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Olympic spirit could quash Salmond's independence hopes

With the Olympics over there is already talk of the legacy the Games will leave behind. Of course there is the sporting legacy but they will hopefully leave another legacy: in uniting Britain (Thumbnail credit Photo credit: Scottish Government)

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With the Olympics over there is already talk of the legacy the Games will leave behind. Of course there is the sporting legacy but they will hopefully leave another legacy: in uniting Britain.

There has been much talk in the Scottish press on the effect the Games will have on the independence debate and many thought there would be a positive impact for the UK.

This weekend we got the first real evidence of this. A YouGov poll for the Scottish Mail on Sunday showed that support for autonomy had fallen to just a quarter of Scots.

What made even better reading for the unionist camp was the fact that most did not support a second question on Devo Max.

The SNP will be most concerned though in the rise in support among younger voters for remaining part of the UK. Almost two thirds of 18-24 year olds supported this according to the poll. The SNP have pinned their hopes of achieving independence on the younger vote, and want to extend the referendum to include those under 16 to take advantage of this. However the poll proves the Olympics really were the break the unionists have been waiting for, however they must now take this chance.

Team GB has provided them with a golden opportunity and now they need to build on it. Ever since the debate forced its way to the forefront of people's minds, there were worrying signs. Support for independence was growing rapidly and there were two big problems for the "Better Together" campaign.

The first was Alex Salmond, the most controversial, but nonetheless talented politician Scotland, perhaps even the UK, has to offer. No other politician has been able to challenge him. Cameron, Lamont and Darling have all fallen short. But now they don't need a figure to match his charisma.

The memories of the Olympics and the real heroes of Team GB mean that people are not paying attention to his ridiculous claims. Chris Hoy even commented that it was inappropriate for Salmond to go on about Team Scotland in Rio during a time when Team GB was having so much success. If Alistair Darling were to be replaced by Chris Hoy as the frontman of the independence campaign then there would be no point having the referendum. Salmond's dream would be over.

The second problem for the unionists was that they were being beaten on a key argument. The nationalists had been saying the campaign should be about whether people wanted to be Scottish or British, not economic arguments.

So far the unionists were struggling to win this part of the debate with the SNP using various parts of culture to promote independence. Now though the unionists don't need to say anything. All it takes is to play back memories of Chris Hoy winning gold with his three British team mates, Murray winning at the All England Club, or Katherine Granger and her rowing partner winning gold to prove that dual identity does work.

The emotional scenes shown by those such as Hoy or Murray, the latter not known for showing such passion, prove you can be proud to be both British and Scottish. That is why this is a major turning point in the debate.

Naturally, as a Scot, I want the Commonwealth Games in 2014 to be a success and Team Scotland to perform well. But the 'friendly' games will not provide the same bounce or feel good factor that London did and the SNP will struggle to find anything that will match that.

This really is a golden opportunity for the 'Better Together' campaign and they must build upon it. The SNP still have huge questions to answer on currency, Europe and economics and at a time when they are facing questions from within their own party on NATO the pressure needs to be applied to put the 'Yes' campaign into last place and the 'No' campaign on top of the podium.


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9 Comments

Henry Hooper Posted on Tuesday 28 Aug 2012

This is very wishful thinking.
Does supporting the European team in the Ryder Cup make you pro-European in your politics?. No it doesn't. This is no different. Likewise supporting Scotland in the Commonwealth Games isn't going to make Scots vote for Independence....or do you as a Scot thats moved away think they are that easily swayed/ stupid?
Your reading/ interpretation of whats happening north of the border is heavily slanted (The Daily Mail...really!).
Can't you see that some enhanced devolution would KILL independence stone dead...but no you just follow every drip you're being fed by unionist media. (i.e all media...as actually none support independence) Ddon't you even get it that devo-max was a smokescreen that Salmond negotiated "away" for the SNP benefit..he's runing rings round unionist politicians and they cant even see it
Every paragraph you've written I've a problem with, and not just a little one.
These are the facts which though they dont get mass market exposure due to our slanted unionist media are the relevant facts that the Scots will vote for or against, if they ever get to find out.

