THE Conservatives have pledged extra cash for grassroots football to nurture talent in the poorest neighbourhoods.
Under plans set out in their manifesto, the Scottish Tories also promised to explore giving clubs in the Capital and across Scotland “financial incentives” to play young Scottish players.
The proposals came as they highlighted football’s role as Britain’s national sport, describing it as the “lifeblood of many communities”.
The Conservatives also stressed that more needed to be done to improve facilities and to “unlock the public health benefits” of youth sport.
Scottish leader Ruth Davidson said: “We’re not suggesting that this alone will be a magic bullet for Scottish football. Of course it won’t. But with the input of the football community, it’s an example of something government can do to help not only Scottish football, but public health and society more generally.
“We know over the years young footballing talent in Scotland hasn’t had the opportunity to flourish as it should have done. And we know football facilities in Scotland are poor in comparison to other European countries.
“This could be a constructive way to start addressing both of these issues.”
The manifesto said: “In co-operation with clubs and relevant authorities, we should also explore the idea of giving football clubs across Scotland’s top four divisions financial incentives to play young Scottish players.
“This funding should in turn be committed to facilities, training and infrastructure improvement which would all be linked to youth sport. Not only would such a scheme incentivise clubs to play young Scots, it would also mean additional funding for community sporting benefits.
“The merits from a public health and social perspective would be plain to see, particularly as many football clubs are based in deprived communities with poorer health outcomes.”
The Tories also renewed calls for the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Act to be scrapped amid claims it has been ineffective.
Only a very small number of people have been convicted under the legislation, according to Scottish Government figures highlighted by the Tories.
The recent statistics showed there had been 79 convictions last year compared with 15,000 breach of the peace convictions, sparking Conservative claims that the law was “unnecessary and unworkable”.
The legislation, opposed by the Tories from the outset, was introduced in 2012 to crack down on sectarianism and other football-related offences.
The party also revealed that it wanted to work with clubs to pilot the repeal of the drinking ban at football and investigate several options on how this could be done to the benefit of clubs and supporters.