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Let's have a moratorium on bickering

ON Wednesday, Rod Stewart, Susan Boyle and Her Majesty the Queen will join 3000 volunteers and thousands of spectators at Celtic Park for the opening of the XX Commonwealth Games, watched by a global TV audience of one billion.

The Commonwealth Games are often called the "friendly games" because the competition is not as fierce as the Olympics, and the taking part - by men and women, gay and straight, from all nations - is celebrated more than the medal haul.

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The Commonwealth is itself something of an anachronism: a collection of countries whose only connection is that they were once part of the British Empire. Scots were not only part of that empire, they helped run it - Scottish soldiers fought in the colonial wars; Scottish graduates ran the great colonial trading houses and the civil administrations. And as author Louise Welsh's Empire Cafe will point out, Glasgow's 18th-century tobacco barons made their money off the back of slave labour in the West Indies and the New World.

What is rather wonderful about the Commonwealth has been its ability to put the past behind it and seek to make something positive out of this imperial history, so it is fitting Scotland is facing up to that fact as part of the Glasgow 2014 cultural programme of events.

Pride House - a dedicated venue to welcome lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender athletes and visitors to the city - should also help demonstrate to the world the kind of country Scotland aims to be.

Through the obscure magic of the friendly games, 650 of the world's most talented athletes and team officials, plus one million visitors, are coming to Glasgow for a festival of sport without rancour or regret.

Commentators who say that England would turn against Scotland as a foreign country after a Yes vote should look to the spirit of the Commonwealth Games and realise that Britain has always sought to keep its former territories in the emotional fold after independence. Scotland would be no exception.

But this is no time for referendum politics. Let's have a two-week moratorium on tribal bickering between political parties and simply celebrate people of the world coming to Glasgow.

These Games have been a long time coming, and it shouldn't be forgotten that work to win the event for Glasgow - by a partnership that included Holyrood governments, Glasgow City Council and others - began more than 10 years ago.

When the city's bid for the Games was announced, then first minister Jack McConnell said: "I hope young Scots are inspired by the excitement the Games will bring." First Minister Alex Salmond has since pledged to create "the greatest sporting event our country has ever seen".

We second those emotions. Let's get this party started.

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