AFTER an intense period of blood, toil, tears and sweat, things have come to an end. Our representatives in the arena did themselves proud at a time when we could all use a bit of good news. And as Scotland’s representatives in Westminster, it has at times this year felt more like a marathon rather than a sprint!

I am not, though, going to talk about the House of Commons but rather our phenomenal athletes who did Scotland proud at the Commonwealth Games. Each one of them put on a hell of a performance and together have produced Scotland’s second-best ever result at the Games, behind only 2014 when Glasgow hosted the event.

The stories and spectacular results provided by the likes of Eilish McColgan, Laura Muir and Stirling’s own Duncan Scott will go down in history as some of our country’s finest performances but every single one of our athletes should be proud of how they did.

To even be selected to represent your country means that you are already among the best and nobody can take that away from you.

I recall of course the excitement that surrounded Glasgow and the rest of the country when we staged the Games ourselves eight years ago. The resultant feelgood atmosphere and the pride at seeing Scotland’s champions perform was a beautiful and inspiring sight.

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It’s a special feeling to see your country represented on the international stage. While we have to wait a short while longer to see an independent Scotland at the Olympics, events such as the Commonwealth Games show the vast array of sporting potential and talent Scotland possesses.

The beauty of sport lies in its power to unite and celebrate each other, both in victory and defeat. On whatever stage the competition takes places, there is a thrill to seeing your country on the big screen.

It’s exciting to see friends, colleagues and heroes compete to do themselves and their country proud. It also offers a moment to distract from life’s worries – when the game is running, nothing else matters.

All this success does not happen overnight of course. Years of time and effort are dedicated to getting to the stage where you can compete with other world-class athletes.

No man is an island and just as it takes many to build a successful nation, so it requires a team to take an athlete from good to brilliant.

It is surely no co-incidence that many of our athletes who participated in the Games benefited from incredible sports facilities at their universities and in their local communities. Through investing in our future all those years ago, we as a nation and they as athletes, have reaped the rewards.

Stirling University in my constituency has delivered astonishing success in itself. Although it isn’t one of the five ancient universities what it lacks in age it more than makes up for in delivering for Scotland’s future.

Its incredible sports facilities saw the university named as the Sports University of the Year for 2020. All the investment has paid off, with Stirling sending 20 athletes to the Games from five nations and winning nearly a dozen medals.

Given that Scotland ended up with a final total of 51 medals, I think Stirling University deserves a special shout-out for its contribution!

Yet just as our athletes have had to be disciplined and sacrificed so much to get to the stage of competing on the world stage, so we in the Yes movement must be aware of the challenges we face.

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It is not enough just to turn up on the day and expect victory. We need to remain disciplined and focused on the big prize, working every day even when it doesn’t make headlines.

Step by step, door by door, we need to continue persuading others to our cause and that our future lies as an independent country in Europe. So as we celebrate Scottish success at the Games in Birmingham let’s also take inspiration from them.

Each and every one of them has shown how Scotland can punch above its weight in sport and in the world at large.

As we head into the final stretch let’s keep the heid, keep disciplined and keep focused on the finish line – then we will win the golden prize of independence.