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Great Games deserves great debate

The Glasgow Kiss has taken on an entirely new meaning, thanks to John Barrowman's close encounter with a male dancer at the opening ceremony of the Glasgow Games.

And what better way to erase Glasgow's macho reputation? The kiss looks like being the defining moment of the Games: it has reverberated across the Commonwealth, and been hailed as a direct rebuke to Commonwealth nations where homosexuality is crime.

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It is unclear if Uganda's decision to strike down its anti-homosexuality laws is a direct result of the Glasgow Kiss but it undoubtedly helped. The Uganda gay rights campaigner Frank Mugisha said Glasgow "opened the door for conversation on LGBTI rights within the Commonwealth". Just as well, since 42 countries still hold homosexuality to be illegal.

The Games have been a huge success on almost every level. Entirely financed within Scotland, the organisation has been brilliant, thanks to cool-headed administration and enthusiastic volunteers.

The medals haul for Scotland has been unprecedented; the atmosphere at the venues electric. The mainly Scottish crowds showed great maturity, refusing to indulge in anti-English bigotry or be drawn by Usain Bolt's alleged disrespectful comment on the Games' quality. They cheered the Jamaican Olympic record-holder to the grey skies, just as they cheered Team England.

So what now of the legacy, as the games formally close at Hampden Park this evening after an all-too-brief 12 days of sport, showmanship, weather that was improbably good for the most part, and extraordinary goodwill from the public?

Well, with tried and tested infrastructure and the all-important velodrome, Scotland has shown it can be a fully participating athletics nation. If young people are encouraged by the example of new local heroes like Dan Wallace and Lynsey Sharp to get involved in sport then Scotland's dismal health statistics can only improve. But the main legacy will surely be the discovery that Scotland can pull off events on this scale. And that despite our awful weather and dour reputation, Scots are as good as anyone in the world when it comes to having a party.

The event may have been short-lived, but it will endure in tens of thousands of warm memories, in the justified pride of Glasgow's citizens, and in the knowledge that Scotland is more than capable of rising to such a world-class occasion.

All concerned, from volunteers to gold medallists, thoroughly deserve our thanks and congratulations.

Glasgow 2014 was special for all these reasons, but many Scots may have been secretly thankful for one very particular reason - it provided a soothing diversion from the independence referendum.

But that truce is coming to an end. Once the closing ceremony is over, the Yes and the No camps will end their self-imposed purdah of keeping politics out of sport, and the fight will be back on. Both camps in the debate over Scotland's future will then resume their campaigns with even greater vigour. Every household will now be receiving a leaflet from the Scottish Government on the pros of independence and one from the UK Government on the cons.

For those exasperated by the prospect, Sir Tom Hunter, the David Hume Institute and the Economic and Social Research Council have also produced an impartial ebook on the background to 16 key questions to consider before voting.

It is a welcome addition to the process, but it should not let our politicians off the hook. Both sides know from recent polling that large numbers of voters have given up following the independence debate because of the stale, unproductive bickering involved. Our politicians need to raise their game.

The first test comes on Tuesday, when First Minister Alex Salmond and chair of the Better Together campaign, Alistair Darling, finally debate with each other on STV.

It is the biggest moment of the campaign so far, with the broadcasters hoping for one million viewers.

It is also, given the petty game-playing that has preceded it, symbolic of the campaign so far.

So it is up to Alex Salmond and Alistair Darling to emulate Glasgow and rise to the occasion, forget point-scoring, and lay out their respective cases with clarity and civility.

As we report today, Professor John Curtice, the country's leading pollster, believes Darling's best approach is to be "as boring as possible" to safeguard the No side's current lead. There is a logic to that, but no dignity.

If Darling fails to match Salmond's passion, voters may well conclude the Union is as tired and uninspiring as the former chancellor.

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