The Commonwealth Games in Glasgow is proving to be inspiring. Much as us folk from Edinburgh often like to joke about things over in the Wild West it would be churlish to deny Scotland’s second city is putting on a great show.
The sun has shone, the locals have been hospitable and the crowds have whooped up the great sport on offer.
Of course. Glasgow is getting lots of help from volunteers from around Scotland and beyond, and it is the various Scottish sports bodies that help make it tick, but the games is in Glasgow’s name – and just as it would have to take the brickbats if it tripped up so it should be congratulated for a job well done.
As a kid I lived in Meadowbank and witnessed what the 1970 Commonwealth Games did for Edinburgh’s reputation and the legacy it left us – as later we all got to use the Commie Pool and Meadowbank Stadium, sports halls and velodrome. For PE lessons we were simply bussed off to Meadowbank over a double period and had access to facilities few if any schools could offer.
If there is something that grieves me about Edinburgh it is how successive council administrations chose to neglect the facilities we had until they became ruined beyond repair and hence became targets for the bulldozer. Many a councillor or official has looked upon Meadowbank as a potential housing estate, wanting the land to be sold off to pay for the debts they have run up.
I’m sure there will be a great use of Glasgow’s new facilities by the locals there too.
It will also put a spring in their step and after a tough economic recession that’s no bad thing. Remember how the Glasgow Garden festival gave the city a lift in the 1980s.
It is also being said that with the great performances of our Scottish athletes – having broken the previous tally for medals won – and the smoothness with which the Games has gone, it should inspire us to believe that we can do anything we wish and so we should pick up the baton of independence.
Well, er, yes and no.
The Games can indeed inspire people to do what they want – but what they want might be to recognise what comes from teamwork as well as individual ability.
Our athletes will all be competing as proud patriots but they have a myriad of different political views, some will vote Yes, some will vote No, some don’t know yet – and I bet some don’t even have a vote because they don’t live in Scotland as they train abroad and are not on the register!
How they are going to vote is not relevant to what they have achieved and will go on to achieve in future. Some will have had their training and coaching financed solely in Scotland, some with UK support because they are in British teams and some will be on scholarships and sponsorships or lottery funding that takes them to Manchester, Florida, Barcelona and many points around the world.
Most of that – except the UK funding – would stay the same if we were independent but it’s a big leap to say the arrangements would universally be better.
For some people or teams it might, for others not.
And while I’m on the subject spare a thought for former prime minister John Major – for without his foresight and perseverance to introduce the national lottery, many, possibly all, of our sports men and women would not have had the same resources they’ve received to excel at what they do.
We owe him a debt of gratitude for that – if you can manage to thank a dreaded Westminster Tory without choking on your Tunnock’s teacakes.
Saying the success of Glasgow 2014 tells us Scotland can be an independent nation is as daft as saying the success of London 2012 told us the UK doesn’t need to be in the European Union – when our constitutional arrangements really have nothing to do with either.
It’s like saying England could be independent of the rest of the UK because the Manchester Games were a success or that Bavaria should have left Germany because Munich put on an Olympic games. Nobody thought of those ideas because they were not actually related.
The truth is Scots have been doing great things for centuries, before the Union of 1707 – and since that time when we put together Great Britain. And frankly, our achievements since we teamed up with England, Wales and Northern Ireland have been beyond anyone’s expectations.
Scots can achieve anything they set their minds to – but we already knew that and don’t need the happening of the Commonwealth Games to tell us, although it’s always pleasant to be reminded of this fact.
The point is that many, at the moment the majority, of Scots believe that we can achieve more by working in partnership with our neighbouring nations.
That’s not anti-Scottish or unpatriotic nor is it a limitation – it is a positive view to share risk and opportunity through solidarity – just like Glasgow and Edinburgh can achieve more by working together than doing each other down.