directly hit junior sports clubs across the capital; I raised that with the cabinet secretary during the last debate. I am pleased that, following public outcry, those proposals were put on hold. However, since then, the City of Edinburgh Council has stated that it still plans to raise fees for clubs that use sports facilities, putting up barriers for local sports clubs at the very time that we should be taking them down.
That is at the heart of the point that Tavish Scott was raising. We can have this debate and talk about progress, but councils are where that progress is being unpicked and where barriers to the potential solutions that we all want to see are being put up.
I do not have time—I have only four minutes.
Many charities around Lothian are doing exceptional work and trying to change people’s lives through sport. One of the charities that I have been working with is the School of Hard Knocks, which uses sport to build people’s confidence and develop their skills in order to get into employment. I recently attended its awards event, which was hosted at Spartans community football club here in the capital city.
In the past year, the charity has worked with more than 100 adults, with 40 per cent of them finding employment, 8 per cent volunteering and 18 per cent moving into further education or training. Of the adults who have completed the School of Hard Knocks programme, 95 per cent have improved their self-confidence, motivation, hopefulness and ability to face the challenges of getting back into the workplace. Talking at the event with participants in the School of Hard Knocks programme and hearing their first-hand experience, I found that it was clear that graduates felt that sport had had a transformational effect on their lives.
Every member in this chamber is united in wanting to improve the health and wellbeing of everyone in Scotland and in believing that we can help to achieve that. Sport and physical activity can bring a lot of positive stories and benefits to people’s lives, so we need to focus our efforts on improving participation rates around Scotland and on how our councils deliver that. I am engaged with that and I know that we all want it to happen, but I want to make sure that the Government is wise to the barriers that some councils put up.
We always say in the chamber that we welcome a debate, and that has become a bit of a cliché at the start of members’ speeches. However, I whole-heartedly believe in what we are trying to achieve with this debate. It is not just about the medals or trophies that we win, how high or far we jump, how fast we run or how hard we kick or hit any size or shape of ball; it is about using sport as a key element in changing people’s lives for the better.
The timing of the debate could not be better for me, as it comes in the middle of multiple sclerosis awareness week. I am not one to take advantage of an opportunity, but I want to talk about a project that was jointly funded by the Multiple Sclerosis Society Scotland and the Scottish Government. The active together project was a multilayered programme in Scotland that aimed to support those with and affected by MS to continue to stay active. The project needed to be extremely focused, because one of the few symptoms that is shared by most people with MS is chronic fatigue. The project was co-designed and developed by people with MS, and it ran between August 2017 and November 2018.
The findings from the project were interesting. The MS Society found that as people’s attitudes to physical activity or exercise improved, there was a movement to the approach that they had interacted with and found most useful among the programmes that were on offer. It empowered those with MS who were involved with the programme.
Also interesting among the findings was that people with MS wanted to take part in activities that were MS friendly and suitable for their condition, but they felt less comfortable being in an MS-only environment that isolated them from people of other abilities and conditions. People with MS want to be seen as an equal part of our community, and sport and fitness activities provide a way for them to achieve that.
I will read a couple of quotes from the 200-plus people who participated in the programme.
“It was very emotional getting on a horse again, and my daughters are so proud that I did it.”
That was from a woman who took part in horse-riding in the programme.
“I have found my forever sport, because, regardless of what happens to me through my MS, I can continue to curl.”
That was obviously from someone who was involved with the sport of curling, whose origins are in Paisley, as everybody knows.
When we look at the active together programme, through which the Scottish Government and the MS Society worked together to make a difference to those people’s lives, we can see that people are now moving on and continuing with their sporting activities.
I, too, have a vision for sport and activity in the community. I might have mentioned before that I am a supporter of St Mirren FC. We went so far with pushing forward its community programme that, as a community, we bought the club. My vision is similar to what Miles Briggs said about Spartans: we want to build a football club that has a fantastic community programme and will make the community better.
