26 Sep 2008

Speech on Funding Community Sport 25th. September 2008 Scottish Parliament

This debate gives some of us an opportunity to advance a powerful, unified and telling message about the contribution that lottery funding can make in Scotland, not only to sport but to quality of life.

For other members, it is an opportunity to nitpick, score points and be negative.

That is a price worth paying if, at the end of the debate, the Parliament can send a strong and powerful message that the lottery will make a difference in Scotland.

Margo MacDonald has been tireless in her efforts to promote the links between education, better health and sporting activity.

We know that intervention and participation in sport at a young age can make a real difference to what young people achieve in their education, the quality of their life and their health.

We should view the opportunity that the Commonwealth games brings to Scotland in that context.

Jamie McGrigor was right to raise the lack of development of facilities in our new schools.

Those are once-in-a-generation opportunities to make a difference to a local community.

We need to be more thoughtful about how we plan our investment and the range of facilities that we deliver, because they can make a difference to local communities, particularly in more isolated areas of Scotland.

Ross Finnie was right to talk about realistic objectives, and to consider not only what the Commonwealth games brings to Scotland in terms of structural regeneration.

Frank McAveety was right to speak about what the Commonwealth games can bring to Glasgow, and the east end in particular.

My family is from the east end of Glasgow—many still live there and, as people who know me will testify, I am a regular visitor to that part of the city.

It breaks my heart to see what has happened there over generations: the deprivation, the poverty, the drug addiction, the alcohol abuse and the physical decline in the area.

However, there is still pride and hope there, and many people in the area look forward to what the Commonwealth games will do to bring their quality of life up to the standard that others in Scotland currently take for granted.

We should not just assume that we are starting with a blank canvas.

I give credit to what Glasgow City Council has done—and is doing—to make a difference in the city, through regeneration projects and building new schools.

There is imagination there about capturing the opportunity that the Commonwealth games bring.

We should aid and assist Glasgow in every way that we can.

What happens in the east end of Glasgow will spill out into the rest of the city, and to the surrounding areas.

The people from the constituency that I represent will go to Glasgow to use the cultural and sporting facilities in which Glasgow City Council has invested, so it is clear that other areas will benefit from what goes on there.

We must grasp the bigger picture.

I did not agree with the tone of some of what Bill Kidd said or with everything that he said, but he was absolutely right to put the games into the perspective of what they can do to transform the life of people in the city of Glasgow.

As the minister rightly said, we want to use the Commonwealth games to boost Scotland's standing in the world.

However, as Ian McKee said, the way in which to boost Glasgow and Scotland's standing in the world in the long term is not to provide a one-off event, but to get rid of our image as the sick man of Europe and of violence and educational underachievement.

That means that, although lottery funding must be used to boost and enhance sport, it must also be used to tackle the endemic poverty and deprivation and the lack of educational opportunities.

It must be used to boost the number of volunteers and the social infrastructure in areas.

If we transform Glasgow's statistics on matters such as poverty, ill health, violence and deprivation, at a stroke we will transform Scotland's statistics and push Scotland way up the international league.

Therefore, let us use the Commonwealth games as an opportunity to invest in our sporting infrastructure but, more than that, let us ensure that we tackle the deep-seated and deep-rooted problems that have blighted our society for far too long.