THE number of women taking part in sport in Scotland has risen by over a third in the last five years, according to new figures.

The report shows basketball, football, hockey, aquatics, rugby and tennis clubs have seen a rise of more than 35% in female participation.

The rise is particularly steep in football, with the number of women players doubling since 2014-15. The statistics from the independent Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe) also show there are 105% more women in hockey clubs and 67% more playing basketball.

The news has been welcomed by the SNP, who said it was hoped that the extra funding from the Scottish Government for SportScotland in this year’s Budget would help to encourage even more women to join a sports team.

READ MORE: Scottish events show women achieving in sport despite adversity

“While there is still more to do to for female sport, I am delighted to see more and more women getting the opportunity to be part of our rich sporting culture in Scotland,” said SNP MSP Jenny Gilruth.

“The image of women’s football in particular has been strengthened by the success of the Scotland national team reaching the World Cup Finals this year.”

She added that while funding for sport and facilities was “vital” in helping to get more women involved, the SNP’s commitment to double the free provision of childcare across Scotland was just as important in helping to break down the barriers that prevent more women taking part.

Maureen McGonigle, founder of Scottish Women in Sport and The National columnist, said she was heartened by the figures but not surprised “given the hard work that a lot of the governing bodies have put in trying to attract women and girls into sport”.

“It is a reflection on them and as well as a reflection on society’s changing attitudes to women in sport,” she said.

McGonigle pointed out that the success of women athletes in 2019 could help to attract even more to sport.

The National: Catriona MatthewCatriona Matthew

This included the Scottish women’s football and netball teams reaching their respective world cups, as well as the Scottish women’s hockey team’s success in Europe.

Kaz Cuthbert skippered Scotland in the Women’s EuroHockey II Championship held earlier this year in Glasgow, a tournament which the host nation won to secure a place in the top flight of European competition. In addition to her success at national level, the 31-year-old led Wildcats’ ladies to victory in the Grand Final in April to qualify for Europe for the first time in the club’s history.

READ MORE: Scottish Women in Sport study could be key in bid for gender equality

Also, in football, Glasgow City progressed to the quarter-finals of the women’s Champions League. They are part-time unlike almost every other team who have reached the latter stages of the competition who also have far greater budgets.

Early in the year, Laura Muir cemented her place as one of Scotland’s greatest current athletes. The 26-year-old stormed to gold in both the 1500m and the 3000m at the European Indoor Athletics Championships, becoming the first athlete to win the double-double at the event. Muir backed this up with a fifth-place finish at the World Championships in October.

The National: Sally ConwaySally Conway

Women’s golf fans also flocked to Gleneagles in September to watch the Solheim Cup. Winning captain Catriona Matthew, who has just been made an OBE, said it was unlike anything she had ever seen at the event before.

Another breakthrough was in boxing, in which Hannah Rankin became Scotland’s first-ever female boxing champion. The 29-year-old defeated American fighter Sarah Curran in June for the vacant IBO super-welterweight title and in doing so, wrote herself into the history books.

Elsewhere track cyclist Katie Archibald won world silver and European gold, Eve Muirhead and her curling rink won European silver, Maria Lyle won double gold at the World Para-Athletics Championships, skater Elise Christie won European silver, Sally Conway won world bronze in judo and Seonaid McIntosh became the world number one in shooting and Britain’s most successful female rifle shooter of all time.

READ MORE: Para-athletes still don’t receive the respect they deserve

“The list pretty much endless and I’m looking forward to 2020 to add to their successes,” said McGonigle.

She said work was also continuing to break down the barriers preventing many women from taking up a sport.

This includes programmes like CricHiit, an initiative from Cricket Scotland which was named as Innovation of the Year at the Annual ICC Development Awards. Designed to impart cricketing skills along with improved fitness it was developed by Rosy Ryan at Cricket Scotland and is now being copied by many European countries.

The National: Sionaid McIntoshSionaid McIntosh

One club that has benefited is Forfarshire which, for the first time in its 139 year history, now has a women’s section with CricHiiT and softball cricket.

HiiT Squash is a similar idea and is being promoted by Scots squash star Georgia Adderley.

READ MORE: It is our collective responsibility to maximise the influence of sport

“I love sharing what sport has done in my life, and the way it’s positively affected me in so many different ways,” she said. “For girls especially, they just need to get out and do some exercise and I think squash is a great way to do that.”