Opposition politicians have warned Scottish ministers against reducing the size of school playing fields after a Scottish Government document proposed lowering the minimum area required for pitches.
Conservative education spokeswoman Liz Smith said cutting the amount of space to play sport was wrong at a time of rising obesity amongst the young.
A consultation document published by the Scottish Government proposes changing regulations that would enable schools with synthetic pitches to provide less outdoor grass space.
The document looking to update regulations first introduced in 1967 argued that synthetic pitches were more durable than grass pitches and therefore could be used more often.
It said: “In recent years there has been an increasing move towards the use of synthetic pitches (SP) as they provide greater playing capacity than grass pitches. Given this, it would appear appropriate to allow a reduced area of provision if this includes SP.”
For an average sized secondary school with a roll of 850 pupils, 3.2 hectares of grass pitches have to be provided. If the pitches were synthetic, the area would be reduced to 1.7 hectares. A primary school of 450 pupils would only have to provide 0.3 hectares of synthetic area, compared with 0.6 hectares of grass.
The document referred to sportscotland guidance which observed that greater use of synthetic pitches with their increased “playing capacity” would allow playing field areas to be diminished.
But Ms Smith said the reductions proposed by the Scottish Government would lead to less area devoted to sport than suggested by sportscotland.
A secondary school of 1,200 pupils is recommended by SportScotland to need 3.9 hectares of mixed pitches, for example – but under the new regulations, would be allowed to go below the existing minimum of 3.6 hectares.
Ms Smith said: “The cross-party Sport committee at Holyrood and the Health and Sport Committee have both heard evidence that points to the diminished number of playing fields available across Scotland.
“That comes at the same time as there is rising obesity and worrying signs of poor health amongst too many of our young people.
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “These claims are incorrect – there is no change to the current regulations on grass-only pitches.
“The regulations are being updated to reflect the increasing use of synthetic pitches (SP) by schools. SP has greater playing capacity compared to a grass pitch so the provision will at least remain the same if not increase. Sportscotland were consulted on developing the consultation.”