Bid to separate Scottish athletics from rest of UK

Lynsey Sharp won silver for Scotland at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games. Picture: Ian Rutherford

Lynsey Sharp won silver for Scotland at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games. Picture: Ian Rutherford

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Scottish Athletics has made the potentially controversial decision to seek support to field separate international teams at a number of major championships in a direct challenge to the current Great Britain and Northern Ireland set-up run by the UK Athletics.

It is understood exploratory talks have been undertaken to field distinct squads at other events, including the annual European cross-country championships.

At present, athletics competes under the Saltire only at the Commonwealth Games, as well as at a handful of home nation meetings.

But the Scottish Athletics chairman, Ian Beattie, a prominent independence backer, has penned a submission to the Smith Commission on devolution calling for backing for parallel changes within sport.

“Scottish athletics would like to see more opportunities for Scottish athletes to compete as part of a Scotland team at European and world level,” he wrote.

“Some sports (rugby, football, cricket, hockey, netball for example) already have that opportunity. In athletics and many other sports, such opportunities come round once every four years – in a Commonwealth Games year.”

It added: “Furthermore, in athletics, we have seen an erosion in recent years of opportunities outside the mainstream of track and field: areas such as hill running and cross country – foundation disciplines of our sport – where Scotland used to compete at European level as Scotland. This no longer exists (we compete as GB), and with tightening budgets there are less and less places available at UK level (for Scots).”

Even if UK Athletics were to back the idea, it is unlikely that athletics government body, the IAAF, would sanction such moves with its criteria for recognition largely mirroring that of the international Olympic Committee.

Scottish Athletics has, however, stopped short of backing SNP calls for a Scotland Olympics team.

“To be clear, we absolutely support the concept of Team GB and competing at the Olympic Games under that banner. We do, however, seek wider and increased opportunities for Scottish athletes to compete for Scotland on the world stage.”

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