Pete Wishart

Political games

Political games
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Whilst everybody is enjoying the spectacle of the greatest Games on earth there is one group of people who are doing their level best to spoil it. If there was a gold medal for petty political nitpicking 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 over the last two weeks we have heard claims the SNP are opposed to Team GB and that every medal marks a death blow to Scottish independence aspirations.

They condemn the Scottish Government for wishing our Scottish athletes well. They then criticise us when a Scottish showcase is opened to fully engage with the Olympics. They scour 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 really beginning to grate with the Scottish people who just want to enjoy the Games free from politicians trying to highjack this spectacle for their own ends.

How people vote in the independence referendum of Scotland’s 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 have been cheering on Team GB till I’m 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 enjoying 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 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 a 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 does this mean that I have been 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 GS4 shambles, I have tried as much as possible to hold the Westminster Government to account – that is my job as an MP.

Olympic contracts are one example. The fact that Scottish firms got only 25 out of 1433 tier one contracts was a matter of concern for business in Scotland – just as it was for people in Wales who missed out even more. Holding Government to account is our responsibility and thank goodness we did.

But these issues have come and gone and within a few days so will 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.

Pete Wishart MP is SNP Westminster spokesperson on Culture, Media, Olympics and Sport