Government urged to provide cash for its sporting rhetoric

An online petition has been launched to urge the Scottish Government to match its rhetoric about sport with hard cash.

The petition, from Chris Gallacher on behalf of the Save Meadowbank Campaign, calls on the Scottish Government to explain how its commitment to promote sport and healthy living – and leave a lasting legacy from the 2014 Commonwealth Games – can be delivered when local authorities say they are having to close facilities due to lack of funding.

It asks the Government to engage with local authorities and provide adequate funding to ensure facilities are not diminished through, for example, their sale for private housing.

The petition quotes a pre-election circular from Justice Minister (and constituency MSP covering the Meadowbank area) Kenny MacAskill who criticised the previous Labour administration, stating “what we need is more public facilities not less”. Yet now Mr. MacAskill supports the current plan to demolish Meadowbank, which will significantly reduce facilities, and build housing on much of the site.

The Scottish Government has also gone back on a pledge it made to provide Edinburgh Council with £28.8 million of funds to upgrade the Royal Commonwealth Pool. Now they will provide only £5 million, and may give a smaller contribution towards the cost of refurbishing Meadowbank.

Mr Gallacher lodged his petition when the City of Edinburgh Council, which is now run by an SNP/Lib Dem coalition, decided in March this year to demolish Meadowbank Stadium and replace it with a scaled-down sports centre that doesn’t include many of its current facilities. The Council has justified its decision on financial grounds, saying it doesn’t have money to refurbish the existing site or build a similarly-sized replacement.

Mr Gallacher said: “Even at its current size, Meadowbank is often unable to meet demand. To reduce its capacity will have predictable consequences for the number of medals won by Scottish-based athletes in 2012, 2014, and beyond. The health benefits of an active lifestyle are well documented and frequently promoted.

“How sincere is this government’s commitment? Many thousands of elite and ordinary sports enthusiasts, local and wider Edinburgh residents, and many others from throughout Scotland and far beyond have shown their opposition to any selling off and downsizing of Meadowbank.”

Save Meadowbank spokesman Kevin Connor said: “Edinburgh is Scotland ‘s capital city yet the Government says it is only prepared to give its Council a one-off payment of around £9 million to look after its two major international sports venues, Meadowbank and the Royal Commonwealth Pool. That is totally inadequate.

“National facilities require national funding. Edinburgh Council needs far more central Government support. But this isn’t just an Edinburgh issue. Other Councils have similar problems and I call upon people throughout Scotland to sign this petition to ask the Government to provide the money to match its rhetoric.’

Sign the petition at:
http://epetitions.scottish.parliament.uk/view_petition.asp?PetitionID=260

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