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Scottish sport should not waltz into Rio to a samba beat

The idea espoused by Henry McLeish that few impediments would exist to flying a Saltire at the 2016 Olympics in the event of independence was always destined to be the headline story in a report commissioned by the SNP government and authored by the former First Minister.

But among the submissions from across Scotland's sporting spectrum, there is a broad consensus that Rio should be approached with caution, with the emphasis placed on achieving long-term goals.

Some, including Commonwealth Games Scotland, dispute that the necessary infrastructure could be established in time to deliver optimal results in Brazil. "Consideration should be given to recognising that the latter part of the Rio 2016 Olympic cycle would be a transitional period for Scottish sport," their analysis outlined. "Perhaps an aim to participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics for the first time as a Scotland Olympic team would be a realistic goal, which would also minimise disruption for Scottish athletes currently in UK programmes."

Patience is a common call. And a strong desire not to simply rebrand but also reform. "We'd push the Scottish Government in an independent Scotland to be ambitious and realise the need for sufficient investment to be successful," said Ian Beattie, the chairman of scottishathletics

Beattie, a former board member of sportscotland, is overtly in the Yes camp but he does not view a new sporting settlement through rose-tinted eyes. The report calls for international events and centres of excellence but seems oblivious to an infrastructure which is, in large parts, mediocre. If the issue is to be a governmental focus in the years to come, then action not words, he says, will be required.

"If we want to make major changes, then we have to take on serious issues," says Beattie. "Two hours of PE for primary schools is better than one but a whole afternoon would be better. You have the idea of getting teachers coaching qualifications which is great. But ultimately, is there a will to push this through and make it work whatever happens? Rather than just lip service, it needs a commitment."

And money, lots of it. In Tennis Scotland's contribution to the report, it lays bare its Union dividend, delivered through the Lawn Tennis Association's receipt of 90% of the profits generated by Wimbledon. That translates into £820,000 in Bank of England notes being shipped north, a sum representing 52% of the Scottish body's income. Would that gap be plugged after independence?

For every threat, Beattie counters, comes an opportunity. It is understood that scottishathletics is among a number of governing bodies to have examined how they might follow the route of football and hockey by increasing Brand Scotland's profile on the international stage. Without political independence, that may remain insurmountable. Until September 18, there is so much which will be pure hypothesis.

"There's not much more planning you can do at this point. The truth is you always have to respond to changing circumstances. We're currently drawing up a new four-year plan and that's the way all sports work. It's just that if there's a Yes vote, it's going to be a different kind of challenge."

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