Saturday, May 05, 2007

Scottish elections

This is my first ever political blog. Up to now I've tried to steer clear of politics and concentrated on running instead. However I have always had an enormous interest in politics, and I think the results of Thursday's Scottish elections merit some comment. So here goes.

First of all congratulations to the SNP for ending up the largest party - 47 seats compared to Labour's 46. At the time of writing it isn't clear what is going to happen. However my preference on the way forward would be the not so obvious solution - why don't the SNP and Labour form a coalition government? It has to make sense - between them they have 93 of the 129 seats, so a coalition between these 2 parties would provide a great chance to deliver 'the will of the Scottish people' - and isn't that what it is all about? Labour would have to accept that the Scottish people are entitled to a referendum on independence. In my view this isn't a bad thing. I'm actually moving more and more in favour myself. It would also give the SNP an opportunity to learn from Labour's many years in power, and to make sure that knowledge was not lost.

One of my main concerns about the SNP manifesto was their proposal to abolish sportscotland. I am a board member of sportscotland, so I have a particular interest in this. However, trying to put my personal interest to one side, I just do not see how replacing the sportscotland board with a group of politicians makes any sense at all. The sportscotland board is made up of independently appointed people, all of whom are (from my experience) very high quality individuals. Sportscotland was established by Royal Charter to ensure it remained independent from the normal political process, and I just don't see how changing this will improve sport in Scotland. I applied to be part of it because I believed I could make a difference. I would be disappointed if this was opportunity was taken away, with sportscotland replaced by another yet another government department.

I am actually very supportive of pushing for Scottish representation in all sports, i.e. having a Scottish team at events like the Olympics and World Championships. I cannot see how this can be a bad thing for Scottish sport. It will give significantly greater opportunities for Scottish athletes to appear on the world stage, and that will in my opinion lead to far greater motivation from our athletes, resulting in improved performances. We already see improvements in performance standards in Commonwealth Games years across a number of sports - athletes suddenly have an achieveable target, so are prepared to push themselves that bit further to get there. I hope that the SNP and Labour, working together for the benefit of the Scottish people, take this on board.

There is no doubt in my mind that sport needs to be a higher priority for any Scottish government. There are 2 aspects to this - as outlined in the recently published strategy for sport - which are to increase participation and to improve performance. Both are equally important. We need to get this right - I worry greatly about our ability to fund the health service in 10 to 15 years time if we don't take steps now to improve the fitness of the population of Scotland. Initiatives like jogscotland have such an important role to play in this. I think it can be done. Next week is the Glasgow Women's 10k, and we have around 50 women from our firm taking part. When you bear in mind that we only have about 400 people in total (both men and women) then I think that is a fantastic response. It just goes to show what happens when you get a few enthusiastic people in a workplace and it becomes 'cool' to take part. The London Olympics in 2012, and hopefully the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in 2014, have the potential to be a key influence in helping people moving to a better and healthier lifestyle. Let's hope everyone makes the most of these fantastic opportunities.

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