Tavish Scott: Capital deserves a sporting chance

Tavish Scott. Picture: Neil Hanna
Tavish Scott. Picture: Neil Hanna
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The Island Games take place in Bermuda next month. They bring together athletes from 24 islands including Rhodes, the Falklands and Scotland’s Northern and Western Isles.

A total of 14 separate sports will see vigorous competition across athletics, football and swimming.

Bermuda is inevitably a high-cost venue for athletes. So last weekend the Shetland team were fund raising. The mother of a talented 800-metre runner declared that we had raised enough money for the Shetland team’s food for the week. But on such a night in Lerwick’s sports centre the discussion turned to the Olympics, Commonwealth Games and the next generation of island and Scottish athletes.

The national sports agency Sportscotland is promoting a national performance centre. The aim is to use £25 million of public money to build a world-class centre where coaching different sports can take place in state of the art facilities. Many Scottish sports already have a home. Investment in facilities has happened.

Glasgow 2014 adds to that. The Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome, in particular, is a world-class facility and with the right support and training new cycling Scots will rise to the top.

Competitive bids have been encouraged from different parts of the Scotland. Sportscotland are down to a short list of three with the final decision will be taken by SNP ministers.

Dundee, Stirling, and Edinburgh through Heriot Watt University, are pitching to win. Scotland’s capital has not been wonderful at winning such bids in the past. Nor have the capital’s stadium needs been adequately resolved. Many rugby fans in the east look enviously at the atmosphere now generated at Scotstoun for Glasgow Warriors. Compare that to the emptiness of Murrayfield with a 67,000 capacity but fewer than 5,000 there to watch the Edinburgh pro-team.

Edinburgh needs a purpose-built small all-seater stadium. One of England’s club rugby giants has built a brand new stadium, but with an artificial pitch. It can be used for different sports and is a multi-purpose venue. That is what Edinburgh should aspire to build.

Meadowbank Stadium looks like it’s falling apart at the seams. So why have the city powers failed to grasp the nettle? Either redevelop Meadowbank Stadium or sell the site and use the capital for a new build elsewhere.

A combined bid could see Edinburgh back the Heriot Watt University bid. It could be built next to the new National Performance Centre for Sport at Riccarton. That would create a magnificent venue combined with the coaching and performance facilities that are so badly needed.

Dundee and Stirling will have persuasive cases to make. But this decision should be about the long-term interests of Scottish sport – not which city has most marginal seats in parliament. Politicians come and go. Sport is forever with us.

• Tavish Scott is Liberal Democrat MSP for Shetland