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Last Updated: Thursday, 6 October 2005, 15:50 GMT 16:50 UK
Minister torches Olympic team bid
London Olympic flag
The SNP wants Scotland to send its own team to the London Olympics
Scotland's sports minister has rejected calls from nationalists for the country to have its own Olympic team.

Patricia Ferguson said Scottish athletes could realise their potential in a Great Britain side.

The SNP said there was growing public support for a Scottish team to compete in the London Olympics in 2012.

But Ms Ferguson said a more realistic target was bringing the 2014 Commonwealth Games to Glasgow and efforts should be focused on that.

Speaking in the Scottish Parliament, she said: "We have ambitions for our athletes.

Sports Minister Patricia Ferguson
We have to be realistic about how and where these ambitions can be realised
Patricia Ferguson
Sports Minister

"We want them to be able to realise their potential and attain success at the highest level be it European, world, Commonwealth or Olympic competitions.

"However, we have to be realistic about how and where these ambitions can be realised."

The minister said there were many reasons why the Scottish Executive would not support a call to create a Scottish Olympic team, but none of them was down to a lack of ambition.

Independent team

"Our ambition is demonstrated by our determination to bring the 2014 Commonwealth Games to Glasgow," he said.

SNP culture spokesman Michael Matheson said the current 202 National Olympic Committees included 13 non UN-recognised nations.

He said: "I am conscious that there will be a range of members who will be reddened with self-doubt over whether Scotland can have its own Olympic team and whether we have the talent to have our own Olympic team.

"There will be those who will think Scotland shouldn't get above its own particular station."

But he added: "The reality is that there is nothing to stop Scotland from forming its own National Olympic Committee."

Mr Matheson said Scotland had talented athletes and that Scottish sportsmen and women collected 13 medals at the last two Olympics.

'Politically motivated'

He said: "For those who believe that we'd be better off under the GB system, that strikes me as an argument for abolishing any form of independent representation on the international field.

"Let's get rid of the Scottish football team, the Scottish rugby team, let's get rid of the Scottish Commonwealth Games Team, because we'd all be better to do it under the GB flag - if you want to believe that particular argument."

The Scottish Conservatives dismissed the SNP's call as "politically motivated".

Jamie McGrigor, the party's tourism, culture and sport spokesman, added: "It questions the loyalty of past Scottish Olympic heroes who fought valiantly to win medals for the Great Britain team, as did their Welsh, English and Irish counterparts."

'Olympic ideal'

Scottish Socialist leader Colin Fox said that "irrespective" of whether Scots competed in a Great Britain or Scottish team, all budding athletes should have access to quality facilities and coaching.

The Campaign for a Scottish Olympic Team accused the minister of failing to show responsibility and accountability for Scottish sport.

It said it commissioned a poll which suggested 78% of Scots were in favour of creating their own Olympic team.

Spokesman Tam Ferry added: "This is about Scots taking their place on the world stage in the Olympics as they already do in football and rugby, being part of the international community and fostering the Olympic deal."

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