St Mirren FC is in Ferguslie Park, which is right in the heart of Paisley and is always mentioned in this chamber when we discuss deprivation. My idea is that we should consider how we can create a multisports development to help people with education and access to work and to make sure that they get the opportunity to use sport as a way of gaining the confidence to move forward in the world. For me, that is the most important thing.
In debates such as this one, we talk about people winning medals. If a young person from Paisley wins a medal, I will take that, but it is not all about that. Sport is not all about winning; it is about changing people’s lives and making sure that we enable them to be all that they can be in the future.
I usually start off by saying that I welcome the opportunity to participate in the debate. I do not want to come across as a curmudgeon, but I have to say that I have enjoyed the debate far more than I expected to. Some interesting and substantial speeches have been made.
However, I make the point that the Scottish Government needs to think about how it allocates its time. There is an issue about choosing “safe” debates. It has been shown that such debates might not, in fact, be so safe. We need to be careful that we do not rehearse the same arguments over and over again. I make a plea to the minister to think about how Government time is used so that we can really challenge existing practice and make a difference. I am not casting any aspersions on the minister’s commitment to changing lives through sport and physical activity, and I have no objection to or disagreement with the self-evident truth of the substance of the motion. I have no disagreement, either, with members who have made serious contributions to the debate.
For the avoidance of doubt, I absolutely agree that physical activity is good for people’s health and for our communities. Indeed, when I was a young woman who was not particularly involved in sport, the development in the 1980s of the fun run movement got me out in a pair of trainers, to the point that on one occasion I managed to finish—if, not quite, to run—a marathon, so I know that that kind of unusual sport, rather than just formal sport, is extremely important in people’s lives.
I come from a city in which a Labour council actively decided that in order to address the city’s economic and health challenges, it would engage in massive cultural and sporting activities, to the extent that Glasgow hosted the Commonwealth games and is now one of the most popular venues in the world for sport. That is testimony to what sport can do.
Despite there being some evidence to the contrary, I am all in favour of building consensus, but the real challenge that we face in building consensus relates not to what we should build consensus on or why we should do so, but to how we take forward our aspirations. Too often, that is left behind. We have debates in which we settle on which lines to take, and we have the usual party divisions instead of trying to connect our discussions to real changes in our policy thinking. I have, innumerable times, made the plea on education—
Johann Lamont asked about the “How?” An example of how we can proceed is the changing lives fund that I mentioned earlier. It has funded the charities Active Stirling and Signpost Recovery, which I visited last week. It was really inspiring to hear directly from service users about their lived experience of substance misuse and the vital part that sport and physical activity are playing in their recovery. That is just one example of how we are using sport and physical activity to change lives. We are doing that now.
Thank you, Presiding Officer. I appreciate that, because I always overindulge myself.
We have asked for education debates on substantial issues: the Government should consider that.
The minister is right that there are lots of good things happening. We hear many brilliant ideas in the chamber, but we are not being transmogrative enough—we are not challenging some of the fundamental decisions that the Government takes that shape our capacity to do what we want to do. It is not just aspiration and policy that are important; the budget decisions that the Government takes are having direct consequences for the capacity of local authorities and communities to deliver the changes that we aspire to make. Local government cuts are having consequences for our capacity to deliver at local level. We know that community football does far more than just teach young people about football, but it does that without one coin of support from anybody in the system. We ought to look at that.
I was a swim mum, and have spent too many mornings in my life going to a swimming pool at 5 in the morning. It would have been impossible if my husband had not been able to share in doing that and if we had not had a car. We know that inequality is burned in to some of the problems around sport, so we need to hear from the Government how it connects its aspirations, which are absolutely right, to the budget choices that it makes that make those aspirations far more difficult to achieve. Will the minister, in his summing up, address the question about how budget choices match the policy aspirations to which we can all sign up?
Sport and physical activity have the power to change lives. We know that, if people eat well and exercise, they are more likely to live longer, less likely to get ill, and more likely to be happy. Sport has the propensity to do that, and even mild physical activity, such as walking, has the power to make everyone, including cynical MSPs, feel better about themselves.
