Why it is time for a national debate to bring Scotland together on sport

As we look to rebuild in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, there are significant challenges to face – but the Observatory for Sport studies of global responses has shown sport to be at the heart of much promising work.

It is time for national debate to bring Scotland together on sport
It is time for national debate to bring Scotland together on sport

We are calling for a ‘National Conversation’ in order to bring Scotland together, to enable discussion and debate, learn from international examples and bring a newfound cohesion to how we learn from good practice here and abroad, to enable the country as a whole to identify the best way forward.

Among policy ideas generated for discussion by the OSS forums, are the following:

Health inequalities: Focus public funding to address barriers to sport activity, eg fund only sports and clubs that provide equitable access across age, gender and ability in all communities.

Children’s health and education: Enable extra-curricular activity and remove variable, postcode lottery nature of opportunity available to children of all backgrounds.

Older people’s health: Support ‘Senior Sport’ programme in partnership with key stakeholders, including Age Scotland and health and social care partnerships, in all regions.

Social prescribing: Research, map and analyse Scotland’s ‘social prescribing’/general practitioner referral’ approaches in partnership with National Health Service, Public Health Scotland, HSCPs and trusts.

Support teenagers: Lead on free and low-cost access to school and community ‘hubs’ to enable and empower children and young people of all abilities, to tackle inequalities and Scotland’s participation decline from 11 years old. Educate community leaders: Include in ALL sport/sportscotland qualifications professional guidance on poverty, disability, mental health and gender issues.

Community sport regeneration: Energise community, school and youth sport with focus on shorter travel distances and sport seasons to reduce costs, widen inclusion and re-grow volunteer base post-Covid, and the business and wider communities.

Town/village centre regeneration: Stimulate, through more engaged and inclusive community planning, sport and recreation activity in town and village centres linked to active travel and 20-minute neighbourhoods.

Active travel: Grow a new generation of cyclists by enabling all children to learn and develop confidence with cycle routes, pump tracks and bike stores in all new school builds.

Innovation: Create a research, innovation, tech and teaching capability in Scotland for sport and social impact linked to policy and practice, engaging widely across sectors and enabling the wealth of global research to be collated, analysed, shared and developed.

Scotland’s great outdoors: Link outdoor recreation, planning and visitor management in a national strategy, tying together work of Active Scotland, Nature Scotland, visitscotland and landowners, to build on the growth of outdoor recreation during the Covid pandemic.

Over the next six weeks The Scotsman Scotland on Sunday and Edinburgh Evening News, in paper and online, will be featuring people from across the Scottish landscape and around the world as we discuss, debate and examine evidence into how community sport does, or could, play a key role in improving health and wellbeing, educational attainment and the economy in Scotland.If you wish to join the discussion, contact us at [email protected], and the Observatory for Sport at www.oss.scot.