Leaders: A win-win situation at Glasgow 2014

Alex Marshall and Paul Foster's lawn bowl victory saw Scotland surpass previous gold total. Picture: Lorraine Hill
Alex Marshall and Paul Foster's lawn bowl victory saw Scotland surpass previous gold total. Picture: Lorraine Hill
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RECORDS keep on tumbling, the crowds keep on coming, their enthusiasm keeps on rising, and even the sun (mostly) keeps on shining. Such has been the success of the Commonwealth Games, it seems that there is not much news worth reporting other than that which keeps on flowing from Glasgow 2014.

With victory for Alex Marshall and Paul Foster in lawn bowls at Kelvingrove, Scotland’s athletes surpassed their previous best total of gold medals (11 at Melbourne in 2006) at these Games and now surely must overhaul their best tally of all medals (33 at Edinburgh in 1986).

All right, the 1986 medals were gained in the absence of many nations which boycotted those games, and about half of the current medal haul has come from judo and para sports which were not included in the last two hostings. But let’s not nit-pick, the Games are only at their half-way stage and this has been a fabulous performance by Team Scotland.

And not just by the competitors either. The Glasgow and Scottish public have played a magnificent part too. Not only have they filled the seats at all the arenas, not only have they turned out to fill the streets at the marathons, but they have cheered all-comers.

Seasoned rugby watchers were a little apprehensive that the sevens tournament, held in the football temple of Ibrox in the predominantly football-focused city of Glasgow, might not ignite the spectators. They need not have worried. Everyone agreed that the atmosphere at Ibrox was just terrific, even when all the home nations had been knocked out.

And that has been one of the hallmarks of 2014. The spectating public have been partisan in support of Scottish athletes, certainly, but they have also been generous in support of sporting excellence regardless of national origin, even when it has been from the auld enemy.

English marathon runner Steve Way, remarkable for being a 40-year-old former 16-stone, 20 fags a day couch potato, was surprised by the recognition and cheers he got from Scots as he pounded his way to a hugely creditable tenth place. It is a sign of a national maturity that some feared would be absent; instead it has been welcomingly present throughout.

Steve Way’s story, and that of 13-year-old swimmer Erraid Davies’ bronze medal, almost alone have provided the inspirational stories that were hoped for to create the spur for much greater national involvement in active sport. But Glasgow 2014 seems to be producing much more than that.

The national habit of loud complaint and heavy finger of blame pointing when things go wrong, as they have to an extent with public transport, seems to have been replaced with a determination to stay cheerful. The ever-smiling volunteers have a lot to do with that.

So let’s keep on enjoying and celebrating, for the second half of the Games are sure to provide plenty of reason to do so.

Fracking pros and cons must be clear

TO NO great surprise, a report by an expert scientific panel set up by the Scottish Government has concluded that developing Scotland’s shale oil and gas deposits could yield a number of positive economic benefits. Jobs could be created, tax revenues could flow, and a new source of gas could replace declining North Sea flows.

Equally, it is not a shock that the report acknowledges that the public is worried by the impact of fracking on the environment and health. Even though this process has a relatively long track record in the United States, where majority public opinion seems to have come to terms with it, especially given the economic benefits, this is still a relatively unknown process here.

These concerns must be addressed by Scottish ministers. While the UK government seems determined to press on, having now invited companies to bid for licences, the Scottish Government can proceed more cautiously.

It needs to show, in an open and transparent manner, what the best available evidence shows about likely non-economic effects of fracking. A priority concern, from the survey of central Scotland by the British Geological Survey, is that there should be no risk of contaminating river and drinking water supplies.

It is a safe bet that most people have no idea about how such risks can be controlled and eliminated. Until they do have that knowledge, it is also a safe bet that there will be substantial public opposition to any proposal to explore for, or develop, unconventional oil and gas deposits.

Ministers need to prove there will be next to no disadvantages from fracking before there can be any possibility of realising any benefits.