Too often, however, access to sport is predicated on the ability to pay for things such as gym membership, swimming lessons, or even buying a bike. In the dim and now, seemingly, distant past, I taught about health inequalities in modern studies classes. That was around the time of the infamous “fat man of Europe” headline. I recall being told confidently by a senior class, in a classroom not too far from here, that if poor people could not afford gym membership, they could simply go for a run. We then got into a good debate about why that might not be possible, and about environments and their impact on life expectancy, for example.
Later that year, I arranged for the then chief medical officer, Sir Harry Burns, to speak to the class about health inequalities. I will always remember his presentation about the importance of relationships in our formative years, access to green space, and regular exercise—things that many of my pupils, who were growing up in leafy Barnton, often took for granted.
In the kingdom of Fife, Fife Sports and Leisure Trust is required by Fife Council to widen the level of participation in sport and active recreation, to develop opportunities and pathways for people to take up and fulfil their potential in sport, and to provide good quality and adequately resourced facilities and services that meet the needs and aspirations of Fifers and visitors to the area. Since its launch, in 2008, the trust has seen a two-thirds increase in male membership of gyms, a 90 per cent increase in children aged 5 to 17 and an 84 per cent increase in adults aged 18 to 64. As a result, Fife Sports and Leisure Trust is contributing to an estimated £2.7 million of savings to health services in Fife. Indeed, “Scottish Health Survey 2016: volume 1: main report” showed that 63 per cent of adults and 73 per cent of children in Scotland met the guidelines for moderate or vigorous physical activity in the previous year.
Scottish Government research shows that a lack of physical activity contributes to nearly 2,500 deaths in Scotland and costs the NHS around £91 million per year. Preventative spend and investment in sport and activity for all are therefore vital.
Last week, I visited Rainbow Nursery in Glenrothes as part of its Easter wellie walk. It was a real privilege to walk with the toddlers along Boblingen Way and to roll eggs at Warout stadium. Although they were small, the children were certainly determined about their egg rolling, so I was very careful to dart out of the road to avoid being torpedoed by a stray boiled egg. Rainbow is a great example of an early learning and childcare setting that embeds outdoor learning in all that it does. Walking was just another part of Wednesday’s learning.
We know that if children are taught about the importance of sport and exercise at a young age, they are much more likely to continue to take part throughout their adult lives. In 2017, the Health and Sport Committee, of which I am a former member, published the results of our “Sport for Everyone” inquiry. I remember being taken by evidence that we heard from the Robertson Trust about access to the school estate, especially access after school hours. The Robertson Trust advised the committee that
“costs of accessing the school estate are too high. Indeed, we have had conversations with organisations seeking to take on or build their own facility due to the fact that they are not able to access facilities in their local community at a time or price that is suitable for them.”
I appreciate that that is outwith the minister’s portfolio, but I would be grateful if he could consider reflecting on use of the school estate, within the parameters of closing the poverty-related attainment gap, and the obvious opportunities that should present as a result of opening up our schools for community use. This afternoon’s motion is focused on sport and physical activity to change lives and to promote social cohesion. Our schools are well placed to advance that agenda: many already do so.
Our early learning settings embed outdoor learning using physical activity every day, but we should all resolve to think critically about ways in which we can make sport more accessible to our constituents. It is an area that often excludes the poorest people in our society.
Just before the Easter recess, I took part in a debate that was led by my colleague Brian Whittle about the importance of a healthy diet to tackle Scotland’s growing problems with obesity. In our debate, we discussed how important it is to teach our kids the value of good nutrient-rich food. It is clear that, in addition, we must also teach our kids about the necessity of living an active lifestyle. A healthy diet and an active lifestyle go hand in hand.
Only two thirds of Scottish adults met guideline amounts of physical activity in 2017. Two thirds of adults in Scotland are overweight, including 29 per cent who are obese, which leaves Scotland with the worst obesity records among Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries. Cancer Research UK statistics show that the obesity crisis in Scotland has led to an estimated 4,800 cases of bowel cancer in the past decade. That is a national crisis.
