Scottish Disability Sport – formerly the Scottish Sports Association for Disabled People (SSAD) – was formed in 1962 to encourage the development of sport and physical recreation for disabled people throughout Scotland. During those early years the organisation was a branch of the British Sports Association for the Disabled (BSAD). It was only a matter of time however before SSAD became independent and a truly Scottish organisation. During those early years the key personnel who were the driving force behind SDS had essentially medical backgrounds. SSAD had strong ties with Scottish organisations concerned with the welfare and care of disabled people. It was not until the mid 70’s that the SSAD attracted a small group of individuals with experience in management and considerable knowledge of physical activity including sport.

Mary Urquhart took over as Chairman in 1975, Bob Mitchell was elected Vice Chairman and Richard Brickley assistant to the Hon Secretary Iain Baillie. This formidable team, with background experience in Local Government and the Civil Service, transformed the organisation and encouraged the election of several new Executive Committee members. Even stronger links were forged with the Scottish Sports Council and shortly afterwards the Council appointed its first officer with a specific responsibility for sport for disabled people. The Association grew in strength as several Branches were established in areas where sport for disabled people had become a priority within Local Authority service provision.

A major event in the development of the Association was the International Year of Disabled Persons in 1981 when projects and programmes, conferences and events were established all over the country with the sole purpose of promoting opportunities for disabled people in sport. British organisations involved with disability sport benefited enormously from grants and media attention for the first time. A key success during the year was the International Conference on Sport for Disabled People held at the University of Stirling. Dunfermline College of Physical Education in Cramond, Edinburgh also hosted a ground breaking education conference. The SSAD added a considerable number of new events to its national calendar including the first ever national bowls and athletics championships hosted by Fife Council and the first inter area swim gala involving teams of physically disabled swimmers from Glasgow and Edinburgh. SSAD was directly involved in organising and funding the involvement of the first Scottish blind and physically disabled junior team in the International Junior Games in Gateshead in 1981 and the first Scottish Special Olympics team in the first GB Summer Games in Liverpool in 1982. From day one SSAD/SDS has been a pan disability organisation promoting sport for athletes with a physical, sensory or learning disability of all ages and abilities.

Progress was swift and Scots began to make their mark in international events at home and abroad. The 1984 Paralympics in New York and Stoke Mandeville confirmed that disability sport in Scotland had taken a giant leap forward. Many Scots were selected for the GB team and a substantial number won Paralympic medals in a range of sports. Performances continued to improve and even more Scots were selected for international honours with success following success as GB Paralympic teams benefited enormously from the presence of Scottish athletes and support coaches. Successive Scottish swimming teams won British team trophies and Scottish swimmers travelled the world in search of international competition and gold medals. In 1987 the association celebrated its Silver Jubilee with 10 days of national and international sports events across the city of Glasgow with enormous assistance from the City Council and Strathclyde Regional Council. This was a period when disability sport north of the border truly came of age.

Development Plans shaped the work of SSAD during the 70’s and 80’s and Changing with The Times 1 and 2 identified the priorities of the newly established Scottish Disability Sport [SDS] up until 2005. The current Strategic Plan entitled “Inspiring through Inclusion 2012-2017” clearly outlines how SDS plans to lead the development of sport in Scotland for people of all ages and abilities with a physical, sensory or learning disability. SDS has five priorities for 2012 to 2017:

  • Branch, Local and Regional Sporting Opportunities: encourage a range of quality sporting opportunities;
    Developing Talent and Performance: developing individuals with performance potential;
  • Education and Coaching: providing opportunities for all coaches, officials, volunteers and staff to gain further skills, knowledge, expertise and understanding;
  • Governance and Infrastructure: robust and sound planning, policy and procedures, with the infrastructure to translate policy into practice;
  • Communication and Leadership: the ability to communicate effectively and efficiently and influence disability sport.

