The catalogue of inequalities includes poor facilities, less timetabled PE, far less extra-curricular sport and significantly less staff involvement. One in three state schools has fewer than 10 per cent of young people involved in out-of-hours sport and exercise and, overall, only 18 per cent of pupils in state schools take part.
The figures would be even worse without the recent initiative on sport co-ordinators, who are now based in half the schools.
The comparative figure for sports and games among the independents is around 65 per cent. The sector pays teachers above the going rate and expects a whole-school commitment in return. It therefore has far more involvement of non-PE staff, more hours devoted by PE principal teachers, and substantially more pupil participation.
The study of 291 secondaries was carried out by Rob Littlefield, former head of physical education and games at Glasgow Academy, through the Scottish School of Sports Studies at Strathclyde University. "Principal teachers obviously wanted o air their views with 68 per cent replying from all regions," he said.
His survey reveals that one in three schools has no access to a swimming pool, and that 42 secondaries have no access to a grass playing surface.
Figures, although not complete, show extra-curricular sport to be strongest in the Western Isles with 50 per cent of pupils taking part, followed by Borders at 38 per cent, Shetland with 31 per cent and Highland at 27 per cent. Inverclyde is bottom at 5 per cent, marginally below Clackmannan at 6 per cent and Perth and Kinross at 7 per cent.
Allan Wilson, the Deputy Minister for Sport and Culture, on a visit to South Lanarkshire this week, said the co-ordinator programme was the most effective means of reversing the sports decline and encouraged all authorities to join.
Charlie Raeburn, chairman of the Scottish Schoolsport Federation, said more than 12 years of campaigning for extra-curricular sport had largely "hit brick walls in corridors of power".
The Scottish Executive had drawn up five national priorities, including a reference to Gaelic, but ducked any reference to sport or health on physical literacy. He has called for a specialist agency to develop school sport.
Cover story - ScotlandPlus