There is no easy fix, but it would be a good start for our children if we could put in place measures to reduce health inequality, such as giving more opportunities for our schools to provide the best physical activity and healthy meals.
Last year, the Scottish Conservatives set out our strategy to improve nutrition and activity and to reduce health inequalities in Scotland. The strategy focuses on the link between nutrition, activity and education. Only 33 per cent of children aged five to 15 are active at the recommended level of at least 60 minutes on every day of the week. Those figures decline massively as children get older: from 45 per cent of children aged five to seven to only 18 per cent of those aged 13 to 15. Something is going seriously wrong.
School is where many children get their first experience of sport. We must use that opportunity and take sport and physical activity to the children in our schools, rather than hope that they seek them outside school.
I thank Peter Chapman for allowing me to make a point about the active schools programme, which has support across the chamber. It has been in place for a number of years and is to be commended. More than 309,000 young people engaged in the programme in 2018. It bucks the trend with regard to economic deprivation; access to and participation in that scheme goes right across Scotland and across communities.
I agree with the minister.
However, I believe that many more hubs for out-of-school activities should be established in order to ensure that social inclusion is available for all—coupled with the opportunity to participate in an activity of choice. We need to do more. If schools would open their facilities to more out-of-hours clubs, there would be more opportunities for local teams and clubs to grow, and more youngsters would get the chance to enjoy sport.
The long-term strategic nature of those recommendations would not only have a positive effect on reducing physical health inequalities and improving sport participation, but would help in prevention of mental health problems. The Scottish Association for Mental Health states that the three main principles for good mental health are inclusivity—namely, opportunities to participate in social activity—consistent mental activity and consistent physical activity. James Jopling, who is the executive director of Samaritans Scotland, has said:
“Physical activity can provide mental health and wellbeing benefits of itself, but can also provide an environment for individuals to connect with other people and provide an antidote for some to feelings of social isolation and loneliness.”
Attainment studies show that pupils who have an active lifestyle outside school show significant improvements in attention, behaviour and academic achievement. As closing the attainment gap is a priority for every political party, and given that consistent evidence shows that having an active lifestyle can be a solution, it is vital that a sport and active lifestyle strategy be front and centre of any plan to tackle the attainment gap and health inequality.
I will talk about cycling, which will come as no surprise to people who know me. The health benefits of cycling are clear. It is a form of exercise for recreational use as well as for endurance and a way to go about our daily lives. It is also an everyday way of protecting the environment; bikes were zero emissions before the phrase was invented.
Cycling can help to reduce the risk of chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and stroke, while boosting people’s mood and keeping their weight under control. It is low impact, it is very good for core muscles and, when people can do it safely, it is also great fun. However, I associate myself with Alison Johnstone’s comments about cycling safety and the need for better, safer infrastructure.
General practitioners around Scotland are beginning to prescribe activities such as walking and cycling to help treat illnesses including diabetes and heart disease. It has long been the case that exercise has been prescribed to patients suffering from depression. I recommend cycling as an ideal activity in that regard.
Cycling hubs, which give people access to bikes, are springing up throughout the country. For people who cannot afford to buy a bike, such hubs are all over the country. I believe that everyone should have the right to a bike. Costs can be a barrier to this sustainable and cheap-to-run form of transport, which is also a great source of exercise. However, people should have not just the right to a bike but the right to cycle that bike without fear of getting killed. Although 2018 figures show that road deaths in Scotland are down, they also show that deaths of road cyclists are up by 16 per cent, which is a sobering statistic.
I turn to some positives. In the north-east of Scotland, the University of Aberdeen has benefited from investment in electric bikes. The e-bike grant fund from the Scottish Government has awarded the institution £15,000 for 12 e-bikes in the past year. The fund is focused on providing support to community organisations, local authorities, public sector agencies, colleges and universities through direct grants and it helps to ensure that people across Scotland can access the benefits of this new, exciting way of cycling. It is a great example of the investment in cycling and active travel that the Scottish Government is making. As Dave Stewart said in his contribution, there is an economic benefit from preventative spend on cycling.
