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George Osborne promised £24m of funding for Glasgow’s life sciences, business and arts sectors on Tuesday, on the eve of what is expected to be a politically charged Commonwealth Games.
Alex Salmond, Scotland’s first minister, has played down he political significance of Scotland hosting the 11-day event, which opens on Wednesday, but knows it has the potential to be a rallying point for nationalists ahead of the September 18 independence referendum.
“What Glasgow 2014 will do is show that Scotland can successfully hold major international sporting events,” he said.
Mr Salmond announced on Tuesday a “self-denying ordnance” of not talking about Scottish independence during the course of the Games, but immediately promised that Scotland’s sporting teams would “flourish” outside the UK.
Glasgow is welcoming more than 4,500 athletes and 2,000 officials from 71 nations and territories, with England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all fielding separate teams.
Mr Cameron, on a visit to Perth earlier this month, tried to claim the Commonwealth Games as a British event, putting it in the same bracket as the successful 2012 London Olympics.
But politicians in London are well aware that the Glasgow Games may represent the last major opportunity for Mr Salmond to inject an emotional nationalist boost into his independence campaign.
Mr Cameron will attend Wednesday’s opening ceremony and arrived in Scotland on Tuesday under a virtual publicity blackout, intended to avoid any confrontations with nationalist supporters.
Most media organisations were only told of Mr Cameron’s visit to Lerwick on Shetland - one of the furthest reaches of the UK - after it was too late to despatch reporters to the archipelago.
While in Lerwick Mr Cameron staged his first “town hall” event with Scottish voters since the independence campaign began.
The presence of Mr Cameron and Mr Salmond at the opening ceremony of the Games has the potential to become an awkward moment for both leaders.
Mr Osborne was booed by spectators at the 2012 Paralympic Games in London; it remains to be seen whether either Mr Cameron or Mr Salmond are given similar treatment.
The chancellor’s visit to Glasgow saw him announce £17m for health technology research in the city, £5m for the Glasgow School of Art and £1.7m for a new business centre.
Funding will also be provided by local partners including the Scottish government. John Swinney, Scotland’s finance minister, said that the Scottish government would match the UK funding now and would “guarantee this funding to Glasgow when Scotland becomes independent”.
David Grevemberg, chief executive of Games organiser Glasgow 2014, said the city was “just coming alive” ahead of the event. Some tickets were still left for events but they were “going fast”.
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