THIS week is the week we have all been waiting for - the start of the Commonwealth Games.

For 11 days the eyes of the world will be on Glasgow; venues will be packed, crowds will be cheering, medals will be won and we will be able to show the many international visitors how fantastic our city is.

The Commonwealth Games, however, are not just about sport. This is also a chance to celebrate diversity and culture across the Commonwealth.

At the same time as the Games, Festival 2014 will fill Glasgow with exciting entertainment and culture from Scotland and around the world.

From Kelvingrove to Merchant City, Festival 2014 will allow Glaswegians and visitors to the city to experience a wealth of music, dance, and comedy.

I am really looking forward to these events, especially with the newly refurbished Kelvingrove Bandstand hosting some fantastic musicians.

There are also some great family activities, so there is something for everyone.

The Commonwealth Games is also a chance for member countries to develop business links across the Commonwealth.

The Commonwealth Business Conference will be taking place at the same time as the Games, and Scotland will be able to showcase our unique produce and services, ranging from whisky and salmon to financial services and life sciences.

During the Commonwealth Games, there will be a focus on Scotland's obligation to the poorest in the world.

In my role as Minister for External Affairs and International Development, I will host a conference exploring Scotland's contributions to fighting global poverty.

We will also celebrate Glasgow and Scotland's strong relationship with Malawi.

I know we will all be cheering on Team Scotland, and I hope they win a record number of medals - they will make us proud.

AS we are seeing an escalation in violence in Israel and Gaza, the Scottish Government has called for a complete cessation in violence and encouraged international actors to intensify calls for an immediate, longer term ceasefire.

With the situation changing constantly, it is essential that the UN should be allowed to independently investigate all civilian deaths to determine whether there has been any violation of international law.

Scotland has shown its compassion and care by offering medical assistance to Gazans injured in the conflict, and we are currently in dialogue with the appropriate Governments and agencies to assess whether Scotland can give specialist medical help to civilians caught up in the conflict if medical evacuation is possible.

The humanitarian situation in Gaza is deteriorating daily and this conflict, as well as the blockade in Gaza, is exacerbating the suffering experienced by the people there.

Violence must be brought to an end and the blockade lifted to allow the situation to improve.