Sport For Life 2023 - Annual review

Sport for Life 2023

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#SportForLife23 is our annual review. It covers the fourth year of our corporate strategy, Sport for Life.




Minister’s foreword

Maree Todd

In 2022-23, as the sporting system continued to recover from the impact of the pandemic, we were again able to enjoy all sport’s physical and mental health benefits. 

I am pleased that within this recovery is a real commitment to inclusion. This report demonstrates the changes that sportscotland are making, working with partners and communities, to target resources where they are needed most.  

Even as we continue to recover from the pandemic, we are faced with the most challenging economic conditions in living memory. People have less money to spend on sport, while operators are faced with higher costs. To continue to thrive, the sport sector will need to embed the ethos of teamwork that served us so well during the pandemic. I am sure we will. 

The stories like the ones in this report, for example Active Recovery Moray, illustrate a willingness to form partnerships outside of the sector. I know these are just a snapshot of the many great examples of partnerships that are delivering wider social outcomes through sport. I am excited to see the outcomes of sportscotland’s new partnerships with Enable and the college sector. 

At the Birmingham Commonwealth Games, we again saw the sporting system support our athletes to perform on the world stage, as they delivered our best-ever away games. This year Scotland hosts the inaugural Cycling World Championships and sportscotland’s Cycling Facilities Fund will ensure a lasting benefit for many communities. 

My thanks to the professionals and volunteers who contribute to getting people active. A special thank you to Stewart Harris who retired as sportscotland’s CEO in October after 16 years. I look forward to continuing to work with new CEO, Forbes Dunlop, to build a more active Scotland. 

Maree Todd, Minister for Social Care, Mental Wellbeing and Sport 

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sportscotland is the national agency for sport. Our vision is an active Scotland where everyone benefits from sport.

We invest Scottish Government and National Lottery resources to help the people of Scotland get the most from the sporting system.

A sporting system for everyone

Visual representation of the sporting system in Scotland

Sport For Life 2023 is our annual review. It covers the fourth year of our corporate strategy, Sport for Life.

In 2022-23, as recovery from the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic continued and sport and physical activity returned, we resumed focus on our contribution to Sport For Life and the Active Scotland Outcomes Framework (ASOF).

This annual review therefore aims to demonstrate our progress against the outcomes in Sport For Life between 1 April, 2022 and 31 March, 2023. Through personal stories we also highlight the impact of our collaborative work with partners across the system.


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Chief Executive’s review

Forbes Dunlop, Chief Executive of sportscotland

This annual review covers the first year since the start of the pandemic where we haven’t faced significant restrictions to our way of life due to Coronavirus (COVID-19). While the lasting impact of the pandemic is still being felt across the sporting sector, the robust response of the sporting system has ensured that sport and physical activity has remained at the heart of communities across Scotland. 

This has been another 12 months where the strength of Scotland’s sporting system has been clearly evident. From the sport being delivered in schools, clubs and community sports hubs across the country, to Scottish athletes competing at the highest level all over the world, including at the Birmingham 2022 where Team Scotland recorded its best ever performance at an away Commonwealth Games. 

There are still a number of significant challenges facing the sector and our collaboration with local and national partners will be central to helping navigate those challenges. 

There are also many exciting opportunities ahead and it is heartening to know that we have a dedicated and talented workforce of volunteers and professionals who underpin our sporting system, and go above and beyond every day, to help us take advantage of those opportunities. 

This annual review demonstrates the impact sport has on people, families and communities across Scotland and I’d like to thank everyone who continues to play their part in that. 

Forbes Dunlop, Chief Executive, sportscotland 

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Playing our part

Over the last year, our business plan priority has been to deliver the outcomes in Sport for Life, while continuing to support the recovery of the sector. Working with local, national and strategic partners, we leveraged increased investment across a range of development areas. Inclusion and recovery were our primary decision-making drivers.

We progressed a more targeted approach to supporting local partners to reduce inequalities in sport and physical activity. We worked closely with partners to determine specific communities of focus. We established their needs and agreed how we can add most value in each local context. Our aim is to engage and improve access to opportunities for under-represented groups, including people who live in rural areas or areas of multiple deprivation.

We encouraged local partners to think creatively about what they could do to reduce inequalities in sport and physical activity through Active Schools and community sport hubs. We agreed to invest £3.2m into eleven projects over the next four years, across eight local authorities. We have committed to invest £0.5m in year one and £0.9m a year thereafter. We provided independent evaluation and outcomes setting support to partners​. We will establish a community of practice to support implementation and shared learning.

