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Sport is Scotland’s Missing Link in Key Policy Agenda

Nanette Milne, 14/10/2010

Sport is Scotland’s missing link in key policy agenda

Speaking in this evenings debate on support for sport in Scotland communities.

Dr Nanette Milne MSP, Shadow Minister for Public Health & Sport said:

“As a northeast member of this Parliament, I am extremely proud to acknowledge the sporting success of a number of young competitors from my area. Robbie Renwick and David Carrie, both double swimming medalists in the Delhi Commonwealth Games, live near me on the outskirts of Aberdeen, and world champion Hanna Miley comes from Inverurie, just a few miles away. Shooting medalists Jennifer McIntosh and Kay Copland are also from the Aberdeen area, and three Nordic skiers from Huntly - Andrew Musgrave, Andrew Young, with Callum Smith in reserve, were part of our team in the last Winter Olympics.

All these people deserve our warmest congratulations on their achievements, and all can be held up as tremendous role models for the youth of Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire.

World class sporting events like the Olympic and Commonwealth Games, and this week’s Ryder Cup, do a great deal to stimulate national pride and patriotism, and bring communities together in support of their local heroes.

However, not everyone can aspire to being an elite athlete, of whatever sporting discipline, but everyone can improve their fitness by taking part in physical activity, by walking, cycling, swimming or participating in some organized sport. And there are many ongoing initiatives in Scotland to encourage walking to school or for pleasure, cycling to work, even to get involved in allotment gardening, a pet hobby horse of mine.

But sport has an enormous impact on the lives of very many people in Scotland, and I was frankly amazed to learn from the Sports Alliance that there are around 12000 sports clubs across the country with 20% of the population participating in them. And beyond that, many more of our fellow Scots are involved in sport through gym membership, or as active supporters of sports like football, rugby and hockey, attending matches all over the country every week.

Sport is indeed Scotland’s missing link, as it bridges the key policy agendas of health, education, communities, the economy, justice and the environment.

In the limited time available to me, I want to focus on the positive impact which sport has on our health as a nation – both physical and mental.

With over 1million adults and 150000 children in Scotland already obese, with obesity levels predicted to reach over 40% by 2030, and with an estimated 2500 people dying prematurely in Scotland every year due to physical inactivity, there is an urgent need to encourage people at an early age to adopt an active lifestyle, and to maintain physical activity throughout their lives into old age.

That will contribute to the prevention and management of many common health problems which cost the NHS a small fortune – conditions such as cardiovascular disease and hypertension, diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis and some cancers.

Moreover, the benefits of physical activity are well recognized in preventing and relieving mental health problems like depression and anxiety. As a witness said in evidence to the Health & Sport Committee, “It is very hard to be active, sporty, obese and depressed at the same time.”

I think it is vitally important to spread the word across Scotland of the value of physical activity and sport to society, and that is why I have signed up to the Scottish Sports Alliance’s Pledge for Sport, and why I would encourage all MSP’s to do likewise if they haven’t done so already. I did ask a visiting teenage class from Dyce Academy in Aberdeen this afternoon about their involvement in sport, and all said that they do currently play an active part in sporting activity, and I did find that quite heartening.

I have come nowhere near dealing with all the many benefits to be derived from sport in our communities, but I will sum up by quoting England’s former Chief Medical Officer, who said “The potential benefits of physical activity are huge. If a medication existed which had a similar effect it would be regarded as a miracle drug.”

2014, with Scotland hosting the Commonwealth Games and the Ryder Cup, is fast approaching, and I cannot imagine a better legacy from these iconic events than to achieve a healthier Scotland.”

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