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by Jim Spence
06 February 2023
Jim Spence: Sport is a crucial component of Scottishness and transcends notions of class

Jim Spence: Sport is a crucial component of Scottishness and transcends notions of class

As a boy growing up in Dundee, I recall the excitement and pride when Celtic won the European Cup in 1967, the first British team to do so.

There was a big Celtic support in a city where one in five can trace their Irish roots, but back then their victory was celebrated by many more than those who could link their lineage back to the Emerald Isle.

That 1967 triumph over Italian behemoths Inter Milan was an affirmation that in the most popular sport on the planet, and with 11 players all born within 30 miles of Celtic Park, Scotland could produce footballers who could compete with the very best teams that Europe could offer.

My working life in the last 30 years has been a mix of law lecturing, sports broadcasting and writing.

I was never in love with the law albeit acknowledging it’s the bedrock of a civilised Scottish society.

Sport, on the other hand, I am immersed in.

Culturally it’s as crucial a component of Scottishness as the arts, theatre, or music, and it transcends notions of class.

It’s a great boost to our national psyche when we prosper on the football field, rugby pitch, golf course, running track, velodrome, curling rink, or anywhere where limbs are stretched and strained in athletic endeavour. 

Billy McNeill, Liz McColgan, Sir Chris Hoy, Jackie Stewart, Ken Buchanan, are among the names who’ve put our achievements on the global map.

I’d like us to regain our former lustre in sport, but also to embrace athletic and sporting endeavour as something of intrinsic value, not just for winning medals but for a more wholesome society. 

A fitter Scotland both physically and mentally would be a very fitting prospect for a brighter and better future.

Many of our health issues both physical and mental, and the two are deeply interconnected, can be alleviated by regular exercise which benefits body and mind.

I’d like to see obesity and poor mental health disappear in a Scotland where living in healthier ways is energetically embraced. 

All sporting activity at any level, whether team oriented or in its individual pursuit, has a great capacity to inspire others.

The defining characteristics of top performers in their application, determination, devotion, sacrifice, and sheer hard work, can be a metaphor for life at whatever level we individually operate.

Currently there’s no shortage of excellent role models to motivate us.

Scots sportswomen, in particular, have chartered a course which deserves praise and support. The indomitable and joyous spirit we witness when Laura Muir and Eilish McColgan pull on their spikes, or when Katie Archibald saddles up on the boards, can hopefully stimulate future generations to be more active and fit.

Those stars can spur us towards a healthier future as Scots.

It was once said that along with the very real poverty suffered by the working class there was also poverty of vision. 

I’d like to see such poverty replaced with a vision of a healthier, happier, fitter, future Scotland.

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