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/05/10/1090492/-The-United-Kingdom-is-Over-Scotland-Will-be-Independent#comments

The media battle will invariably be won by Unionists in 2014, but with no other option (apart from the current unsatisfactory status quo), The Scots will eventually get thier independence. Its coming. When? should be the question, not if (unless someone, somewhere pushes up a devo (max?) something or other option

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RolftheGanger Posted on Tuesday 28 Aug 2012

A very misleading reading of the situation.

The Scottish self government movement is about practical issues of control of power over economics, taxation, jobs, growth, employment.

If anyone thinks that wagging some flags will divert the drive - they are wildly mistaken

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JJJP Posted on Tuesday 28 Aug 2012

@RolftheGanger "If anyone thinks that wagging some flags will divert the drive - they are wildly mistaken"

Oh, you see that's all I've seen Alex Slamond do every time he's talked about independence from the rest of the UK for Scotland (eg.trying to coincide a referendum with a battle Scotland won). That and spend extraordinary amounts on travel expenses to the USA and a London 2012 'Scottish Embassy' to big himself up.

Sport does have a major impact on nationalism (even if it's not decisive in the long term) eg. support for Scottish independence crashed for a time after their football team made an embarrassing exit from the World Cup many years ago. After all, a referendum only takes people's opinions on the one day they vote.

I have no problem at this point saying I am a Unionist, mainly through my experience of being from Northern Ireland (I am Northern Irish, Irish, and British). I am also an Ulster Scot with strong Scottish connections.

Funnily enough coming up to the last general election, if I had been in Scotland I would've voted for Salmond and the SNP, as a more 'local' party compared to the other national parties. However, seeing how Alex 'halfbaked' Salmond has behaved in government, I think the next time he faces an election he will see a fall in his share of votes (if Labour & the Conservatives can get their act together).

Why not have an independence referendum next May, Alex Salmond, or are you feart?

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Neil Johnston Posted on Tuesday 28 Aug 2012

@Henry Hooper

"or do you as a Scot thats moved away think they are that easily swayed/ stupid?"

This is a completely ridiculous accusation and I am offended that you would even suggest this. Of course I don't think the Scottish people are stupid and the debate won't be decided entirely on the impact of sport however it is part of a wider issue of whether people want to be Scottish, British, or both.

Just because I go to university in Engalnd doesn't mean I am any less Scottish than everyone else north of the border. I'm proud to be Scottish and Scotland will always be my home. Where do you think I live during the Summer?

"Your reading/ interpretation of whats happening north of the border is heavily slanted (The Daily Mail...really!)."

Yes the poll was in the Mail on Sunday but what you choose to ignore is the fact it was a YouGov poll.

Are you suggesting that even a trusted polling agency now have an anti-independence agenda despite the fact they carried out polls only months ago which produced favourable results for the SNP.

"Can't you see that some enhanced devolution would KILL independence stone dead..."

Yes I'm well aware devo-max would kill independence but I don't think its actually necessary and believe that if we are part of the UK Westminster should still retain some significant power.

As the debate continues I believe support for independence will fall as the SNP fail to answer serious questions on their policies.

You say it is a case of when not if Scots get independence, but when will there be another referendum if the 'Yes' campaign lose?

It is also more likely the 'No' campaign will win but even if they don't do you think the UK Government will really let Scotland break away without a clear majority and a large turnout?

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RolftheGanger Posted on Wednesday 29 Aug 2012

Usual Unionist misrepresentations, half truths and myth creation.

"That's all I've seen Alex Salmond do" Well, you have not paid much attention. The case is straightforward. Scotland is not well governed by Wesminster. Scottish and EWNI values are different and diverging. We need Scottish control of our economy, taxation and spending priorities.
These and other issues are a world away from flag wagging Unionism.

Salmond led a trade mission to the USA (a very successful one) as part of which he attended the premiere of the Hollywood film "Brave" as any elected First Minister would do. Similarly the Scottish Embassy is necessary to prepare for the resumption of Scotland's role in the international community. Good to see such necessary preparation being taken. If it gets up Unionist noses,even better!

Sport can influence temporary mood. That is all. Coincidence is not causation. The Scots team was poor - about the time thwarted hopes of a devolved parliament led to a temporary set back. One did not cause the other. Dream on.

The SNP Government remains way ahead of the opposition in effectiveness, popularity and likelihood of success. Whether Salmond personally is popular or not is immaterial. The Unionist idea that it is all a matter of his popularity is just daft.

