Alex Salmond under fire over Freedom City claim

SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE: Politicians hit out at Alex Salmond yesterday accusing him of playing politics on the opening day of the Commonwealth Games when he said Glasgow would be called “Freedom City” after voting Yes in the independence referendum.

Models of the Finnieston Crane and the Duke of Wellingtons statue were included in the Glasgow 2014 ceremony. Picture: Ian Rutherford

The First Minister’s political opponents claimed Mr Salmond had reverted to “Braveheart” language after he made his remarks.

Labour also claimed the First Minister had broken his self- imposed rule to stop campaigning for independence while Glasgow 2014 is on.

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But Mr Salmond was not the only politician to raise the constitutional question just hours before the Games opened. Despite also indicating that his inclination was to keep politics out of the Games, Prime Minister David Cameron used a visit to Glasgow to argue for Scotland remaining in the UK.

On the same day as the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony, Mr Salmond was quoted as saying a Yes vote would extract Glasgow from Tory rule.

Mr Salmond referred to recent remarks by Scotland’s former chief medical officer Sir Harry Burns, who said independence could be “very positive” for people’s lives.

The First Minister said: “Sir Harry Burns believes the key to success in facing the deep-seated health problems of this city and this country, because it’s not specific to Glasgow, is the sense of empowerment that independence will bring.

“He thinks it will change people’s lives for the better, not just the country and the economy, but people’s lives and that was a very powerful message from Scotland’s most respected physician.”

Mr Salmond made his case for independence despite saying earlier this week that he would not get drawn into politics during the Commonwealth Games.

In the interview, Mr Salmond repeated his claim that he was on a “self-denying ordinance”.

He said: “I’m trying not to get drawn into argy-bargy with George Osborne. He’ll go back to London and then we’ll all get on with enjoying ourselves at the Games. That’s what I intend to do over the next ten days and I’m sure I speak for everybody in Glasgow and Scotland. What I would say is I’m confident Yes will win in Glasgow.

“[The] latest poll indicated that swing last week and I’m confident we will win the city of Glasgow so I suppose you could call Glasgow ‘Freedom City’.”

But Labour’s sports spokeswoman Patricia Ferguson took issue with his use of the word freedom. “These comments are offensive and misleading. Glasgow certainly doesn’t need Alex Salmond to liberate it,” Ms Ferguson said.

Meanwhile, at a conference of Commonwealth leaders in the city, Mr Cameron said Scotland’s place in the Union allows the UK’s family of nations to work together to “punch above its weight” on the world stage.

After saying he would leave politics “to one side”, Mr Cameron said: “Undoubtedly one of the advantages that we have is that we are probably the most networked country in the world.”

He went on: “And of course being a United Kingdom, being a collection of countries, that together can work together again helps us punch above our weight.”

The Prime Minister also said there is “inextricable link” between the success of the City of London and the success of Scotland’s financial services industry and said he was “doing everything” possible to “removing the barriers to selling Scottish whisky around the world, giving decommissioning relief to the oil industry and reducing taxes for the film and gaming industries”.