Whilst everybody was enjoying the spectacle of the greatest Games on Earth there was one group of people who are doing their level best to spoil it for you. Welcome to the UK Unionists. If there was a gold medal for petty political point scoring up there on the podium would be the anti-independence politicians and commentators. In rhetoric reminiscent of Labour claims that devolution would kill the SNP ‘stone dead’, time and again we heard claims the SNP are opposed to Team GB and that every medal marks a death blow to Scottish independence aspirations.
They condemned the Scottish Government for wishing our Scottish athletes well. They then criticised us for providing a Scottish showcase opened to fully engage with the Olympics. They scoured through ten year old speeches to misquote us out of context to prove that we’re pathologically opposed to the Games. They were even quicker off the blocks than Usain Bolt. Within five minutes of Danny Boyle’s fantastic opening ceremony, there they were, declaring game, set and match for the UK state.
All of it utter nonsense, and all of it grating with the Scottish people who just wanted to enjoy the Games free from politicians trying to hijack this spectacle for their own ends. And after all their incessant efforts, Guess what? Opinion polls show that if anything the Olympics have actually increased support for independence! Talk about getting it wrong and aiming that blunderbuss at the foot. Even when presented with this evidence they just can’t seem to stop. Gordon Brown and Douglas Alexander are the latest senior unionist politicians to forlornly mine this empty seam, using the Olympics, because they can’t come up with any compelling or convincing case for the Union themselves.
How people vote in the Independence Referendum will be dependent on many things. Should the Westminster Tories continue to determine Scotland’s future? Would Scotland be better off in control of its own resources? Does Scotland want to make its own peaceful contribution to world affairs without being drawn into illegal wars? These are the issues that will determine the outcome of the Referendum, not a Games, regardless of their scale or success.
And anyway, Team GB is as much my team as it is the most enthusiastic fan from any other part of these isles.
While I would naturally like to see a Scottish team march round the Olympic stadium under the St Andrew’s cross as an independent nation, I cheered on Team GB till I was hoarse. I recognise the immense pride of Scottish athletes in representing their country and of course they should be able to stand under their current national flag and take great satisfaction in being a member of Team GB.
As an independent nation we will be represented by a Team Scotland in any future Olympics. That is what normal independent countries do in international sporting events. But for now we are part of the UK and all of us in Scotland are enjoyed our team’s success, regardless of how we vote or what we think about Scotland’s constitutional future.
But probably the most ludicrous notion is that the Games has shown that we in Scotland will have to choose between being Scottish or British. This is a theme that has gained much currency amongst these anti-independence commentators recently and shows a singular, probably willful, misunderstanding about what independence is about.
What we want with independence is to complete the powers of our Parliament and take responsibility for our own affairs. We want to recalibrate the political relationship of the UK state and it has nothing whatsoever to do with ‘Britishness’. That is the social union and none of it goes anywhere with independence. We will still share a British island and we will still enjoy our fantastic relationship, heritage and British culture.
But in cheering on Team GB did that mean that I was entirely happy or satisfied with all the arrangements for the London Olympics? Of course not. Like the Tories in opposition, and more recently like Labour in raising concerns about the G4S shambles, I tried as much as possible to hold the Westminster Government to account – that is my job as an MP.
But these issues have come and gone, and so, unfortunately have the Olympics. In two years time Glasgow will host the Commonwealth Games where we will compete as Team Scotland. What is as certain as Scottish gold is that those self-same anti-independence politicians who have so valiantly tried to politicise these Games will be screaming blue murder at any perceived notion of nationalist politicisation.
But do you know what? Just as the London Olympics has absolutely nothing to do with the Referendum, neither will the Glasgow Commonwealth Games.