Labour demands action to close physical activity gap

The party says the 2016 Scottish Household Survey highlights the divide between rich and poor.

Exercise: The gap was apparent for activities such as running, cycling and golf. <strong>© Flickr/ lululemon-athletica</strong>
Exercise: The gap was apparent for activities such as running, cycling and golf. © Flickr/ lululemon-athletica

Scottish Labour has called for urgent action to close the physical activity gap between rich and poor people in Scotland.

Analysis by the party of the 2016 Scottish Household Survey highlights the divide between the most and least deprived communities when it comes to participation in sport and other physical activity.

Labour said the gap reinforced the need to resist leisure centres run by council arms-length organisations being required to pay business rates, an idea mooted in a recent Barclay review of the rates system.

The survey reveals an 18-point gap, with 69% of people from the poorest backgrounds having taken part in some sort of physical or sporting activity in the previous four weeks compared to 87% from the most well-off.

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The gulf was apparent for activities such as walking, swimming, keep fit, running, cycling and golf.

Levels of participation in football, snooker, bowls and dancing were broadly similar across both groups.

Scottish Labour health spokesman Colin Smyth called for a review into the impact of austerity on physical activity levels.

He said: “These figures show the challenges our health service will face in years to come unless SNP ministers get their act together on public health.

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“We know there is a link between deprivation and ill health, and we can now identify a clear ‘activity gap’ between the richest and the poorest.

“We need to see some credible action to close this gap, or our NHS will simply shoulder an even greater burden for years to come.”

He added: “One-and-a-half billion cut from local council budgets in the past six years will have hammered local sports clubs and community groups, making it harder for people to access facilities.”

Finance secretary Derek Mackay said the survey’s recommendations need “further thought and engagement”.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The number of Scots being physically active has risen in the last five years.

“This is mainly due to more people walking, which we are championing through our ambition to make Scotland the world’s first Daily Mile nation.

“We are investing to make sport and physical activity accessible to all, regardless of location or background. “


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