THE Scottish Government has played down suggestions from one of the country’s most decorated athletes that this summer’s Commonwealth Games are being “hijacked” to further the cause of independence, insisting the event will be “entirely non-political”.
Olympic gold medal winning swimmer David Wilkie has accused the SNP of using the prestigious sporting spectacle as a “political football” to help rally support for a Yes vote in September.
The Scottish Government said it agreed with Wilkie’s view that Glasgow 2014 should be allowed to take place free from political manoeuvring – and insisted that it had “said and done nothing to suggest otherwise”.
With the Games taking place less than two months before the referendum, tension is mounting over whether the Yes and No campaigns will seek to exploit the event.
Wilkie, who competed at the highest levels of his sport for Scotland and Great Britain, said: “The Scottish Government is using the Commonwealth Games as a political issue. The politicians are using it more as a political football than a real sporting event, which is a shame. They’re trying to hijack the Games.
“Whenever you go to an event, politicians are always there. I went to the opening of the Commonwealth pool last year and politicians were there, just as they were at another event. At previous Commonwealth Games, there hasn’t been such a large political presence. Quite clearly it’s an opportunity for them.”
The 60-year-old, who said he was “against” the idea of Scotland leaving the UK later this year, said success for Team Scotland in Glasgow would be seen as a huge boon by the SNP.
The former athlete – the only person to hold British, American, Commonwealth, European, World and Olympic titles at the same time – said: “They think if Scotland do well at the Games, that will highlight the benefits of being independent, because it shows we can go it alone. The politicians want the Scots to win as many gold medals as possible so Scotland feels free and will vote for independence.”
Wilkie, who won gold in the 200 metre breaststroke at the 1976 Montreal Olympics, said “I’m against [separation]. I just do not get it. I just can’t understand why we’re even discussing it.”
A spokesman for Shona Robison, the minister for the Commonwealth Games and sport, said: “We agree with David Wilkie that the Games should be an entirely non-political event, which is why we have said and done nothing to suggest otherwise.”