In my Aberdeenshire East constituency, there are many brilliant routes, such as the Formartine and Buchan way, for people to get out and about, walking and cycling for leisure. However, cycling infrastructure for those wishing to commute between towns in Aberdeenshire or into Aberdeen city itself is not fit for purpose—I say that from personal experience. Real investment needs to be made to encourage people to swap cars for bikes to do their daily commute or shopping or simply to go about their daily lives.
All the same, recreational cycling can be a good way to socialise and meet new people; as has been said, it can combat social isolation and loneliness. There are a number of cycling groups in my constituency, such as the Buchan Dirlers Cycling Club, which is based in Mintlaw. The Belles on Bikes network is a Scotland-wide organisation, with a group in Aberdeenshire, that provides a friendly, inclusive and relaxed environment for women to take up cycling.
In January, I celebrated a milestone birthday and received a brand new Dutch road bike from my family. Yesterday, Jenny Gilruth suggested that I just talk for four minutes about that. I think that she was criticising the fact that I am always banging on about it. I want to use my passion for cycling as a vehicle to urge the Government to look once again at real transformational infrastructure investment in cycling to put Scotland on a par with our European neighbours such as Denmark and the Netherlands. Cycling should not be something that people just talk about as a hobby, as I have just done; with good, comprehensive cycling infrastructure, we could be a cycling nation, with our citizens cycling every day and all the health and environmental benefits that that brings.
This has been an excellent debate. I can safely say that, in my 12 years in this place, it is the first time that I have agreed with every word of every speech. Perhaps I am getting a bit mellow in my old age.
Brian Whittle, with his background in sport, spoke extremely well. He said that sport gives life lessons far from the classroom and that sport is not funded adequately but has a preventative role. I agree that good sport policy is good education policy. The quotation that
“Sport is the most potent social worker in any community” is relevant and I support it.
I also agree with Alison Johnstone, who said that sport is good for body and mind but access is key. She gave the very good local example of Meadowbank. I did not realise that there was an issue with the land and the refurbishment. That was a good example of the importance of access. Infrastructure for walking and cycling is crucial. If I remember it correctly, I think that the Green policy is that active travel should get 10 per cent of the transport budget. That would be a huge investment and the chamber will look with great interest at future budget negotiations.
Tavish Scott made a relevant point about sport being inspiring. He says that we should make it happen. I was not aware of the initiative involving the golf tour around Scotland. I wish him well in that and I look forward to reading a lot about how the initiative develops in the future.
Sandra White talked about best practice examples from her constituency and how they aid wellbeing. She made an important point about the intergenerational programme and the possibility of the Scottish Government developing it more widely. Johann Lamont made a wider point about how the Government spends its time in this place and whether it should be looking at other topics to debate. We, of course, should focus on physical activity but she made a good point about the important role that Glasgow City carried out in attracting to Glasgow not just the Commonwealth games but—equally important—their legacy. We have had the Commonwealth games, but it is not just about the one-off; it is about the long-term infrastructure that we build.
In summary—I will shock you, Presiding Officer, by being under time for once in my entire life—this has been an excellent debate. My apologies to those members I have not mentioned. As I said in my introductory remarks, sport is the best tool for social prescribing and prevention.
In the spirit of consensus that has broken out today, Labour will support the Scottish Government motion—I am hoping that that support will be reciprocated when it comes to our amendment—and we will support the Tory amendment.
It gives me great pleasure to sum up on behalf of the Conservatives after what has been a short but nonetheless important and enjoyable debate. Sport has a considerable role to play—as I think we all agree—in this country’s future health, wellbeing and prosperity; that was self-evident in the speeches. It was Tavish Scott who said that it is not sport itself but participation that is particularly relevant in that context. However, something tells me that when he goes to Anfield on Saturday, he will have a different perspective on that.
Sport transcends politics—and thank goodness for that. It gives hope to millions of people. It does not respect political divisions and nor should it. It enables people to develop many shared experiences, values and purpose, and builds personal pride, skills and responsibility.
