A CROSS-PARTY group of MSPs visited two Dunfermline sporting organisations as part of an inquiry into female participation in sport and physical activity.

Last week, members of the Scottish Parliament's Health, Social Care and Sport Committee attended the Fudog MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) and Carnegie Judo Club dojo, to meet with the Fighting Chance Project (Scotland) charity, and Dunfermline Reign Basketball Club, to explore the reasons that might affect women and girls participating in sport.

Committee convenor, Gillian Martin, was joined by fellow MSPs Evelyn Tweed, Stephanie Callaghan, Gillian MacKay and Tess White, who spent time chatting to those involved with both judo and basketball, and were to take their findings back to Holyrood.

The committee's inquiry into the health and wellbeing of children and young people highlighted a "significant decline in participation of girls in sport and physical activity as they reach adolescence", which prompted a "focus on participation at both a community and elite level and would consider issues around how female sport is supported, reported, and promoted".

The first part of the visit was to Fighting Chance, an organisation set up in July 2014 dedicated to helping disadvantaged or disengaged young people realise their potential through sharing with them the values of judo.

Co-founder, Jim Feenan, runs Carnegie Judo Club, and is a former director and chair of JudoScotland, and director of the British Judo Association, and he said: "We were delighted to host Gillian Martin and her cross-party team to the dojo and the chance to speak to a representative group of women and girls from the local area.

"This was a fantastic opportunity for us to showcase the benefits of judo and other martial arts in helping improve participants overall physical and mental health. For sure, there was quite a buzz as our guests left."

Dalgety Bay judoka Kirsty Marsh, who competed for Team Scotland at the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games, also spoke to the committee, alongside former performance judoka, Connie Ramsay and Kirstene Feenan.

"I think it was great because it's not always that you get this kind of platform, especially being a minority sport, and having a room just with women in judo," Kirsty said.

"It's just not something that you see that often so when Jim and Judith (McCleary, CEO) from JudoScotland reached out about this event happening here, because this isn't my judo club, I was so excited to come along.

"I guess the message that we really want to put across is a positive one, which is the benefit of this sport, and all sports, for women, and what we can do to try and get more girls into it, which is the tricky part.

"It's easy to identify that this is great, and then knowing what to do, is difficult. I've been lucky; I get to coach, and I coach a women's only initiative at Edinburgh University, so I was using my experience from that and saying we have women's only classes, or we make the environments a bit more accessible, and how we can make it a bit more affordable for people.

"It's nice, I think, to have this kind of environment where it's quite informal but you do feel you're being listened to.

"All the MSPs that came along were really engaged."

The second part of the visit took in youth girls' and social women's basketball sessions at Dunfermline Reign, whose lead female coach, Laura Kirk, said: "I think, as you kind of get older for the older women, it's more you have family and that kind of takes priority, and your needs maybe go to the side.

"For girls, the main dropout is usually about fifth of sixth year, depending on what they're trying to prioritise."

Ms Martin added: "Over the course of the next few weeks, we're going to have people from sporting bodies and lots of stakeholders in front of our committee.

"I think today has been absolutely invaluable in structuring my thoughts, and my colleagues' thoughts, on the types of questions we want to ask them. Not just the reasons why there are barriers, but what they're going to do to bring down those barriers.

"Sport's good for you, physical activity's good for you, and we want to do all we can to encourage more women to stay in it and enjoy it for their whole life."