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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News Release: Currie call on Council to invest in ‘Sports Village’

Currie Community Council has called upon Edinburgh Council to scrap its plan to downsize Meadowbank and concentrate instead on preserving its Commonwealth Games assets as a ‘sports village’. 

Archie Clark, planning convenor for Currie Community Council, made his request while objecting to the revised Edinburgh City Local Plan. He wrote: “Meadowbank was built for the Commonwealth Games. The Commonwealth Pool was built for the Commonwealth Games. They are relatively close to each other and to the seat of Government in Scotland. They should not be seen as separable entities.
 
“Edinburgh Council has not maintained the Commonwealth Games facilities in sufficiently good order to allow them to be re-used without major works being done. It now proposes to sell land that would be vital to retain this ‘sports village’ in order to pay for a second rate facility with less accommodation.
 
“We have seen no arguments that show there is a desire to improve Scotland’s sporting stature in advance of the London Olympics. Monetary arguments have taken precedence. Surely retaining and developing these grounds entirely for sport on a rare site with potentially excellent transport links would enable the City to reap long term benefits from its investment. Building houses may solve a short-term cash problem but has no lasting benefits.

“We recommend that a Development Plan be prepared for Meadowbank showing the existing links with the Commonwealth Pool and the potential links with the bus and railway services to the East Coast Main line, to Edinburgh Airport and the west of Scotland. The opportunity exists to do this as long as the grounds are retained specifically for sporting purposes.”
 
Many other Community Councils have also raised continued objections to the sale of the Meadowbank site for housing. Members of the public have until Friday to comment on Edinburgh Council’s Local Plan which includes a section devoted to the future of Meadowbank Stadium.

News Release: Call for Government to keep its word on sports funding for capital

Royal Commonwealth PoolThe Scottish Government will not keep a commitment it gave to fund refurbishment of the Royal Commonwealth Pool, according to Stewart Maxwell, Minister for Communities and Sport.

He made this admission in Parliament last week. Green MSP Robin Harper had asked if the Government was prepared to keep the pledge that had been made in the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games Candidate City File. Specifically the commitment for £28.8 million to be “100% Scottish Executive” funded.

Mr Maxwell claimed this was not a commitment, just a guarantee. He continued: “It was not intended that the City of Edinburgh Council would exercise the Scottish Government’s guarantee instead of finding the funding itself. That was fully understood by City of Edinburgh Council officials at that time.”

The sports minister stated that the 100% funding pledge was made due to “conflicting timetables for submitting the [Glasgow Commonwealth Games] bid and for sportscotland’s consideration of the funding application for the works at the Royal Commonwealth Pool”.

But Save Meadowbank spokesperson Kevin Connor said he was “baffled” by this explanation.

“The minister is clearly confused. SportScotland announced that the Commonwealth Pool application for £4 million had been successful back in July 2004, while the Glasgow bid document was completed three years later in May 2007.

“The Scottish Government were fully aware of SportScotland’s funding commitment to the Commonwealth Pool when they submitted the Glasgow bid, but presumably because of the proposal to use the pool for the diving competition, they chose to provide 100% of the funding.”

Campaigners want the Scottish Government to keep to its word and honour the funding pledge in the Commonwealth Games document.

“This is an important Government commitment for sport in Scotland’s capital city,” continued Mr Connor. “The Candidate City File is an official document, presented to all Commonwealth countries and fully supported by the Scottish Government. Now we find the Government wants to renege on a promise.

“Who could blame people for questioning the sincerity of the government’s commitment to the Commonwealth Games specifically, and to sport generally? By pulling the funding, Edinburgh Council will be forced to spend £32 million on the pool. By keeping its promise, £32 million would be freed up to provide an upgraded Meadowbank, rather than the current plan to radically downsize the facility and sell off much of the land for housing.”