Schools are to top the Scottish Office sporting agenda and seize more lottery cash to help raise numbers taking part, Sam Galbraith, the Health, Sports and Children's Minister, has told The TES Scotland.
Mr Galbraith, in his first policy interview as sports minister, announced an attack on low participation levels and promised to combat Scotland's appalling incidence of heart disease and lung cancer. "We are bottom of the league in these terms," he said.
Sport is also likely to have a major role in the Government's plans for healthy living centres as a positive way of changing lifestyles.
The minister was speaking during a study visit to Denmark last week. Around 85 per cent of children aged seven to 14 are members of sports clubs there and regularly take part in sport while almost half the adult population are active.
Mr Galbraith said: "We are down at 15 per cent of the whole population taking part in sport. The Danes have got a wonderful level of public participation and we have to try to get up to them. We will not do it overnight, but we will make a start."
After visiting sports organisations, after-school clubs and the Danish sports ministry, Mr Galbraith said: "The way in is through the schools and I am more convinced than ever. Youth and school sport are our priorities, not that we are excluding elite sport, they are not mutually exclusive. But the one area we are really trying to enhance is sport for all and we have to have the base right. That is school and youth sport."
Mr Galbraith believes sport adds to the status, identity and reputation of schools but wants better links with clubs.
He expects larger amounts of lottery money to be targeted at school and youth sport to support the existing 23 school sports co-ordinator projects in secondaries and two pilot local authority schemes in East and West Lothian. The Government aim is to appoint a co-ordinator to every secondary.
The Danish experience, page 6