Forgive the parochialism and sheer bloody small-mindedness of this post, but it’s not me, it’s the nationalists (or some of them) wot done it.
2012. My memory of the London Olympics, fallible, but there you go … positive feelings all over the place. In fact, so positive and widespread that as Brit after Brit pulled a medal (it was a home games so to be expected) Scottish nationalism seemed muted for the three weeks of the games. When a Scot won one of the Team GB medals, of course there was celebration at all levels from the British Biased (sorry, not my word) Corporation, who went out of their way to highlight the individual’s success, backgound, celebrating locals and family etc etc etc to the Royal Mail, who painted a pillar box gold near the winner’s home for every gold medal won – there’s one about ten minutes’ walk from my house. The only tiny fly in the ointment I remember was the Scottish (SNP) government attracting some ridicule by setting up a Scottish Olympics base in London, for what purpose I’m not sure, perhaps the provision of recuperative bacon rolls for visiting politicians with free tickets, or hosting international visitors with some interest in Scotland.
Roll forward four years to 2016, and what a difference. The previously muted grievance machine seems to be in overdrive, sniping away at details I couldn’t have invented if I tried. Here’s my random selection as of today (I’m sure there’ll be more before the games have run their course):
- nationalist politicians who go out of their way to urge Scottish members of Team GB on and congratulate them when they win a medal but seem blind to other winners – a particularly curious one-sidedness when the Scottish athlete is in a team event and their fellow team members are from elsewhere in the UK
- when doing this, using the hashtag #Rio2016 on Twitter but apparently unable to bring themselves to add #TeamGB (I am assured this is Nicola Sturgeon’s practice although I’ve not checked). And here’s an example from Angus MacNeil SNP MP yesterday – ‘Seems this is Scotland’s most successful away from British Isles Olympics in over a century #GoodStuff 12 medals so far -one less than 2012’ (the emphases are his)
- today’s Herald – ‘Independent Scotland would rank 13th in Olympic medal table … after Scottish athletes secured a record haul of medals away from home.’ Er, yes. Something wrong with the word ‘would’ there I think. Surely ‘might if’ would be more appropriate, as in ‘might if a separate Scotland could afford the world-class facilities, coaches and sports science that the UK lottery funds’ (just waiting now for someone to pop up with ‘It’s oor lottery!’) [Update 17 August: Huffington Post, aided and abetted by some alert tweeters, has confirmed that the basis of the Herald’s calculation is wrong – a separate Scotland would in fact be 35th in the medals table]
- a moan from the ever-alert G A Ponsonby (anti-BBC guy) about the running order of BBC Scotland news, complaining that an Olympic news item took precedence over the possible closure of Kinloss barracks: this is the sort of micro-management of editorial decisions that nationalists want
- Glasgow councillor Jim Torrance, SNP of course, who wants more ‘Scottish coverage’ of the Olympics ‘not Pundits,’ pundits presumably being a euphemism for English pundits. Helpful souls pointed out to him that foremost amongst a number of Scottish commentators on the BBC’s coverage of the games was one Sir Chris Hoy.
(If you want more of the same search on Twitter for ‘scotland olympics’)
Perhaps Hoy no longer counts as a true Scot for nationalists, having taken what they’d see as the English shilling with his knighthood. Andy Murray has come in for a bit of stick too, having had the temerity to accept the invitation, and honour, of carrying the union flag in the opening ceremony (a.k.a. the ‘Butcher’s apron hated throughout the world’ to some SNP politicians – come in Paul Monaghan, your time is up). I saw a clearly emotional Andy mouthing the words of the national anthem in the medal ceremony after that incredibly hard-fought final against del Potro. Tennis boycott, anyone?
I’m not sure whether BBC Scotland has played a marginal and perhaps unintended role in all this griping. They seem to need their own correspondents – I’ve noticed two so far, one male, one female – to report on the performance of Scottish athletes in the games. That’s obviously not enough Scottish coverage for councillor Torrance.
I wonder whether any separate BBC Scotland presence is needed. There’s one team there, TeamGB, representing one country. Let’s have local, regional, home nation, whatever, celebration of success by individual athletes. But that’s as far as it need go. Personally, I’d criticise the BBC headline coverage as being too TeamGB-centred. I’d like to know more about winners and sports where we don’t excel. But more Scottish coverage from a nationalistic perspective won’t help that and will just add another layer of chauvinism to what is there already. In fact, just what the moaners and gripers want.