Comment: Sport and politics make a dangerous game

Terry Murden. Picture: Julie Bull
Terry Murden. Picture: Julie Bull
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THE Commonwealth Games were blessed for the most part by blue skies and glorious sunsets to such an extent that a worldwide television audience must have wondered if this was some other Glasgow they were seeing on their screens.

We can only hope for an Indian summer in time for the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles when Scotland will be able to show off its glorious open spaces.

The legacy issues of these events and whether they will provide the lasting benefits that were trumpeted beforehand are now top of the agenda. But in measuring the impact or likely impact of hosting such tournaments there is the added complexity of the other big event taking place in Scotland: the independence referendum.

First Minister Alex Salmond spoke confidently of the benefits to be gained for Scotland and, more specifically, for the independence movement in the year that the country welcomed the world. However, major sporting events and politics do not always mix easily and the much-anticipated boost to confidence and inward investment could be dampened by more than a bout of late summer rain.

The picture is far from clear. Some companies continue with their plans to expand in Scotland and insist that the vote will make no difference to how they conduct their business. However, there is more than anecdotal evidence that some key decisions are being delayed by a number of businesses and individuals, including househunters, until after the September poll.

Among the sectors experiencing this is property. Investments are being held back, as are some deals which will not complete until the country’s future is settled.

Questions also remain about whether some companies will fulfil their threats to pull out of Scotland if there is a Yes vote and whether it will deter others from expanding here. Could the referendum thereby negate all the hard work that has gone into presenting a smiley Glasgow to the world?

The Scottish Government published its first legacy report for the Commonwealth Games in 2012 and legacy will continue to be monitored and evaluated until 2019. A post-games legacy assessment is due in 
autumn next year, with further updates in 2017 and 2019, by which time we will at least be clearer about what sort of country they are expected to have benefited.

The hoped-for impact of the Games extends beyond sporting and economic gains into regeneration, and while the Ryder Cup is also expected to provide a fillip, it is based more on tourism and the prestige that hosting it brings to the country.

All the estimates are positive, though creating a lasting legacy from major sporting events is arguably a bigger exercise than preparing for an event itself and one that is difficult to measure with precision. Few have tried to do so while contemplating constitutional upheaval and its consequences.

Despite all the talking, debating and consulting over independence, the same issues, such as taxation, currency and credit rating, remain unclear and continue to cause uncertainty. The economy is growing, but while these remain unresolved they appear to be having a drag effect.

One big concern is that whatever the outcome of the poll, the debate will continue and even intensify as we are ushered into a brave new world of independence or some form of devo-max. The race is far from over.