Leaders: Glasgow 2014 could kickstart health legacy

WITH the furore over the Red Road flats demolition now behind us, the more practical preparations for the Commonwealth Games can continue apace.

Part of the legacy of the Games is expected to be a renewed interest in sport and greater physical activity. Picture: PA

Today the public learn more about the transport arrangements for the Games, and the organisational headache of moving tens of thousands of spectators, athletes and VIPs around a city that will already be swollen with the usual summer influx of tourists.

Lessons from the London 2012 Olympics will prove invaluable. Some Londoners were resistant to the idea of VIP lanes on main roads linking the venues, feeling it went against the spirit of the Games to have some people afforded preferential treatment. But ultimately the arrangement was generally deemed a success, and the predicted traffic jams failed to materialise. Competitors and spectators alike made it to the venues in good time and in good order.

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Glasgow’s challenges are similar in many respects, but very different in others. The London Games were concentrated in one large bespoke site in the East End, served by its very own light railway station, with the whole area designed with the Olympics in mind.

In Glasgow, with a handful of showcase exceptions such as the Sir Chris Hoy velodrome, the organisers have made a virtue of using existing sporting facilities. These, by their very nature, are spread around the city, so a good travel plan will be essential to making the Games work.

From the first details released yesterday, one thing is clear – no-one will be turning up in their car outside one of the big venues and walking a few steps to their seat. A 20-minute walk from car to stadium will not be unusual, said the organisers, as they unveiled a package of road closures, residents’ parking permits and free bus and train travel for ticketed spectators.

A 20-minute walk may not seem much to a fit, able-bodied person. But there will be elderly and disabled spectators, as well as those with small children, for whom this will pose something of a challenge.

But really, this is something we should all accept as a necessary part of a massive logistical exercise.

After all, part of the legacy of the Games is expected to be a renewed interest in sport and greater physical activity, to counter Scotland’s poor record of obesity and unhealthy lifestyles. Many roads to fitness can start with a 20-minute walk. And better 20 minutes on foot than an hour in a car in a traffic jam.

Those with genuine mobility problems will have all the help they need – accommodating those with disabilities has been, from day one, a non-negotiable aspect of the Games planning.

All we would say to the Glasgow 2014 organisers is this: if we must walk, then please make the walk an interesting one, with diversions and distractions along way, to make a great day out even better.

No retreat from legal reform

KENNY MacAskill’s announcement yesterday that he will put his controversial reform of Scots Law on hold for a year came as something of a surprise. Previously, the justice secretary has shown little patience with critics of his plans, and has been happy to use the SNP’s Holyrood majority to steamroll them through.

The fact that he has paused now may not be unconnected to his recent appointment of Lord Bonomy to examine the consequences for justice of the most contentious aspect of the reform: scrapping the centuries-old requirement of corroboration in a Scottish criminal court.

Mr MacAskill has previously insisted the necessary changes to the law would continue, even while Lord Bonomy was examining how they would work in practice. MSPs from all other parties, as well as the massed ranks of the criminal justice system, protested that this made little sense. Why legislate on one aspect of a reform without first having the necessary counterpoints in place?

Could it be that Lord Bonomy has respectfully told the minister the same thing?

What Mr MacAskill made clear yesterday was there would be no retreat from the central issue of ditching corroboration.

The delay is an acknowledgement that more time is needed to see how this seismic shift will work in practice. It is not a rethink on the principle itself.

This newspaper is on record with its doubts about the reform, believing conviction rates for rape can be improved without ripping up centuries of tradition. But if the change is going to happen, it should be after due consideration, and with a carefully thought out system of checks and balances.