• Text size      
  • Send this article to a friend
  • Print this article

Whole new ball game for sportscotland in event of a Yes vote

THE sporting map of Scotland will change forever in the event of a Yes vote in next month's referendum.

Claire Hamilton, Vicki Adams, Eve Muirhead and Anna Sloan celebrate winning bronze at this year's Winter Olympics. Curling would be well placed to hit the ground running in an independent Scotland. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA
Claire Hamilton, Vicki Adams, Eve Muirhead and Anna Sloan celebrate winning bronze at this year's Winter Olympics. Curling would be well placed to hit the ground running in an independent Scotland. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA

With sport already devolved to the Scottish Parliament, sport in clubs, schools and colleges, community and leisure centres, will experience negligible impact. But elite sport will operate in a completely new world.

In the event of independence, sportscotland say they are "prepared to hit the ground running, whatever the people of Scotland decide next month. We've examined the changes we'd need to implement to ensure as smooth a transition as possible," said a spokesman.

The experience of a multi-sport environment like the Commonwealth Games is something other newly-independent nations have lacked. "We are fortunate to have structures in place," he added. "We have the right people in place at the institute. We are well positioned. Results in Glasgow back that assertion."

Football and rugby are among 10 Scottish sports which affiliate directly to world bodies. Change for them would be less than for swimming and athletics and other sports which affiliate through a UK body to a world one.

Curling, as the only GB Olympic programme based in Scotland, would be best placed. It uniquely delivered men's, women's and Para sport medals in Sochi, and could become a model for other elite sports.

Rowing, canoeing, and sailing, where Scots have been part of GB programmes, would require support, whereas Commonwealth disciplines are well catered for in coaching and facilities. Those sports which simply look after development and feed into UK programmes will find it challenging. However, in the event of a Yes, sportscotland say they would assume responsibility for all Scots on Olympic and Paralympic programmes.

History suggests full Olympic status would be conferred speedily, possibly by 2016. However, Scots competing on Olympic and World platforms would inevitably marginalise the Commonwealth Games. Independent Scotland would be measured on the global stage.

That might be best served by focusing on just a few sports, though there's already an unhealthy obsession with medal delivery.

After a Yes, 30 Summer and 15 Winter Olympic disciplines would be clamouring for funding. More if one considers swimming includes water polo, diving, and synchro. At present 17 Commonwealth sports are prioritised by sportscotland. Funds would have to stretch further.

Holyrood has been remarkably quiet, but sportscotland has "outlined the funding issues in detail to them, and the measures around expectation to see continuation of investment levels to sport".

With adjustments to embrace £7.5m annually which Scotland contributes to UK Sport, and almost £20m of sportscotland investment annually in performance sport, Scotland's elite will have more than £100m available in any four-year Olympic and Paralympic cycle.

"That's commensurate with the levels of Team GB which globally are considered very high," said the spokesman. "We are hopeful Holyrood would continue to recognise that value."

Existing Lottery arrangements would continue until the licence is renegotiated in 2023.

It is rare in life that one has the chance to plan the future on a blank canvas. Rarer still in the case of a nation. The status quo, the structures which govern it, evolve by custom and practice, by compromise, and sometimes by making the best of bad jobs. There may now exist a possibility to change that.

It is often said that sport in Britain is hampered by history and tradition, by the fact that we invented and codified many sports. Other nations have overtaken us as a consequence. Now there's a chance to catch up.

In a new Scotland, all options should be considered, from top to bottom. Should Commonwealth Games Scotland seemlessly become the Scottish Olympic Association? Should sportscotland continue to perform the same functions? Not, I believe, without independent assessment.

CGS has performed an excellent job - witness the record 53 medals of Glasgow 2014. But that involved 17 sports, fewer than half of which are Olympic sports. Have CGS the experience to take on a further 30 sports of which they have no knowledge?

Critics consider sportscotland over-staffed and bureaucratic. In the recent past it has included members of the party of government who once sought its complete dismantling.

We campaigned against that then, but would certainly welcome streamlining. Especially if there's a risk of further empire-building. The 2014 medal haul on their watch is exceptional. The institute has done an outstanding job.

Might it do better? Should our government simply accept answers from sportscotland, given its vested interests, without independent scrutiny?

Although sportscotland assure me a Scottish Olympic Association "is not for us to determine, but for the Holyrood administration".

Contextual targeting label: 
Sport

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis.
If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.

255844