The first SDS office was in the Fife Sports Institute, Glenrothes thanks to support from Fife Regional Council. Early in 2000 the SDS Head Office was set up at Caledonia House, Edinburgh, home of sportscotland, and the Fife office was retained as an additional base with a part-time administrator. The first paid employees of SSAD were supported through Government Training Schemes and it was not until the early 80’s that the Association appointed its first part-time paid administrator based in Fife and supported by Grant Aid from the Scottish Sports Council. Towards the end of the 90’s the Association adopted a new logo and the new name of Scottish Disability Sport. Soon after followed the appointment of staff members two and three, a development officer and a full-time administrator. A major breakthrough came in 2003 with the appointment of the Association’s first Chief Executive Officer supported by an endowment from the Scottish Executive. More recently the Association appointed a part-time Finance Manager and Managers to cover Opportunities, Events, Equality, Performance, Coaching and Pathways plus Regional Development. A remarkable success story over a relatively short period of time thanks to encouragement and support from sportscotland in particular and key strategic partners.

SDS is a pan disability organisation with charitable status and is recognised by sportscotland as the lead agency in disability sport north of the border. SDS is a member organisation of the British Paralympic Association and works closely with Scottish Local Authorities and Scottish Governing Bodies of Sport.

SDS became a company limited by guarantee in 2003 and has been fortunate to attract on to the Board committed volunteers who have an interest in sport and/or disability. At one time SDS was led entirely by volunteers. In order to change with the times and ensure it is fit for purpose SDS has taken on a highly proficient staff team to work in conjunction with its committed volunteers for the benefit of its many athlete members.


A comprehensive history of the Association has been written by Richard Brickley MBE who has called on his extensive experience and knowledge of disability sport in Scotland and internationally to research and compile an interesting and enlightening publication. SDS is indebted to Richard for the huge amount of time and effort that has gone into compiling this history and we thank him most sincerely for his massive contribution.

Scottish Disability Sport – The First Fifty Years


Scottish Disability Sport Strategic Plan

SDS is the Scottish governing and co-coordinating body of all sports for children, athletes and players of all ages and abilities with a physical, sensory or learning disability. SDS has the vision of developing opportunities and improving performance in disability sport for children, athletes and players with a physical, sensory or learning disability in Scotland and contributing to UK and international initiatives. SDS has published a national strategy which will direct the work of the Association through to 2017 and beyond. SDS lists its major partners as sportscotland, Scotland’s Governing Bodies of Sport and Local Authorities plus voluntary organisations concerned with disability.

SDS has 13 Branches covering most of Scotland, reaching from the Highland area in the north to the Scottish Borders and Dumfries and Galloway in the south. SDS has a dedicated staff team and Regional Managers and is enormously proud of the quality and quantity of volunteers and athlete members who play a major part in the running of the Association.

SDS members have featured prominently in GB teams that have been hugely successful in past Summer Paralympic Games. Scottish wheelchair curlers also made a major impact for Great Britain in the Winter Paralympic Games in Sochi 2014 with a bronze medal.

Individual Scottish athletes and teams have over many years enjoyed considerable success and profile in international disability sport. Scottish athletes and support staff have gained the respect of their international sporting colleagues in a range of sports. Scottish members of the GB Boccia team have been consistently successful at international level and Scottish players with cerebral palsy have established themselves as a world force in 7 a side football. With the Scottish FA as lead, the European Championships were held in Glasgow in 2010. In wheelchair tennis, cycling, swimming and bowls Scots athletes and players command respect in international competitions.

SDS annually organises national events in bowls, athletics, football, swimming, boccia, wheelchair curling, cross country, etc. and the Branches of the Association organise parallel qualifying events. There is an annual programme of sport specific squad training, festivals and education and training opportunities for leaders and coaches. These programmes are geared towards developing new and existing sports and helping athlete members to realise their full potential in sport. SDS has a particular commitment to children and young people and in ensuring that best practice in equality is obvious at all times.

SDS is constantly attempting to widen the range of available sports options for individuals of all levels of ability with a disability in Scotland. SDS has the responsibility of creating appropriate sport specific pathways for individual sports people. Paralympic Games or Commonwealth Games representation is the goal of Scotland’s performance athletes and players and SDS is there to offer support and advice when required.