The Unionists are still desperately trying to turn the Olympics into a "Save The Union" campaign, with commentators and even cartoonists, getting in on the act. In April, I commented on an article by Hamish Macdonnell of the Daily Mail, which I thought was an absolute travesty of journalism but which is fairly typical of the tripe that had been produced on a regular basis until the Olympics started. Now that Team GB, as we have all had to learn to call Great Britain's Olympians, have racked up enough medals to place us in third place overall, the "Save The Union" campaign has gone into overdrive. Scots, either individually or as part of a "team", have won five gold medals, as well as a number of silver and bronze, causing some pundits to "wonder" if Scots would be as successful on their own. Not once has any pundit asked if the English members of the "team" would be as successful if the Scots were absent. It obviously goes without saying that Scots are merely there to make up the numbers, that they could be easily replaced by any number of English athletes waiting in the wings. Sir Chris Hoy must be very thankful he has been allowed to make his small contribution.
The whole approach of the Unionists in the "No" campaign really has sunk to new depths of pettiness. I thought Macdonnell had touched bottom in April when, among several petty and mean spirited comments he wrote, "The Jessica Ennis Test" - any Scot who cheers on Miss Ennis is British at heart and will take their Britishness into the polling booth with them and vote "No". But the one certainty with Unionists is that they invariably live down to expectations. Struan Stevenson, Tory MEP, tweeted, "Andy Murray great Scot and Olympic champion holding a gold medal and proudly draped in the Union Jack - eat your heart out Alex Salmond." Murdo Fraser, Tory MSP wrote, "As we watch Andy Murray singing our National Anthem, never forget there are small-minded Nationalists who want to destroy Team GB" Fraser obviously misses the irony of his comment. Not to be left out, the so-called Left, in the figure of Charlie Whelan, former political director of Unite, wrote, "Murray sings National Anthem and wraps himself in Union Flag. Alex Salmond will be crying into his whisky." Amanda Platel of the Daily Mail managed to vent her well worn spleen on Kim Little, who plays for Team GB's ladies footbal team, because she refused to sing the National Anthem, suggesting Little "should be ashamed".
Andy Murray has previously been the target of the "hate merchants" among the English nationalists, who condemned him for "not supporting" England in the World Cup. Thus it would seem Scots cannot win. If they win gold they either, have to observe the protocol of the playing of God Save the Queen or, refuse to acknowledge the anthem and walk off. If they sing the anthem - even hesitatingly as Murray did - they condemn themselves to be "British" and in favour of the Union, whatever their stance on the issue. If they do as Kim Little did, and refuse to singalong, the English hate merchants fill the airwaves and social media with their condemnation. Scots athletes have contributed to the success of Team GB at every level, but it would appear that they are there to be tolerated and tolerated, only so long as they display the required degree of "Britishness", which to the vast majority of English people means Englishness. Clare Balding, describing the small posies all medal winners receive, explained, "They are the essence of an English country garden." In other circumstances that would be a completely inoccuous remark and I have no doubt it was meant as such. But, when the political overtones are attached to every other aspect of the games, expect a degree of Scottish sensitivity that would otherwise not be there.
Macdonnell's article was headed, "Gold Rush could save the Union" and it included the following example of the type of bile to which we have become so accustomed and, which looks as if it is going to be continued. "For Scottish Nationalists, this clear cut issue (cheering UK athletes) is not quite so straightforward. They don't like the idea of a British team in the first place. Add to that the difficulty of cheering an English athlete...." "So confused will they become indeed, that many Nationalists will probably just opt out of the whole shebang..." "It is easy to see them retreating to their Saltire-covered basements to watch endless re-runs of Braveheart..." I am a hard-line, uncompromising Scottish nationalist, who has fought for the restoration of Scottish independence for my entire life and Macdonnell and the rest of the poisonous crew that make up a substantial part of the UK media, could not be more wrong about me and the vast majority of the type of Nationalists I have always known.
My wife and I have five grown children, all of whom have grown children of their own and all of whom were brought up in a sports mad household. As children they were all involved in sport and all attended the judo club at which I coached. There were two or three training nights each week and every Sunday, the entire club, seniors and juniors, did a cross-country run of between three and seven miles, followed by an hour at the swimming pool. In our house, that was followed by a substantial cooked breakfast which my wife had ready for us coming home. That kind of fitness regime was carried on into adult life and our love of sport has never waned. Having attended training sessions at Meadowbank with Brian Jacks, Dave Starbrook and Keith Remfrey, in the days when British judo meant something, I know exactly what the judo players did to prepare for the Games. Likewise, having participated in eventing, I know the courage and skill involved in winning silver. My wife and I have been glued to the TV since the Olympics began and have had absolutely no problem in cheering on English athletes, some of whom needed all the cheering they could get.
Jessica Ennis is the type of role model that any country would be proud to have, therefore the fact she is English is neither here nor there. When she, and many of the other athletes we have watched with admiration this past two weeks, is compared with the likes of some of the role models Britain's youth have had in recent years, we can only hope that at least some of her qualities will be aped by Britain's youth. Our admiration for Jessica Ennis will make not a whit of difference to our intention to vote "Yes" in the referendum. Unionists may yet find their pettiness will backfire as the Commonwealth Games fall due only weeks before the poll for the referendum. Scots athletes have done well in the Olympics, something which should encourage them to continue to keep up the standards they have achieved. If those standards can be translated into medals in the Commonwealth Games, the only time Scots get the opportunity to compete in their own nation's colours, Murray, Hoy, McColgan et al may be given the opportunity to be the first Scots to sing their own National Anthem, thereby giving encouragment to their fellow Scots to ensure it will always be their own Anthem they will be required to sing.