Sporting chances

17th November 2000 at 00:00
A SMALL change in title may herald a significant change in Scottish Executive thinking. Allan Wilson is Sport and Culture Minister unlike Rhona Brankin, his predecessor, who was arts, culture and sport minister. Does it matter? It might judging by last week's spending announcements.

The culture press lobby fears the titular change, and has already mocked the appointment of a minister who apparently cannot tell his arts from his elbow or at least the difference between a ballet and an opera, and who might prefer karaoke in Kilbirnie on a night out.

The balancing argument is that sport, for the first time in Scotland, may be moving forward significantly. Always the poor relation in terms of core funding, it has been given a generous share of lottery money in Scotland - pound;87 million - to spend on school sports facilities that will be open to the community and projects loosely described as combating rime and anti social behaviour.

The Prime Minister's backing for school sport spending through the New Opportunities Fund has been important. Scotland will tread a slightly different path where the social inclusion agenda remains Donald Dewar's legacy. All Scottish Executive policies are aimed at eliminating exclusion and sport has become an ally.

But ministers should heed the advice of commissioned research on the role of sport in regenerating deprived urban areas. Interventions are most effective when they are an integrated part of wider-ranging programmes and not short term, ad hoc schemes. Researchers also highlighted the importance of physical education and sport in primaries.

Sportscotland is beginning to tackle primary school issues through its core budget but more substantial funds for staff running to millions will be needed.

The lottery could be a new opportunity.

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