THE significance of the new course for secondary pupils at Blairgowrie should not be underestimated, writes Gordon Mack.

Angling contributes massively to the Scottish economy. Freshwater fishing brings in £113m a year and supports 2800 jobs. Sea angling, the number one coastal recreation activity, is even bigger, with an estimated £150m and a similar number of jobs.

But the sport’s social and educational impact is only just starting to achieve wider recognition. Some years ago, angling administrators realised that the age profile of club members was increasing and that, without an influx of young blood, the future of this key industry was in doubt.

Already, in primary classrooms across the country, angling and the preservation of our natural fish resources is playing an increasingly important role. The sport embraces not just the mechanics of rod and line – in itself a discipline requiring dexterity and concentration. It also demands an appreciation of the natural world and the place of both the angler and quarry in it. Pupils are rearing trout from eggs to learn about natural history, geography and science. On a personal level, angling helps develop motivation, self-confidence and enterprise, all values from which society benefits.

Angling is an egalitarian pursuit and, although some exclusive salmon beats remain the preserve of the rich, the majority of Scotland’s rivers and lochs, shorelines, and canals are accessible either free or at modest rates to anyone.

It crosses all social divides and can offer international-level competition and lucrative prize money. Scotland hosted the World Fly Fishing Championships for the first time last week and won the bronze medal.

The efforts of hundreds of sea anglers off the Galloway coast last weekend to capture and tag endangered species of sharks and to try to persuade the Scottish Government to give the fish greater protection, illustrates clearly the key conservation role the sport can play.

Angling in the classroom is vital in winning young hearts and minds and should help to secure the future of a sport which is so much a part of Scotland’s national identity.

Bellamy launches  school game angling course