It was poignant moment that will stay etched in the minds of many of the over a billion people who were estimated to have been watching. As the world held its breath with excitement and anticipation of the events that were about to unfold suddenly everything stopped and the opening ceremony of the 20th Commonwealth Games were put on hold for just a little longer. Ewan McGregor then made a passionate appeal on behalf on Unicef. Asking us to remember the poor and destitute children of the commonwealth he suggested that we all donate 5 pounds to the charity. In a the next moment the stadium was ablaze with the lights of mobile phone and in a few minutes Unicef were better off to the tune of 3.5 millions ponds.
It was a brilliant moment and have come about by a pioneering partnership between Glasgow 2014, the organizing committee, and international charity Unicef. Sport has, for a very long time, been used to raise monies for charity but nothing quite like this has been achieved before. Applauded as widely as it was, the event has made some question and raised discomfort with many. The discomfort and unease come for some with the notion that, in some ways, it lets governments off the hook.
Over the last 4 years of government we have witnessed the living standards of some of the poorest people in our country being eroded away as a result of brutal cuts to frontline service. People on the lowest incomes have lost monies as benefits such as working tax credit and child benefits have been slashed. Many charities who provided a service to the vulnerable such as giving out hot meals and shelter have lost their funding and frontline services to the poor have diminished.
For many, the notion that vulnerable people ought rely in philanthropic giving for basic necessities in this country is deeply disturbing. Here in Scotland was have some of the poorest people in Europe, let alone the UK, yet we seem happy to let the Scottish Government to squander money on other things when people on the streets of our cities go hungry. The use of food banks has increased while, at the same time, in the last year 1 billion pounds of monies ear marked for anit-povery projects has been instead used to fund a council tax cut that will inevitably benefit the middle earners and not those on the lowest incomes.
We as a community need to keep up pressure on our government to help the poor both here at home and abroad. The coalition Government has maintained levels of overseas aid going to the likes of Unicef, but in the grand scheme of things, this is a drop in the ocean. How ironic is it that the opening ceremony of the games took place in Parkhead one of poorest areas in the UK. It’s a wonder how much the locals felt like giving as the saw the Queen being driven into the stadium in her chauffeur driven Bentley. Much as we must continue our charitable giving, we must also keep pressure on our governments, both at Holyrood and Westminster, to lift people out of poverty both at home and overseas and not to spend money on populist policy to boost their ratings at the ballot box.