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Last Updated: Thursday, 17 January 2008, 13:56 GMT
Salmond defends sports sackings
Dougie Donnelly and Nicola Sturgeon
Mr Donnelly hit out at the Scottish Government's decision

First Minister Alex Salmond has defended the decision to sack two respected figures at the top of Scotland's sports agencies.

Sportscotland chairwoman Julia Bracewell and Institute of Sport chairman, broadcaster Dougie Donnelly, will go as part of a shake-up.

Ministers decided to merge the two organisations' boards.

Mr Salmond told MSPs that it was "perfectly understandable" to have one person chairing one agency.

But Mr Donnelly said athletes' prospects would be damaged by a "ridiculous piece of political manoeuvring" while Ms Bracewell, a former Olympic fencer, said she was "disappointed".

Who does he think that people in Scotland trust more on sport? Dougie Donnelly or Stewart Maxwell?
Nicol Stephen
Scottish Lib Dem leader

The SNP, whose election manifesto included a commitment to scrap sportscotland, were accused of a U-turn after deciding to keep the agency.

And Sports Minister Stewart Maxwell had to apologise to parliament after some details of the merger went to the media before MSPs.

But ministers said the new structure would cut bureaucracy and boost support for grassroots and elite sport, while pointing out that a number of sporting bodies welcomed the decision.

During question time at Holyrood, the Labour and Liberal Democrat leaders, Wendy Alexander and Nicol Stephen, urged Mr Salmond to comment on the way the sackings were handled.

Mr Stephen asked the first minister: "Who does he think that people in Scotland trust more on sport? Dougie Donnelly or Stewart Maxwell?"

Stewart Maxwell
Nicol Stephen raised concern about Stewart Maxwell's conduct

Pointing out that there were just more than 200 days until the Olympic Games, the Lib Dem leader went on: "Instead of sharpening up Scotland's performance at the games, ministers were sharpening their long knives for the back of Dougie Donnelly."

Mr Salmond said there could not be two chairs of one board, adding: "Even the Liberal Democrats might find it a bit difficult.

"Two effective organisations were taken to create one organisation with one board and, therefore, one chair," he told MSPs.

"That was a decision that was in line with our wish to make sure that we deliver all policies effectively and, of course, reduce the number of organisations and quangos we have across Scotland."

SEE ALSO
Sports bosses sacked in shake-up
15 Jan 08 |  Scotland
Ministers rapped for sport snub
10 Jan 08 |  Scotland
Vow to axe sports body scrapped
09 Jan 08 |  Scotland
'Tough choices' for sport funding
21 Nov 07 |  Scotland
New chair named by sportscotland
06 Jul 05 |  Scotland
Sportscotland chief leaves
03 May 04 |  Scotland

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