The sackings of SportScotland and the Institute of Sport's heads is a strange move by Salmond.
Julia Bracewell and Dougie Donnelly have been fired out of a very political cannon amid an odd spell in the SNP's governance. Now, if you are going to merge two very significant bodies into one, then of course, restructuring will inevitably follow. But Salmond has not yet given any reason why either got the chop other than "restructuring".
These are two figures who are highly respected in their fields, and who have been doing a very credible job. Usually, these are the sort of people you want to keep, especially with the experience they now have.
Excuse my cycnicism, but having lived in a country ruled by Labour for the last ten years, I cannot help but expect someone who's a bit too cosy to Salmond will be the new chair of the new sporting quango. Maybe I'll be wrong, and I hope I am, because so far wobbly-face has disproved my belief that all politicians and parties are the same. Somehow, I'm not brimming with confidence.
The SNP offered a manifesto pledge to scrap SportScotland, have now been accused of "performing a U-turn". I really hate it when opposition parties do this.
Oi, Nicol Stephen, U-turn's aren't always a bad thing. In fact, in your coalition with manifesto-driven Labour (I say in jest), you weren't exactly strict on your own beliefs and promises. Some might say you had a liberal approach to such behaviour?
Hypothetically Nicol, if I was angry with my wife and said "I'm going to hit her", then when I got home, and thought about it a bit more and decided that this might not be a good idea and performed a U-turn, you'd probably issue a press release (which is something of a hobby on the LibDem cv) condemning me for such a U-turn, proclaiming I should have carried out my promises.
So the SNP thought one thing, said 'This is what we believe' then monitored the situation a bit more and then said, 'Actually, this is what we're going to do. It's a wee bit different to what we said before, but we think it's best this way instead." Therefore, I will not criticise any party for performing a change of opinion when they are doing it for what they believe are the right reasons. I may not agree with the new policy, but that does not mean a U-turn was wrong.
So if the Lib Dems want to pick holes in a policy, then pick holes in a policy, but that's not what they do.
I do, though, think the sackings were strange. I know a lot about the Institute of Sport and SportScotland. I have trained at the Institute and applied for funding from SportScotland (rejected). Bracewell and Donnelly were committed professionals and I pray that the new appointee is a senior figure from the sporting world who can push forward the agendas that have been so well managed under these two in the past. Also, announcing reorganisation so close to the Olympics and in the early stages of our Commonwealth Games build-up, when the first steps of implementation are critical so athletes successes is a very rash move. No comment from the SNP on what qualities these heads would have lacked. No explanation on why so suddenly, this decision was taken, seemingly with very little consultation.
Also, centralisation is something on which the SNP have long been critical of Labour. So merging the polar opposites of sports development (grassroots and elite performers) smacks of centralisation to me and many in the sporting world. Each needs an individual programme and detailed attention, but the needs of one top, top athlete and creating good local sports facilities for a community are not easily matched and it is therefore difficult to understand the need for one central organisation. The new organisation will, at the very least in parts, have to be separated into these two specialisms, and I would have expected using the two former heads, even if it was under the chair of some higher post, would have been a sensible solution.
But to bring in someone new, who presumably doesn't have experience of heading up a Scottish sports related government organisation, when you have just sacked two such people who were regarded as good at the job, just flashes the nightmare of 'jobs for the boys'.
In the meantime, I'll watch this space, but with a worried look on my face.
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