A national grassroots drive to get all Scots participating in sport will be launched with proceeds from the sugar tax under plans unveiled today by the Liberal Democrats.
The move is aimed at building on the legacy of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth games and the London Olympics amid concerns that no progress has been made over the past decade in reducing the number of Scots who are overweight or obese.
Party leader Willie Rennie will also unveil plans for a £325 million “warm homes” fund to tackle cold and draughty houses in Scotland.
The Lib Dems are hoping the proposals, being unveiled in the party’s manifesto today, will breathe life into the Holyrood campaign with the latest polling evidence suggesting it may return just four MSPs – one down on the previous record low of five in 2011.
But Mr Rennie insists the party is poised to “grow again” as it prepares for the manifesto launch in Edinburgh. The party leader has already set out plans to raise taxes by 1p to fund education in Scotland and yesterday pledged to end taxpayers handouts to firms which avoid tax and do not pay staff a living wage.
The sugar tax on fizzy drinks was the centrepiece of Chancellor George Osborne’s budget earlier this year and is expected to raise about £520m annually when it is introduced in 2018. The Lib Dems say the Scottish share of this – expected to be about £43m – will be used for a new initiative to increase participation in sport and physical activity in Scotland.
“We want to see people in Scotland live longer, healthy lives and that starts in childhood,” a Lib Dem source said.
“But there has been next to no progress over the last decade when it comes to reducing the number of people who are overweight or obese.
“Taking part in sport strengthens both physical and mental health, boosts team-building skills and gets Scots out and about meeting new people and taking part in new activities. We should be building on the huge success of the dozens of Scottish athletes who competed in the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games and London 2012 Olympics. That’s what this new drive to get more people on their feet and taking part in sport and physical activity will do.”
The Lib Dems will also unveil Fit For The Future Investment Fund which will be funded from Scotland’s new borrowing powers as well as the SNP government’s annual underspend which was put at £200m last year.
A new regulation will be introduced to make sure all newly-let properties achieve energy rating C. The Lib Dems are also calling for a review into building standards to be restarted.
The Scottish Government has reduced the amount they are spending on tackling fuel poverty by £16m in 2016-17, while a statutory duty to abolish fuel poverty by November 2016 seems unlikely to be met.
“We need to shake up the nine years of SNP inertia on energy efficiency,” A Lib Dem source added.
“Making our homes more energy efficient will slash energy bills for those living in them and dramatically cut energy emissions, making Scotland cleaner and greener.
The Lib Dems’ manifesto will also include plans for investment in education, mental health, environmental protection to meet the country’s climate change targets and guaranteeing Scots’ civil liberties.
Mr Rennie said: “Our programme for Scotland is ambitious and progressive. To embed these proposals in government policy over the next five years we need more Liberal Democrat MSPs in Parliament.
“And thanks to the combination of our bold and optimistic proposals and our record of action in Holyrood over the last five years, the party is set to grow again at this election.”