Brian Monteith: First Minister’s Commonwealth games

First Minister Alex Salmond said he would not be discussing the Independence Referendum during the Commonwealth Games. Pic: John Devlin
First Minister Alex Salmond said he would not be discussing the Independence Referendum during the Commonwealth Games. Pic: John Devlin
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Our First Minister, never backward at coming forward, announced on Tuesday of this week that he was taking a self-denying ordinance to avoid bringing the politics of the referendum into the Commonwealth Games. Just think of the respite from the never-endum if all the politicians were to do the same for a few weeks.

On Wednesday night, the festival of sport got off to a loud, brash and gallus start in Glasgow and by Thursday the first gold medal was won by an English triathlete. Oh the irony. Then Scotland wins four golds. Oh the temptation for a comment.

Self-discipline has never been Alex Salmond’s strong suit and, needless to say, he did not taken long to make a few swipes at opponents and I have no doubt he will be denying his self-denying ordinance on many more occasions.

After making his vow he used the gathering of Commonwealth nations to make a lame point about them not needing to worry about Scottish independence as so many of them had gone through the same experience – as if Scotland is trying to break free from colonial rule.

Some colony, some subservience it is when you can provide prime minsters, chancellors of the Exchequer, foreign and defence secretaries and more to rule following a democratic vote. In Salmond’s defence, detail has never been his strong point.

More pointedly, our First Minister claimed – as the Commonwealth Games were about to start – that our athletes would “flourish” under independence. Are we expected to believe that the timing of this comment was purely coincidental, that it had nothing to do with the Games taking place in Glasgow right now? His point is, of course, debatable – not least by the many athletes who owe their success to the British lottery money and other such UK funds that have been invested in them, together with the use of UK training facilities and coaching – such as Sir Chris Hoy training in Manchester.

Here’s a prediction for free – that if Scotland leaves the UK the British curling team will remain better funded than any new Scottish one. Being inside the tent looking out has many more benefits than being outside the tent peering in, to paraphrase Lyndon Johnson.

The First Minister then made a dig at Chancellor George Osborne, who visited Glasgow for a Games-connected conference. I think we can expect more childish outbursts.

Meanwhile, a row is breaking out between the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives about the potential damage from the Prime Minister being in Scotland during the final few weeks of the referendum.

Surprisingly, the Tories have not yet retorted that it could be worse for the No campaign if they inflicted Nick Clegg on everyone. It may surprise readers to know but the opinion polls conducted in Scotland regularly show David Cameron has a higher approval rating than Nick Clegg and, more surprisingly, Labour’s Ed Miliband.

Would Cameron’s presence be damaging? It’s too easy to say yes but it’s never as simple as that. It all rather depends on what he might do or say. By the late stages most voters will have made up their minds and the campaigns will be focussing on the few remaining don’t knows – and then on getting the vote out. The influence of Cameron in these two respects is likely to be minimal – and given the No camp’s greatest fear is complacency among its own supporters the Prime Minister might prove useful.

The concern must be whose vote Cameron would help get out.

If I were his adviser I’d be saying wait and see how the mood is and what he can then bring to the occasion. One thing’s for sure, any self-denying ordinance by any politicians will have well and truly ended by then.

Simple barbarity

IT is not surprising that the conflict of Gaza attracts a great deal of media interest, most obviously because of the civilian casualties. What is disappointing is how little consideration is given to how these civilians are in the firing line – or how other civilian casualties in neighbouring Middle East states are simply ignored.

The callousness of the Hamas rulers of Gaza, who turned it into their own self-imposed prison camp when the Israelis voluntarily gave it over to Palestinian rule, is rarely examined. Placing their generals in hospitals, storing missiles in mosques and calling on women and children to stand on rooftops to prevent those underneath from being attacked bears a great deal of responsibility for the deaths.

Likewise, the daily tragedies that are unravelling in Syria and neighbouring Iraq as the Jihadist group Isis crucifies Christians and drives them out of towns where they have lived for thousands of years, while destroying their churches and beautiful archives and artefacts, does not get a mention. Now the latest edict surfacing from these murderers is to impose by decree genital mutilation on all women between 11 and 46. The truth of this latest outrage is being disputed, but the fact that it is entirely believable tells you all you need to know about what is at stake between the forces of civilisation and barbarity.