Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Shooting in sight with new target centre for 2014 games

A SHOOTING centre that could be used to host events for the 2014 Commonwealth Games and to train top athletes has won backing from the Scottish Government.
Shona Robison, Minister for Public Health and Sport, agreed to offer support from Sportscotland for the £4.5 million development near Livingston.

The national sports agency plans to help develop a business case for the shooting centre's proposal,put forward by the Scottish Target Shooting Federation (STSF).

In a letter seen by the Evening News, she told the chairman of STSF that she hoped there was a "genuine prospect of making (the] proposal viable and financially sustainable".

The creation of a national shooting centre at Morton Farm already has the support of Lothian and Borders Police.

It would lead to a major expansion for an existing clay pigeon shooting site, which STSF believes will create a "long-lasting legacy" once the 2014 games are finished by hosting international events.

During the games, it would host pistol, rifle, clay pigeon, smallbore rifle and archery events.

Currently there are no purpose-built facilities in Scotland for training target shooters that mimic the conditions and layout of international competitions such as the Commonwealth Games and Olympics.

Ms Robison said: "There is merit in exploring the feasibility of using the Morton site to develop a fit-for-purpose training venue. I feel that such a facility offers a tangible and achievable prospect, would be welcomed by our athletes and would provide the sport with a permanent legacy long after the 2014 games."

Paul Nelson, who owns the site proposed for expansion, the Morton Clay Targets shooting ground, welcomed the latest development. He said: "It's certainly something that's needed in Scotland. It's more a long-term than a short-term venture that's always going to prepare shooters for Olympic and Commonwealth Games.

"If you look at when our athletes came back from Delhi, 60 to 70 per cent of our medals were through shooting, so this is something that could hugely benefit athletes. It is hoped that the police and army will use the base for firearms training."

He added: "Having something like this would take the fear factor away when it comes to guns. People who want to own guns can be trained responsibly."

The STSF is already in discussions with police about licensing and security aspects. Glasgow 2014 officials have inspected the site and will make a selection on whether it will host events at a later date.

Colin Watson, from Edinburgh, a council member of the Scottish Smallbore Rifle Association, said: "As things stand, there are no purpose-built facilities in Scotland for training target shooters.

Working with smaller club set-ups, currently athletes with any promise have to go to training camps abroad, sometimes at their own expense. Recently, this has meant South Africa and Finland, or at the very least the south of England. In continental Europe, such facilities are embarrassingly common.

"The desire to let Sportscotland help out with a new proposal means there is a high likelihood it would find favour. That would be welcomed by target shooters across the country."

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: "The minister has made an offer of support to help the shooting governing bodies develop a sound business case for a training facility which would be welcomed by Scottish athletes and would provide a legacy for the sport long after 2014. We hope that the governing bodies will respond positively to this offer."

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