You can’t win these days if you’re a Scottish Nationalist trying to get through these British Olympics unscathed. On the one hand, you have the Telegraph arguably overreaching in its criticism of Salmond’s support for ‘Scolympians’ and then on the other you have the Scotland on Sunday claiming that Danny Boyle’s Opening Ceremony “will drive support away from Scottish independence”.
The attempts to politicise sport in Scotland have grown increasingly weary since the SNP, albeit tongue in cheek, laid claim to McFadden’s wonder goal against France and the Scottish press, like a pack of wolves, tore into Sir Chris Hoy and Andy Murray at press conferences just to generate a puff piece for their papers.
Let’s be clear, the Opening Ceremony was wonderful and Danny Boyle is clearly blessed with some sort of genius to achieve what he did, but the overblown rhetoric regarding its impact on independence doesn’t really match reality.
First of all, a cosy celebration of a very public 60s-esque NHS did not encapsulate the sneaking privatisation and broken promises of the past few years. The public health services is already cracking at the borders. Dancing nurses and a giant baby won’t change that reality over the next few years. An argument that a Scottish NHS is the only way to ensure a public NHS will be more persuasive than Friday night’s TV.
My favourite bit of the ceremony was probably the Industrial Revolution segment, with the sublime Kennth Brannagh as Isambard Kingdom Brunel leading the celebration of that part of Britain’s history. It didn’t have any impact on my intention to vote Yes in 2014 though as the Industrial Revolution will still be part of Scotland’s history come what may. We’re changing the future with this referendum, not the past.
The Scotland on Sunday also talks of “the love of a shared culture” as a reason why people will flock towards voting No after the opening ceremony. Perhaps, but people wildly texting and dancing to 70s, 80s and 90s music doesn’t seem very central to the independence debate from where I’m sitting, and I’m sure that happens all across Europe anyway, even if that particular segment of Friday smacked of a lamentable The Only Way is Essex generation rather than some sort of glorious British culture that we all share.
The strongest argument that Better Together have with regard to the Opening Ceremony is Sir Chris Hoy holding the flag aloft with Team GB parading in behind him. Big, powerful, successful but nice as pie, Sir Chris is that rare A-list personality that comes with a unmistakable Scottish stamp and an unmistakable British stamp on him. Alan Cumming and Alex Ferguson making their feelings about independence known doesn’t really add up to much, Sir Chris Hoy would be a different kettle of fish altogether, and the visuals from Friday won’t have gladdened many Nationalist hearts, from a strictly political perspective at least.
But overall, I’m not really buying the significance. I mean, Murdo Fraser is welcome to place his confidence that a 5 second snippet of Gregory’s Girl on prime time TV will keep Scots in line with the unionists, but I reckon he’ll end up having to work a bit harder than that as 2014 approaches and the debate reaches crunch point.
Of course, even if these Olympics give the No vote a boost, this is to ignore one equally crucial but more timely factor: Scotland will host the Commonweatlh Games in 2014, with a Scottish opening ceremony and Scottish athletes. Who would dare bet that they won’t have a distinctly political edge to them?
As for the next few weeks, there is nothing wrong with supporting British athletes, there is nothing wrong with supporting only Scottish athletes and there is nothing wrong with supporting everyone and just enjoying the show. Maybe politics should take a backseat during the greatest show on earth.