Sport in Scotland: report

The purpose of the report is to offer observations and recommendations on the current Scottish sporting landscape with a view to facilitating a more streamlined and coherent voice for Scottish sport.

Section 3: Issues in Scottish Sport

40. The review noted both the issues facing individual sports organisations and the issues in Scottish sport as reported by respondents. It is evident that a significant overlap exists between the issues raised by individual sports organisations and the key reported issues faced by Scottish sport.

41. More respondents agree than disagree that Scottish sport is in a good place. There is substantial evidence to suggest that the core issues facing Scottish sport include:

  • funding;
  • leadership; 
  • equality;
  • capability;
  • capacity;
  • strategy;
  • organisation

42. There were also concerns about sports ability to evidence delivery against a range of outcomes beyond health.


43. Scotland has a growing sport and recreation industry with contemporary governance structures, economic investment and proven expertise in hosting both local and global events. There has been significant recent investment for the building of fully accessible facilities.

44. Access to world leading sports research has been secured by Scottish Government public funding for Universities and other income streams. However, Scotland unlike Canada, does not have access to dedicated research council funding for sport. Organisations wishing to buy independent quality sports research expertise need to consider covering the proper costs of University research and knowledge exchange.

45. Long term sustainable core funding for sport that enables effective planning is a key concern at local and national levels and is a significant risk to Scottish sport.

46. Scotland has a lot to offer and the sports industry could further advance Scotland’s international interests by grasping sport’s ability to engage with other Governments and Cities and open up the door not just for business but for cultural exchanges and messaging. Sport can help to advance Scotland’s international connectivity, soft power and paradiplomatic networks.

47. There remains a collective case to be made for an even stronger Scottish sports industry. The opportunity and expertise to grow philanthropy in the service of Scottish sport and national social outcomes, in a planned logical way, is a gap in the funding of Scottish sport.

48. The global sports industry is estimated to be worth between £267 and £345 billion[11].

49. The consequentials of economic inputs and interventions through sport in relation to outcomes has still to be fully understood, captured and realised.

sportscotland Funding

2009-10 2010-11 2011-12 2012-13 2013-14 2014-15 2015-16 2016-17 2017-18 2018-19
revenue £37.1m £30.9m £33.1m £33.2m £34.2m £32.2m £33.7m £29.9m £30.7m £34.9m
Capital £8.1m £8.1m £4.9m £9.5m £1.0m £4.0m £32.0m £2.0m £0m £0m
National Lottery £20.2m £21.1m £24.9m £31.0m £27.5m £31.8m £31.3m £26.0m £26.0m £24.0m (est)
Total £65.4m £60.1m £62.9m £73.7m £62.7m £68.0m £97.0m £57.9m £56.7m £58.9m

50. Scottish Government funding for sportscotland (including National Lottery) between 2014 and 2018 reached a high of £97.0m (2015-16) and a low of £56.7m (2017-18). The funding high for 2015-16 included funding for the National Performance Centre, Oriam and the National Sports Training Centre at Inverclyde.

51. The draft Scottish Government 2018/19 budget increased sportscotland’s core grant by 3% to £32.6m and agreed to underwrite £3.4 million of potential losses arising out of sportscotland’s share of declining national lottery investment.

52. Approximately 95% of sport funding through sportscotland and local authority is targeted at grassroots sport.

53. Concerns around the increase in access charges to sport are seen by many respondents as a key issue and barrier to sports participation for some people.

Leadership and Equality

54. A number of organisations claim to provide leadership for and in Scottish sport. An indicative map of the Scottish Sporting Landscape is included in Section 4 of the report. Perceived or otherwise, there is a call for greater strategic and diverse leadership across Scottish sport which should be listened to.

55. Those delivering sport in Scotland are asking for help in delivering sport across a complex and disconnected sporting landscape. A requirement to produce and implement policies, develop research, along with evaluating and monitoring requirements is proving a difficult challenge for smaller governing bodies. The additional workloads are seen by many to detract from SGBs’ core missions.

