Disability Sport and Participation

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 5th December 2019.

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Photo of Jeremy Balfour Jeremy Balfour Conservative

I do accept that. I remember—to show my age—when David Wilkie came to our local swimming club and we all got to have our photo taken with him. Undoubtedly, he was a great Scot, from Edinburgh, who had won an Olympic gold medal. That perhaps inspired us to do a bit more swimming.

We need the showcase people, but we should not think that because a person who has a disability plays a bit of sport they will go on to become a Paralympian. That is the point that I am trying to make. We will do that by putting our resources into the grass roots, which is so important. I mention comments by Mary Fee, Alison Johnstone and others about the basics: whether we have the right changing rooms in our sporting facilities, whether people can get there by public transport, or whether there is the financial backing that allows for hire of a sports hall or ice rink. I accept that we need inspirational models, but we also need to make sure that our resources are allocated appropriately to the grass roots, and that we see disability sport as being like any other sport—we enjoy it and we celebrate together.

I thank the Government for the debate. It has been inspiring. I hope that it has raised the topic’s profile again among our political groups, because I think that there is consensus, based on which we can move forward.

I hope that one day everybody who wants to play sport, whatever their ability or lack of ability, will be able to do so and enjoy it.