We launched a new initiative with local partners, Scottish Swimming, Education Scotland and the Scottish Government. The aim is to increase opportunities for all children and young people to access school swimming, positively contributing to their wellbeing and safety.  We supported four delivery pilots across the country and will support an independent evaluation of the programme to inform next steps. We developed new partnerships with the college sector in Scotland. Our ambition is to increase sport and physical activity opportunities for students and enhance the approach to work-based placements in the sport sector.

Alongside the new areas of development, we continued to support the sector to ensure inclusion underpins everything we do. We developed new partnerships to help us engage more diverse people and communities in sport and physical activity. We collaborated with ENABLE to  help our staff and invested networks better understand the needs of disabled people and support them to take part.

We announced a new relationship with the race discrimination charity, Sporting Equals. This is a key part of our ongoing commitment to tackling race inequality in sport and physical activity. The partnership will strive to increase levels of knowledge, awareness and understanding of the issues within sport. It will aim to give sports, clubs and communities the confidence to identify and tackle race inequalities and racism.

We supported sporting success on the world stage. We provided a range of preparation and support services to athletes and sports ahead of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games. 260 athletes were selected as part of Team Scotland, with over 51% being female. Team Scotland won 51 medals, including 13 gold medals, across ten sports. This surpassed a pre-Games target of between 38 to 48 medals. Duncan Scott became Scotland’s most decorated Commonwealth Games athlete with 13 medals.

We launched a refreshed leadership programme for the sector in January 2023. This included an inclusive Scottish Sport Leadership Programme available for the professional workforce and an executive management coaching programme for SGB CEOs. These aim to enhance the leadership skills, knowledge and capability of staff within the sporting sector.

We delivered a Lead to Succeed event for over 100 current young leaders, to celebrate a decade of our young people as leaders’ programmes. We invited inspirational athletes, previous Young People’s Sport Panel members and Young Ambassadors to share their stories. Over 100 young people attended. We provided a series of workshops and resources to help them in their roles and future development. 

We continued to manage a strategic investment fund to deliver a network of accessible, inclusive and inspiring cycling facilities nationwide. In 2022-23, we approved investment of £1,487,088, into 11 projects. In addition, over 30 initiatives were supported through the community cycling fund investing £344,713 to deliver new cycling activities across clubs, communities and schools.  This investment aims to support a legacy of positive change and encourage more people to take part in cycling, using the inaugural UCI Cycling World Championships taking place in August 2023 as a catalyst. 

We recognise the significant challenges impacting the sporting system and wider society. Our focus will be to safeguard the current professional workforce our investment supports. We will protect and maintain the wider infrastructure that the sporting system is built on. We will prioritise our resources on the opportunities which have the greatest impact on people’s physical and mental health and wellbeing. Inclusion will remain at the core of everything we do.


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Our support


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Our data


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About the data

This data is from routine, internal monitoring plus participant surveys across our programmes.

Results against the Active Scotland Outcomes Framework and equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) characteristics for club members were collected through our club ASOF survey. We received over 5,000 responses this year; this is much lower than the previous survey which collected 11,000 responses. Due to lower response rates from some larger sports, we cannot weight the data. The survey results are therefore not representative and should be treated with caution. This applies to the data reported against the ASOF outcomes below:

  • We support wellbeing and resilience in communities through physical activity and sport.
  • We encourage and enable the active to stay active throughout life.
  • We encourage and enable the inactive to be more active.
  • We develop physical confidence and competence from the earliest age.

EDI data from Active Schools is now collected through our programme monitoring, data in this report is based on responses from 29 of the 32 local authorities. Data on supported athletes was collected through an EDI survey.

The figure for people accessing training opportunities is not distinct. This means there may be multiple counting of people accessing more than one training opportunity.

Facilities investment includes Sport Facilities Fund and Transforming Indoor Tennis Fund which are funded through National Lottery, and the Cycling Facilities Fund which is funded equally through Scottish Government investment and the National Lottery.

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Financial summary

Sources of funding


Description  Amount £m

Scottish Government funding


National Lottery drawdown


Other income




Breakdown of expenditure


Description Amount £m

Schools and Education


Clubs and Communities







The difference between income and expenditure relates to timing difference at year end, with some committed projects yet to commence. More information on the amounts (£) invested in individual sports, national partners and local authorities.


Social media

Join the conversation about #SportForLife23 on social media from 6 September 2023.



View every sportscotland annual review from 1999-2000 to the present day


Date published: 8 September 2023
Date updated: 25 April 2024


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