Shona Robison urged by SRU to deliver on sports pledges

THE SNP'S promises to drive improvements in Scottish sport fall under the spotlight today when Shona Robison, the first Commonwealth Games and Sports Minister, makes her opening keynote speech in the new Scottish Parliament.

Pledges to improve sport were made across the parties in the lead-up to the recent elections, but the Scottish Rugby Union is one organisation hopeful that months of lobbying will reap dividends now the SNP have a majority in the parliament.

A 'Vote for Sport.Com' campaign by the 'Scottish Sports Alliance' lifted the public profile of sporting needs with virtually all MSPs signing up to it, and Andy Murray's mother Judy called on government to make serious in-roads to the ongoing failure to increase PE in schools. The SRU produced a manifesto entitled 'Inspiring a Nation During a Decade of Sport' which highlighted major challenges facing rugby and its struggle to continue to fund a professional game vital to keep Scotland in touch with the world's leading nations, and to retain the significant exposure and income received from Celtic League, Heineken Cup and Six Nations competitions.

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A lack of government funding in sports facilities in recent decades and lack of broadcast exposure and revenue were pinpointed as fundamental handicaps the SNP could do something about. "Rugby clubs are in desperate need of funding for facilities, which is one of the main barriers to people playing the sport," the SRU stated. "The government needs to pressure broadcasters to increase the level of rugby on both terrestrial and satellite television.

"Recognition should also be given to Murrayfield as one of the UK's premier event venues … (it] hosted major events in 2009-10 that generated nearly 130m for Edinburgh and Scotland as a whole."

There is clearly a mood of optimism that the SNP may follow the appointment of a sports minister with tangible plans for improving sport, boosting the role of SportScotland and putting sport back at the heart of Scottish communities. There is scepticism also that the rhetoric may not translate into tangible benefits in the current economic climate.