SPEAKING to people in the Yes and No campaigns yesterday, it was apparent that both sides expect a lull in referendum campaigning for the duration of the Commonwealth Games. Such sentiments come as something of a relief. It would be a terrible shame if all the effort that has been put in to make Glasgow 2014 a world-class celebration of sport was to be hijacked by the political classes.
But politicians being politicians, they appear unable to enjoy the build-up to the Games without viewing them through a political prism.
Alex Salmond at least took the trouble to acknowledge that mixing sport with politics might not be appropriate.
On Tuesday, the First Minister said he had “taken a kind of self-denying ordinance to concentrate on the Games” rather than the constitutional question.
He then rather spoiled that noble aspiration by making a series of political points within the next couple of breaths.
First off, he said Scottish independence would not be a worry for the other nations of the Commonwealth, given that most of them had already gone through a similar process.
He then claimed Scottish athletes would “flourish” after independence. Finally, he had a dig at the Chancellor’s visit to Scotland for the Games. Mr Salmond suggested that George Osborne would attempt to provoke him into breaching his self-denying ordinance, adding: “But, you know, George will be back in London tonight.”
And yesterday, Mr Salmond was quoted in a newspaper urging Glaswegians to vote Yes to transform their home into “Freedom City”.
In Mr Salmond’s defence, he was speaking before the official opening of the Games and he was not the only one to transgress.
Mr Osborne and David Cameron are not immune to the temptation to play politics on the eve of the Games, both arguing that Scotland should remain in the UK during the countdown to the opening ceremony.
Bitter experience should tell politicians – and in particular Mr Salmond – that sport and politics are uneasy bedfellows. The First Minister’s exhortation for Scots to cheer on “Scolympians” when Team GB was competing in London two years ago was seen as mean-spirited, while Andy Murray was not the only Scot to disapprove of the clumsy gesture that saw the First Minister produce a Saltire from his wife’s handbag at Wimbledon.
If things continue in this vein, all Mr Salmond will do is allow his opponents to play politics by accusing him of playing politics. Now that Glasgow 2014 has been officially opened, let the self-denying ordinance begin.