Many members have pointed out that there is a great deal of educational evidence that encouraging more physical activity improves levels of attainment; the benefits are proven. In the context of the current attainment debate, that could hardly be more important. My colleague Brian Whittle mentioned initiatives such as the STEP programme, which is a bespoke, schools-based literacy programme that is aimed at pupils in primary 4 and 5. The programme has a proven track record of encouraging children to develop the fundamental skills that are needed to learn successfully.
Certainly, nobody pretends that the task is easy. Brian Whittle made an important point when he mentioned the STEP programme. The issue is not just about funds and facilities, although they are undoubtedly scarce; it is about some of the barriers that are in the way when it comes to ensuring that there are enough people—professionals and volunteers—to support all the sports activities that we need. Brian Whittle also talked about the better understanding that is required—we all need to take lessons on what that understanding must be composed of.
Just as we have had to deal with very difficult and complex situations when we have debated alcohol, drugs and smoking, we need to be bold in our approach to sport too, because the future of our young people is far too important, as indeed is the social fabric of our nation and the economic rewards of developing sporting infrastructure, for exactly the reasons that Johann Lamont cited in her excellent speech—she may not see herself as a sportslady, but I commend her for making some extremely important points in her speech. The research by sportscotland on the economic impact of sport and, in particular, the social aspect shows how much it contributes to our local communities, to the jobs that are available in our communities and, of course, to consumer expenditure and the income that comes back from that, which is hardly an insignificant sum.
The essential starting place is building upon the projects that we know have worked—the minister cited a couple of those. However, it is not just about the quantitative evidence that we have; it is about the qualitative evidence, which proves that progress is being made.
In our constituencies, we all have examples of good projects but, for me, the most successful projects have defining characteristics, some of which Brian Whittle mentioned in talking about taking an approach that goes across portfolios.
Expanding the numbers that are involved in sport is important, but I am much more concerned about the quality of the experience that people have and the feeling that they can participate without any of the impediments or barriers that they sometimes face.
Access is needed to professionally trained physical education teachers, particularly for the earliest years, when interest is first sparked.
We also need to make it much easier for people to volunteer. I note what the Scottish Sports Association said about developing employer schemes that support and encourage volunteering. Alison Johnstone and I have been privileged to serve as co-conveners of the cross-party group on sport, and a main message that we have heard recently has been about the quality of the volunteering programme and about how much we need to encourage that, because it is a crucial part of building for the future.
In the time that I have, it is impossible to do justice to what everybody has said.
That is generous—thank you.
Important points have come out of the cross-party group on sport, which has been privileged to witness at first hand the outstanding work of the many third sector groups that promote extra-curricular activities in schools and particularly for children who might be denied the opportunity elsewhere. There are a lot of unsung heroes who work day and night to give youngsters an opportunity that we do not always know about. We should reward such work, but we are not always good at doing that.
If our society’s mental wellbeing is to improve, building confidence and self-esteem is important, just as our health ambitions are. Such a theme is not always popular these days and is sometimes seen as slightly elitist, but I do not believe that it is—it is an intrinsic part of every person as they start on the journey of finding their inner being. Sport is crucial in that respect.
I thank the Presiding Officer for allowing me an extra minute, which I hope was worth while.
I am delighted to close the debate on changing lives. I have been struck by the many contributions from across the chamber that have highlighted how sport and physical activity can be used intentionally to bring about positive change for communities and people. I was encouraged by the ways in which organisations are working together to use the collective power of sport and physical activity to create positive lasting change for individuals and communities that addresses specific needs.
I turn to the interesting contributions that have been made. The debate has been consensual and has shown the Parliament at its best, when members come together. Not for the first time, Brian Whittle spoke passionately about the power of sport and its holistic impact on lives. David Stewart spoke about the importance and the impact of individuals with long-term conditions remaining physically active. Alison Johnstone spoke about building activity into daily lives and about the importance of green spaces to us all.
