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Importance of shinty to Highlands acknowledged by Ross-based MSP as Covid-19 implications chewed over

By Hector MacKenzie

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ROSS-SHIRE based MSP Kate Forbes took part in the Camanachd Association board meeting to discuss a number of topics relevant to the shinty community.

President Keith Loades thanked the Cabinet Secretary for Finance for her contribution on issues currently affecting the sport.

The impact of Covid-19 on the sport and clubs featured heavily in discussions.

Derek Keir, Camanachd Association CEO, commended the forward-thinking approach from shinty clubs during the pandemic. He said: "Clubs have been extremely positive and proactive in moving beyond the current crisis by working through their Covid readiness documents and getting back to playing the sport. At present 17 clubs have completed their documentation and are ready to play which is testament to the hard work and great character of the volunteers who drive our clubs.

"The Camanachd Association are ready to work with any club who wants to take the next steps on their journey in returning to sport.”

The first shinty matches since March were played at the end of last month.

Glen Urquhart have been one of the clubs which met the challenges. President Garry Mackintosh said: “Having implemented a full yet practical strategy for the safe return of competitive shinty at Blairbeg, GUSC are delighted with the uptake and positive feedback from all of its members in particular we take pride in hearing from our members that the support they feel from being part of a team activity - be that in training, in a match, or -when allowed- socially, has been missing from their life during lockdown.”

Several other actions were discussed including the further development of facilities for Scotland’s most historic sport. Some discussions focused on increasing the

number of schools engaged in shinty and the important role modern facilities play in retaining members. Recent developments were also noted including the partnership work with Highlife Highland, Highland Council, Highlands and Islands Enterprise as well as Inverness Shinty Club regarding facilities at the Bught Park and UHI campus.

Further discussions also highlighted the role sponsors have played in 2020 with significant contributions from Mowi, Tulloch Homes and Highland Industrial Supplies. The Camanachd Association have been working from the outset of coronavirus to develop a more sustainable platform and are now in the process of

consulting clubs to explore more modern membership packages that can complement the changing needs and at the same time reduce the pressure on club volunteers.

Mr Loades said: "We greatly appreciate Kate taking the time out of what is a hectic schedule to spend time listening to the challenges that our clubs – and the Association as a whole – are facing at this time. She has long been an ardent supporter of our most ancient sport and we hope that these productive discussions will bear fruit in the months and years to come.”

Miss Forbes said:“Having several of the top teams in my constituency, I am well aware of the importance of shinty to local communities across the Highlands as well as further afield.

“I know that clubs have tried to be as responsible as possible during the pandemic in deciding whether to train and whether to participate in local fixtures. It is taking all of us some time to adapt to the ‘new normal’ and I know the Camanachd Association has been keen to ensure that sufficient measures are put in place to minimise the risks involved and also help support players, their families and of course supporters.

“I was pleased to take part in the recent board meeting, and I am taking a very keen interest in the short-term working group’s work on stemming rural depopulation – which is a subject very close to my heart.”

The Camanachd Association is the governing body for shinty with an aim to protect and enhance its iconic status in the landscape of Scottish sport and sustain it as a vibrant and integral part of Scottish life.

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