56. Scotland’s diverse and ageing population has much to offer sport. From volunteers and coaches to being Board members, there are people with a wealth of knowledge and experience to be passed on.

57. Leadership in Scottish sport needs to be more innovative and pro-active to ensure it is representative and reflective of Scottish people and communities.

58. Leadership positions and boards in Scottish sport are almost entirely white. The cost of accessing sport and facilities remains a significant barrier with sport being available to those from wealthier backgrounds. Furthermore, many sports still have a gender imbalance.

59. The disability sports community needs to be represented more. 19% of the Scottish population have a disability[12]. Only 20% of people with disabilities take the recommended level of physical activity compared to 52% of non-disabled people[13]. 7% of children with a disability in mainstream school have 2 hours/periods quality physical education per week[14].

60. Successful societies are inclusive societies and sport can act as a way to help bring communities together, if it becomes more inclusive at all levels.

61. Local authorities have been innovative in tackling social inequality through sport. Small amounts of funding have been used creatively. In 2018 Perth and Kinross Council consolidated all funding streams for individual projects delivered by St Johnstone Community Trust into one funded Service Level Agreement. Funding of £60k per annum was agreed for 3 years to deliver projects to support show racism the red card school workshop programme, Football memories projects, an inclusion through sport programme for adults with learning disabilities, autism and mental well-being issues and street soccer projects. In 2019 the Council agreed to mainstream this funding.

62. Universal access to sport remains a work in progress and while social characteristics are protected under the provision of The Equalities Act social class, poverty and geography are still significant barriers to sport in Scotland that should not be ignored.

Strategy, Organisation and Outcomes

63. Sport in Scotland is a complex landscape. The responsibility for sport is shared across a range of organisations at both a national and local level. If Scotland is going to maximise the benefit of sport, then it is paramount that an enlarged agreed common ground and purpose needs is forthcoming.

64. The Active Scotland Outcomes Framework provides national direction. There remains a significant opportunity for greater collaboration around outcomes and the social return on investment to ensure the best results at both community and high performance levels.

65. Whereas the Framework puts an emphasis on people being active and equal, further work is required across the public and private sectors to demonstrate how sport can assist various sectors.

66. There is robust and ample evidence to show that sport and physical activity can improve a person’s physical and mental health and can be used as a preventative tool to alleviate pressures on our health service.

67. Sport remains a key part of life in Scotland. The Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games Final Evaluation Report provided an insight into Scotland’s capability to stage major sporting events and lever social and economic benefits through sport[15].

Recommendations and Observations: Issues in Scottish Sport

68. The review has noted and recorded (i) issues facing individual sports organisations and (ii) issues in Scottish sport reported by respondents. It is evident that a significant overlap exists between the issues raised by individual sports organisations and the key issues reported by Scottish sport more generally.

69. More respondents agree than disagree that Scottish sport is in a good place. There is substantial evidence to suggest that the core issues facing Scottish sport include funding; leadership; equality; capability; capacity; strategy; organisation and the ability to evidence sports ability to deliver against a range of outcomes beyond health. Universal access to sport has yet to be realised.

RO1 Scottish society is changing and sport needs to adapt. A number of organisations claim to be the voice of Scottish sport, but to thrive, sport needs a clear agreed common purpose in order to be more joined up and work effectively. This could be achieved by sport organisations aligning themselves around shared, agreed and well defined outcomes, perhaps in line with the Active Scotland Outcomes Framework.

RO2 The demands placed upon small and medium sized sports governing bodies, means that their capacity and in some cases capability, to deliver core objectives and outcomes is currently compromised. Necessary back office functions, such as human resources, legal and accountancy services should be shared much more across Governing Bodies. This could be achieved by one collaborative body facilitating a step change in the current level of support across, for example, governing bodies of sport.

RO3 Scottish sport would be helped if budgets were fixed over a longer period to allow for long term strategic planning.

RO4 The ability of Scottish sport to attract philanthropy as a significant additional income stream to support social outcomes is in its infancy.



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