UK & World News

  • 23 July 2014, 10:38

'UK To Fund' Scots Athletes After Independence

The Scottish government has said its athletes will not lose out on funding if they enter future Olympics and World Championships as an independent team following a 'Yes' vote in the forthcoming referendum.

The sporting impact of independence will be thrown into sharp focus when Scottish athletes march behind the Saltire at the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow today.

Should Scotland vote for independence, Scottish teams will become a fixture of major events, entering future global events as discrete teams and ending the highly successful association with Team GB.

Scots made up 10% of the record-breaking British team at London 2012 winning 13 medals as individuals or part of teams. They included gold medals for Andy Murray, Sir Chris Hoy and Katherine Grainger.

The funding implications of independence for sport are uncertain, but Scotland's Secretary for Sport Shona Robison told Sky News she would negotiate to secure a "fair share" of current UK Sport funding as part of the independence settlement.

Scottish athletes will receive around £37m for the next summer and Winter Olympics and Paralympics from UK Sport, which will distribute £373m to British elite competitors over four years.

"We are entitled to a share of UK Sport funding because it is part of UK government funding, just as we would look to negotiate a share of defence spending and foreign affairs spending," Ms Robison said.

"We would want a share of that UK Sport funding to support Scottish Olympic and Paralympic athletes. We have also already set out that we would like the Lottery to continue as it does. We contribute our fair share to the Lottery, perhaps slightly more, so we will seek for that to continue."

Ms Robison's position is likely to be challenged by the British government and UK Sport, which currently has no contingencies for independence and says its funding is preserved for Team GB athletes only.

Funding is determined on the basis of talent rather than on share of population, a formula that Ms Robison and her colleagues will have to challenge as part of the negotiation.

UK Sport chief executive Liz Nicholl told Sky News that independence would weaken both Team GB and Scotland.

"Certainly to start with Scottish athletes would win fewer medals if they were outside the British high-performance system, and Team GB would win fewer medals as a result of losing that Scottish expertise."

Scottish athletes who have previously competed for Team GB, or those with dual nationality, will be able to choose between competing for Team GB or Scotland. For athletes like Grainger who were part of an Anglo-Scottish team, it could be difficult decision.

Sir Craig Reedie, a Vice President of the International Olympic Committee and former chairman of the British Olympic Committee, said athletes were likely to follow the funding.

"My experience is that athletes tend to follow the funding and Scottish athletes have been very very well catered by the very substantial, huge amounts of funding that was available to Team GB, and it might be that the emphasis might be on maintaining British representation," he said.

Mr Reedie said that while Scotland would have no difficulty in creating a National Olympic Committee recognised by the IOC, the protracted negotiations that would follow a 'Yes' vote mean it would be unlikely to be able to compete in time for the Rio 2016 Games.

"The recognition of a National Olympic Committee by the IOC follows recognition of† an independent nation recognised by the international community. In terms of Rio I think it is a bit tight. It's about athletes qualifying, and above all it is a political process,"he said.

Ms Robison insisted she was confident Scotland would compete independently in Brazil.

"I am absolutely convinced we will be in Rio, I am sure we will. If there is a democratic yes vote then I am sure we will be recognised on the international stage as an independent nation. That would not be an issue."

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