By Tom Degun

Scottish flag_with_GB_flagFebruary 29 - Scott Stevenson, director of sport at Commonwealth Games Canada, has predicted that the controversial Scottish independence referendum could help increase interest in Glasgow 2014.

Alex Salmond, the First Minister of Scotland, has revealed that the Scottish Government plans to hold the referendum on October 18, 2014, shortly after the Commonwealth Games, which is due to take place from July 23 to August 3..

The Scottish National Party been criticised for attempts to use Glasgow 2014 to boost its "Yes" campaign in the lead-up to the referendum.

But Stevenson, one of the most respected figures in the Commonwealth Games Movement, feels that the political backdrop will create further interest in the competition, particularly in Canada where the province of Quebec has had two referendums on independence, both of which were voted down by narrow margins.

"The referendum being close to the Games will generate interest among Canadians," Stevenson, who helped lead Team Canada to fourth place on the medal table at the Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Games, told The Herald.

"We've a history of nationalism in Quebec so we can relate to it probably more than most countries.

"I'm pretty optimistic there'll be greater interest in Glasgow than some recent Games."

Stevenson though, warned that politics must be avoided at the 2014 Commonwealth Games itself.

The last time the Commonwealth Games were held in Scotland was in Edinburgh in 1986 when the event suffered a major political boycott by a large number of African, Asian and Caribbean countries in protest at the Thatcher Government's attitude towards British sporting links with apartheid-era South Africa.

Edinburgh 1986_29-02-12
In all, 32 of the 59 Commonwealth nations scheduled to take part in Edinburgh 1986 (pictured) boycotted the competition to reduce them to an almost whites-only affair and leave the lowest turnout at the Games since 1950.

Although a similar occurrence will almost certainly be avoided at Glasgow 2014, Stevenson said that politics has no place during the event.

"I've asked in meetings how we can expect the political issues to play out and that politics won't be put into the Games," he said.

"Athletes want to come in and compete, unencumbered by politics."

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