It was unsurprising that Tavish Scott spoke proudly about Shetland’s sporting success. He talked about Paul Lawrie, the proposed golf tour and the meeting with the Deputy First Minister. I assure Tavish Scott that sportscotland, the Scottish Government and Education Scotland have picked up a number of actions following that meeting.
Unsurprisingly, George Adam spoke to us about Paisley and St Mirren, but he also spoke about the active together project, which encourages people with MS to be active with others and to join in with the community.
Johann Lamont’s contribution on the infrastructure left in Glasgow after the Commonwealth games struck a personal note with me today. In my constituency of Rutherglen, we were blessed with Cuningar Loop, which is a development from the Commonwealth games that is the largest urban park in South Lanarkshire. Only yesterday, it won the Royal Town Planning Institute award for planning excellence for health and wellbeing. It has had a big impact on the health and wellbeing of my constituents and many more across Glasgow.
Jenny Gilruth spoke about the success of Fife Sports and Leisure Trust and the increase in participation, and we heard about Gillian Martin’s passion for cycling, the need for safer infrastructure and her ambition for Scotland to be a cycling nation. Those are varied contributions.
From the work that organisations do in communities, which we have heard much about, it is clear that sport and physical activity can have very positive and life-changing effects on mental wellbeing. Mental health is an absolute priority for the Scottish Government, and strong research is now emerging to support the strong positive links between physical activity and positive mental wellbeing. Almost everyone knows the benefits of being physically active, and we want people to be more active, more often in part because being active is good for mental wellbeing. Being physically active can reduce stress, improve self-esteem and help to manage depression and anxiety.
I am pressed for time—I am sorry.
I want to see an increase in the number of people who engage in sport or physical activity, not for its own sake but for the wider benefits that it can bring, particularly for mental wellbeing. However, doing sport is not just about playing in teams or joining a club. Any kind of physical activity can boost mental wellbeing—from swimming to walking, dance or golf. The changing room is a great example of partners working together through football to promote men’s mental health and wellbeing through the power of football. The ALBA—active living becomes achievable—project also builds on the well-established links between physical activity and improved mental health.
I am pleased that SAMH is an important partner in delivery of the changing lives through sport and physical activity programme through its partnerships, not only in the changing room and ALBA projects but with Scottish Sports Futures, to deliver a joint programme that will promote positive mental health for young people and address the stigma and discrimination felt by those with mental health problems.
Last week, I met staff delivering the community strides project, which is a collaboration between SAMH and jogscotland, funded through the changing lives fund, that provides opportunities for people from black, Asian and minority ethnic communities to get active with local jogging groups. I was struck by the passion of the staff to use jogging as a tool to have an impact on individuals’ physical and mental health. The staff are getting to know the women attending the sessions and are working with them to understand and overcome potential individual and community barriers to participation.
That work with BAME communities builds on an existing successful partnership in which jog leaders undertake mental health awareness training and then wear a simple “I’m here” badge, which they can use as a tool to start a conversation with their members and show that they are open to chatting about mental health. The intention is not to turn jog leaders into trained counsellors but to make them feel more confident about providing a listening ear, and to let them know how to help members find more help if they want it.
In August 2016, SAMH also announced the development of Scotland’s mental health charter for physical activity and sport. The charter was developed through the SAMH people active for change and equality project and was funded by Comic Relief. Scotland’s mental health charter for physical activity and sport aims to empower physical activity and sports communities to improve equality and reduce discrimination, ensuring that mental health and wellbeing problems are not barriers to engaging, participating and achieving in physical activity and sport. Organisations are encouraged to show their support by signing up to the charter to create a positive change. It is encouraging to hear about the diversity among the signatories to the charter—from sportscotland to governing bodies such as Basketball Scotland, leisure trusts, physical education departments in local schools and local clubs.
I encourage those who are involved in sport and physical activity across our communities to sign up to the charter. That will signal to anyone with a mental health problem that there is support out there to help them to overcome the barriers to getting active and achieving their personal goals.
I thank members for their speeches. We will all continue our efforts to deliver wider outcomes for individuals and communities across Scotland through sport and physical activity. The Government will support the Conservative and Labour amendments.