Activity Gap Between Rich And Poor Must Be Reduced

13 October 2017, 09:13

Exercising

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

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.

The gap was apparent for activities such as walking, swimming, keep fit, running, cycling and golf, while levels of participation in football, snooker, bowls and dancing were broadly similar across both groups.

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.

Finance Secretary Derek Mackay has said the recommendation needs "further thought and engagement''.

Scottish Labour's public health spokesman Colin Smyth MSP 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.

"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 called for a review into the impact of austerity on physical activity levels, adding: "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."

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.

"There is much work already under way to close inequality gaps in physical activity. We are investing to make sport and physical activity accessible to all, regardless of location or background.

"This includes the Legacy 2014 Physical Activity fund, which has seen £800,000 invested in projects targeted in just this way.

"To tackle the wider issue of health inequalities, we are taking action to address the fundamental causes, recognising that this is an issue that goes beyond the NHS.

"Examples include our new poverty and inequality commission and continued investment in affordable housing."

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.

"There is much work already under way to close inequality gaps in physical activity. We are investing to make sport and physical activity accessible to all, regardless of location or background.

"This includes the Legacy 2014 Physical Activity fund, which has seen £800,000 invested in projects targeted in just this way.

"To tackle the wider issue of health inequalities, we are taking action to address the fundamental causes, recognising that this is an issue that goes beyond the NHS.

"Examples include our new poverty and inequality commission and continued investment in affordable housing."