So that’s the Olympics up and running and the biggest show on earth is underway. Already it seems like the whole nation is gripped on the prospects for team GB and enjoying the spectacle of the world’s greatest athletes participating in the greatest sporting event in the world.
And what a treat Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony was. In an emotionally charged, frenetic spectacle he seemed to sum up a cultural history of Britain that all of us were seamlessly able to relate to. In his vision of this new Jerusalem he took us on a cultural tour de force that united Brunel with the Arctic Monkeys. It was as audacious as it was breathtaking.
Almost predictably though some politicians couldn’t resist trying to politicise the event and use it to make their own observations about modern Britain. First up was a little known Tory MP, Aidan Burley, who took it as an opportunity to lament what he saw as the excesses of multicultural Britain. In a series of ill-considered tweets he found himself totally outside the mainstream popular response, bemoaning the show as a left wing, multicultural conspiracy.
Predictably, he was followed by Scotland’s unionist politicians who seemed bizarrely to suggest that this show undermined the case for Scottish independence. Unable to make any cogent case for the retention of the UK themselves they hijacked this show for their own narrow political ends. What they of course failed to appreciate is that what we saw was the social union in action. Danny Boyle produced an attractive culmination of the 300 years that we have shared and built together on these islands, and none of this disappears with Scottish independence. In fact it will instead be enhanced and re-energized as we rebuild new British partnerships based on equality and mutual respect.
These unionists also fail to appreciate that independence is all about recalibrating the political relationship of the United Kingdom. What we want is to complete the powers of our Parliament, bring decision making home to Scotland and make our own peaceful contribution to world affairs. Probably the biggest irony is that the strong social ethos of Friday, particularly the feature on the NHS, is being undermined by a Conservative Government we didn’t vote for and with whom Labour believes Scotland is better together!
We relate to what we saw on Friday because Scotland is culturally secure with a powerful sense of itself. Britishness is one of our many identities and one that will be forever cherished in an independent Scotland.