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Sport for all and for Scotland;Opinion

Our round-up of the state of school sport (Page 18 ) shows encouraging signs. Some sports have more participants, though there is a general problem among older teenagers, the result no doubt of exam pressures and part-time jobs. Facilities are improving, thanks in part to Lottery funds and despite the sell-off of playing fields by some councils.

There will always be tension between sport for all and for the talented minority who hold the key to future national success. Ideally, there would be no problem: participation in large numbers would uncover individuals whose talents should be specially nurtured. But in Scotland we have a smaller base in some sports than other countries - rugby is an example - and there is a high chance of gifted players never becoming involved.

Early and intensive specialisation by the artistically gifted has long been available. A similar regime in sport still raises the spectre of East European "forced feeding" and of lost academic careers. But if Scotland does not follow the example of other countries our faltering national performances will decline further. And that would discourage both happy duffers and the future elite.

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