Updated: Thursday, 04 September 2014 21:44 | By Agence France-Presse

Vote raises uncertain future for Scottish athletes

Andy Murray and Chris Hoy are among Britain's greatest ever sportsmen, but a "Yes" vote in the Scottish independence referendum could leave those hoping to emulate them facing uncertain futures.


Vote raises uncertain future for Scottish athletes

Great Britain's Chris Hoy wins gold men's keirin cycling event at the London Olymcpics on August 7, 2012 - by Leon Neal

Both men shone at the London Olympics in 2012 -- tennis star Murray picking up gold and silver medals, cycling great Hoy taking home two golds -- and their triumphs reflected the major role that Scotland played in Great Britain's success.

Scottish athletes won 13 of the 65 medals claimed by British competitors and seven of Team GB's 29 golds, despite making up only 10 percent of the 542-strong team.

But if Scotland votes in favour of independence in the September 18 referendum, one requirement will be the formation of independent Scottish Olympic and Paralympic Associations.

Team GB would lose Olympians such as Murray, rower Katherine Grainger, and swimmer Michael Jamieson, while Scotland would have to set about forming a team for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Scottish sports minister Shona Robison has declared herself "comfortable and assured" that an independent Scotland would be able to participate in Rio.

But amid concerns it could take as long as 18 months to form a new independent Scottish government in case of a "Yes" vote on September 18, other British sporting institutions have raised doubts.

The Sport and Recreation Alliance, the body that represents Britain's national sports organisations, says that Scotland would have precious little time to secure recognition from the International Olympic Committee.

"The timescale is very tight," James Allen, the organisation's head of policy, told the Daily Telegraph earlier this month. "It is not a lot of time to turn that around."

- Scottish sports 'will suffer' -

Independence would also leave Scottish athletes facing a loss of access to the facilities and funding streams that have helped them achieve success.

Many of the Scottish stars of London 2012 trained using facilities in England, with Hoy -- who has since retired -- preparing alongside his fellow elite cyclists at Manchester Velodrome.

Scotland now boasts a state-of-the-art velodrome of its own in Glasgow, named in Hoy's honour, as part of a £198 million ($328 million, 249 million euros) investment scheme for this year's Commonwealth Games.

But for those Scots accustomed to training in other parts of the United Kingdom, there are fears that the facilities back home will not pass muster.

"We're lucky with the way that it stands now for Scotland," badminton player Imogen Bankier, who represented Great Britain at London 2012, told the BBC.

"We can tap into the English system and be part of Team GB when it suits us and use it to our advantage. Independence would mean we would lose that. That's only going to see sports suffer."

The loss of funding would bite hard, not least because Scotland would have to forego an annual payment of around £12.5 million that their athletes currently receive from British funding body UK Sport.

There are also doubts about funding generated by Britain's National Lottery, although the Scottish government insists funds raised by lottery ticket sales would still be made available to causes north of the border.

Muddying the picture still further is the fact Scottish sportsmen and women would be offered the choice of whether to compete for Scotland or Britain, raising the prospect of Scots competing against Scotland at the Olympics.

- Inelegant name change -

Some of Britain's greatest footballers (Denis Law, Kenny Dalglish) and rugby union players (Gavin Hastings, Andy Irvine) have been Scots.

But the impact of independence would be less dramatic for these sports, where Scotland already competes as a sole nation at international level.

However, Scotland would need to renegotiate the terms of its rugby players' eligibility for the British and Irish Lions, which would require an inelegant name change at the very least.

Golf's seat of power would remain at St Andrews, so the Open Championship would theoretically continue to be shared between England and Scotland.

But Britain's Olympic and Davis Cup tennis teams would suffer badly, after Murray confirmed recently that he would play for an independent Scotland in Rio.

Previously, Murray had kept his thoughts on the referendum to himself, mindful of the furore he created when, after being asked who he would support at the 2006 World Cup, he quipped: "Whoever England are playing."

In an independent Scotland, at least, he would not have to watch his step so carefully.

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