SCOTTISH sport has been given a £55million lifeline to ease the financial burden through the Coronavirus pandemic following an announcement from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

The Government had come under increasing public pressure from key figures within sport in recent weeks following bailouts given to associations and clubs, coupled with the return of spectators, south of the border.

Most of the money has been earmarked for football and Premiership clubs will have access to £20million worth of loans, while grants totalling £10million will be made available to the clubs at all other levels, including women’s football.

There is a £15million grants boost for Scottish rugby, while a further £5million will be made available in loans. Elsewhere, horse racing will have £2million in grants available, while £2million will be granted to ice rinks and a further £200,000 has been earmarked for ice hockey and grants will also be given to motor sport (£400,000), basketball (£300,000) and netball (£100,000).

"I am pleased to announce this substantial funding package, which will help to ensure those sports which have been worst affected by the loss of ticket revenue during the pandemic are able to bridge the gap in revenue until spectators are able to return safely to sports events in larger numbers,” Joe FitzPatrick, the Minister for Public Health, Sport and Wellbeing, said following the announcement on Thursday.

"While restrictions on supporters at events have been vital in stopping the spread of the virus and saving lives, there can be no doubt that they have created real hardships for many sports clubs.

"These clubs are at the heart of our communities and, without urgent financial support, the survival of some could be in question.

"I'm delighted that we are able to provide significantly more support than the Barnett consequential funding received from the UK Government Sports Winter Survival package."

While the news of financial assistant will be welcomed by clubs across the country, there are still fears over the long-term viability in many areas as supporters remain locked out.

Dave Cormack, the Aberdeen chairman, has been vocal in his criticism of the Government and Professor Jason Leitch once again this week at what he sees as inconsistencies in the current structures designed to reduce the spread of Covid.

FitzPatrick added: "I recognise that for football in particular, governing bodies, clubs and, of course, supporters themselves are desperate to see fans back as soon as possible.

"Sport brings great enjoyment to the many people who watch and play, and we don't want supporters to be delayed in returning to stadiums for any longer than is absolutely necessary."

Only venues in the bottom two of the five tiers of restrictions that are currently in place are permitted to allow fans through the gates, with the likes of Ross County and Inverness Caledonian Thistle able to host crowds of just 300 supporters at present.

Aberdeen have implemented significant cost-cutting measures in recent months to ensure they can emerge through the pandemic and manager Derek McInnes knows there is still plenty of work to be done in that regard.

"It seems like a lot of money but when you spread that out over everybody that has got a case for it and who is going to be in need of it,” he said. “I don't want to sound ungrateful, but at the same time it is not going to go the full way for us, we have still got loads to do and loads to deal with."

The announcement came three weeks after sport in England was told of a £300million UK Government rescue package, five-sixths of which will be in the form of loans.

The funding comes on top of an earlier £1.5million Covid recovery fund administered by sportscotland, which also accelerated £32million of annual funding and loosened criteria for sports governing bodies. The organisation revealed last month that the pandemic had cost spectator sports more than £100million as they warned of urgent action to preserve jobs.

"This announcement is very welcome as the funding will help protect the immediate future of many clubs over the coming months,” Stewart Harris, the chief executive of sportscotland, said.

"We will continue to work with a range of Scottish governing bodies of sport and the Scottish Government to prioritise this funding to ensure the survival of the sports at the heart of our communities.

"With the roll out of the vaccine this week there is real hope that we are beginning to see our way out of this pandemic, and we need to make certain that sport is in a good place and is a prominent part of the overall recovery plan."

In a statement released on Twitter, Scottish Rugby thanked the Government and Mr FitzPatrick and said: “This vital funding will enable us to protect & support our sport given the unprecedented impact of Covid-19 right across the game and in particular our current inability to host spectators."

The impact of those regulations stretch far beyond Hampden and Murrayfield as associations across the country adapt to current legislation.

Racecourses have felt the financial pinch for some time now and Delly Innes, manager of Scottish Racing, said: “As Scottish racecourses continue to race behind closed doors, this financial support from the Government is not only very welcome, but absolutely vital for everyone in our sport.

“We’re delighted that the Scottish Government has recognised the importance of the nation’s second most popular sport and the potentially devastating financial implications the pandemic has had on the industry north of the border.”