Sport for all

Lothian Green MSP and former competitive athlete, Alison Johnstone backs Edinburgh to host the new National Performance Centre for Sport and seeks assurances that it will be a catalyst for sport for all.

Tomorrow (30 May), City of Edinburgh Council is expected to give its formal backing to Heriot Watt University’s bid to host the new National Performance Centre for Sport. If approved, and if it wins against rival bids from Dundee and Stirling, the city council will agree to add £2.5 million to the national funds of £25 million, with the university adding £2.5 million as well.

As someone who has been involved in sport in Edinburgh – in my case, athletics – all my life, my every instinct is to back Edinburgh’s bid. I am sure Stirling and Dundee offer a great deal but I do believe Edinburgh has the edge. As a volunteer atheletics coach I understand the challenges facing community and grassroots sport – poorly-maintained facilities and waiting times where coaches are in short supply. As a nation we have been better at grand gestures and prestige projects than we are at building from the bottom up and maintaining what we have developed. The sorry saga of Meadowbank stadium is a case in point – ill-maintained and neglected.

It is important that the National Performance Centre for Sport is the extent to which it can act as a catalyst to community sport and raises the bar for all of our facilities. We do need to nurture our would-be elite performers though elite sport in itself will not drive the health and wellbeing improvements that we desperately need. That is why my Green colleagues in the City Council have been right to seek, and secure, assurances that additional funding for the National Performance Centre will not be at the cost of day to day sport in the city.

I look forward to welcoming the National Performance Centre to Heriot Watt’s campus and to seeing sport throughout the south-east of Scotland thrive as a result.