Stirling’s sporting success celebrated in parliamentary debate

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Stirling celebrates 10 years as Scotland's University for Sporting Excellence.
Sports staff and students from Stirling met MSPs at the Scottish Parliament.

MSPs have marked the 10th anniversary of Stirling’s designation as Scotland’s University for Sporting Excellence with a debate in the Scottish Parliament.

The session – which saw nine cross-party politicians reflect on Stirling’s success on the world sporting stage – followed a celebratory motion by Keith Brown, MSP for Clackmannanshire and Dunblane.

The University received the prestigious title in 2008 in recognition of its excellence in providing training and support for high performance athletes, alongside industry leading research and academic attainment in sport. In the decade since, Stirling athletes – both students and alumni – have made a sustained contribution to Scotland’s sporting success, including a record haul of 11 medals at the recent Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.

Opening the debate, Mr Brown said: “I am delighted to lead the debate to highlight the University’s 10th anniversary as Scotland’s university for sporting excellence. That title was bestowed on the University by the former First Minister, Alex Salmond, in July 2008 to celebrate the University as a centre of excellence that provides training and support for high-performance athletes.

“Alongside the prestigious title, the University was awarded £600,000 from the Scottish Further and Higher Education Funding Council to act as the hub of a national network of universities and colleges, and to provide training and support for Scotland’s best athletes. It is known as the Winning Students programme.”

Keith Brown MSP, who led the debate.
Keith Brown MSP

The University of Stirling remains at the forefront of supporting and inspiring talented athletes to fulfil their sporting and academic potential.

He continued: “Over the past decade, Stirling sport stars, including household names such as Duncan Scott, whom I had the chance to meet recently at the university, Robbie Renwick and Ross Murdoch, have enjoyed medal success on the world stage at the Olympics and the Commonwealth Games.

“The University of Stirling remains at the forefront of supporting and inspiring talented athletes to fulfil their sporting and academic potential.”

Former Olympic and Commonwealth Games athlete Brian Whittle, now Conservative MSP for South Scotland, said: “Quite rightly, Keith Brown spent most of his speech telling us about all the medals that have been won in that environment. That is not a happy accident: the set-up at Stirling University has been designed specifically to allow our elite sportsmen and sportswomen to deliver at the highest level. The academic flexibility that is provided around students’ sporting activity is massively important.”

Reflecting on Stirling success at the 2016 Olympics and the 2018 Commonwealth Games, Labour’s Alex Rowley, MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife, said: “There is no doubt that Scotland’s University for Sporting Excellence is a great success when it comes to elite athletes, but as the motion recognises, it also provides a wider benefit to the communities of Stirling and Clackmannanshire. Indeed, I would say that it provides a wider benefit for all of Scotland, because the success of its athletes sends a strong message to all Scotland’s young people who have an interest in sport: that they can succeed and achieve their full potential.”

Green MSP Mark Ruskell said: “I offer warmest congratulations to University of Stirling students and staff on an incredible decade of success. They have given me a constant, perpetual lump in my throat as I have watched major Commonwealth, European, Olympic and World Championships and heard the University mentioned time and again, as the medal tallies for Stirling students have grown and often overtaken those of entire nations.”

Future success

Responding on behalf of the Scottish Government, Minster for Public Health, Sport and Wellbeing, Joe FitzPatrick MSP said: “Of course, the University does much more than deal with only elite athletes. It is committed to providing sporting and physical activity opportunities for all its students.

“There is strong support for that from Scottish Student Sport, which provides opportunities for all students to participate in sports with other students. That focus chimes with our active Scotland outcomes framework and wider Scottish Government commitments to getting people more physically active and enjoying longer and healthier lives.

“I again congratulate the University of Stirling on reaching 10 years as Scotland’s University for Sporting Excellence, and wish it the very best of success for the future.”

Cathy Gallagher meets politicians at Holyrood.

Cathy Gallagher, Director of Sport at Stirling (centre), and David Bond, Head of Performance Sport (right), were welcomed to Holyrood by MSPs (left to right) Joe FitzPatrick, Bruce Crawford, and Keith Brown.

Stirling’s Director of Sport, Cathy Gallagher, and Head of Performance Sport, David Bond, watched the debate from the Scottish Parliament’s public gallery. They were joined by a number of the University’s sports stars, including Ross Murdoch, Maia Lumsden and Callum Lawrie.

This year’s anniversary has been an opportunity to reflect on the amazing efforts and achievements of Stirling athletes over the past decade. As we look to the next 10 years, we can be confident that with continuing support from government, future generations of Scots can aspire to sporting success.

The £20 million redevelopment of our facilities will not just enhance our standing as a centre for high performance sports development, but will also bring considerable benefits for staff, students and the wider community by helping to foster a culture of healthy, active lifestyles.

Cathy Gallagher, Director of Sport at Stirling

The SNP’s Kenneth Gibson and Bruce Crawford, and the Conservative’s Oliver Mundell and Dean Lockhart also contributed to the debate.

The debate can be viewed on Scottish Parliament TV on and a transcription is also available.

Background information

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