Rushing a major constitutional change (which Unionists obstructed for decades and now demand tomorrow) is total folly. EWNI needs to get used to the impending end of the Union. Having a short, sharp crisis is the worst way to disengage peacefully and successfully.Just be glad that the SNP have more wit, foresight and strategic grasp that the moles of the Unionist parties.

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Henry Hooper Posted on Wednesday 29 Aug 2012

@JJJP: If sport does not have an impact in the long term on nationalism it doesn't matter...because the only thing that does matter is the long term. Trust me i'm from a country that has a huge amount of 90 minute Nationalists

The Telegraph did a great "expose" on the Scottish government on the expense bills (this isn't a one man band Salmond extravaganza as the media in general, the Telegraph and Daily Mail in particular would have you believe) ...it was about trade, marketing , the usual stuff that money has to be spent on by Governments, investment if you like...and your problem is?
I do have to agree that attending the NY premiere of a Disney film does sound farcical, but from what I've seen he probably has significantly increased the exposure and media coverage of Scotland and its situation and this can only be good in the long term and not just for tourism, which its unarguably hugely helpful for.
When you have Tory government & ministers, not just mildy but wholly threatening your country and its business foundation which its understandably reliant upon, you have to spend more time and money than you should and would like. Remember and don't forget this little nugget...the Scottish government are balancing their books the British government is not.
I have no problem in telling you that and it wasn't so long ago that I also was a unionist and was and still am in a strange way proud to be British (how can one watch the dambusters and not be?). So why am I now nationalist (note the small 'n'), well I've simply taken it on board that there a some things that are so important you just don't throw them away if you have a choice in the matter, care for elderly, free education amongst many many others which in my opinion are non-negotiable features of a civilised country. Another last week was gay marriage.
The priorities of the people in Scotland are quite simply diverging from those of the majority of the electorate in the UK and it is this simple fact that has turned me into a nationalist. Yep it's the British government and their policies has turned me in to a Nationalist.....couldn't make it up could you?
Now you can think what you like, but the SNP government have done a really great job in the last few years (how many citizens in Europe can say that about their government, Denmark's about the only one?) so more of the same please.
Rather than "half-baked Salmond" as you say, and it really grates on me to have to say it about politicians, but he in particular has done and is doing a stellar job..make no doubt about it...he's given the country another two years to convince the doubters in Scotland that this is the case. Remember the 2014 date was part of the SNP manifesto (..that's the promises you make to your voters and you don't break it, novel idea in the UK eh?).
The fear you are talking about is the fear from unionists party who recognise that Scots after having had another few years of extremely good government and it looks like a 100% Tory government with a Boris Johnson future will be imposed on them they will vote for independence. I love to repeat this and even though everyone's sick of it...it needs to be said again because plainly it keeps getting forgotten...there are more Pandas in Scotland than Tory MP's.
That's fear - and the unionists, all parties, know it.
When all is said and done..the best people to make decisons that affect Scotland are the people of Scotland. If there is anything at all wrong in this single principle can you tell me what it is and shoot me down in flames.

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Henry Hooper Posted on Wednesday 29 Aug 2012

@ Neil...tell me then, do you really think Scots will be swayed to remain unionist two years from now just because of the London Olympics way back in 2012. Really?. That's preposterous, surely you must be joking.
Personally, I can't for the life of me think why proposing the current status quo, which is basically unsatisfactory to 2/3rds of the Scottish electorate (and this is only 2012!...2 years to go) is the basis of the Unionist cause and future. The status quo is clearly not acceptable, so independence is the only option available to Scots.
The Daily Mails summary & analysis of content is the issue here not the YouGov poll itself. Except that is was carried out in the same months as the olympics. Read my earlier post...I'd probably vote unionist after watching the Dambusters, but would I the following day - of course not
Given that every story has two sides to it and whilst there isn't a single form of mass media on the side of independence, bias is severe and in its worst form is an inherent part of the DM and Telegraph. Basically to be avoided unless you're wearing BS goggles. Please put them on when reading these, most is diabolical and this article could've been written by them, hence I had to comment
I agree there are a few woolly areas/ Work in Progress with SNP's polices and that could be deemed an Achilles heel. With a party so focused on the main issue that unites them (and all the colors therein) they have massive potential for many internal issues, NATO, nuclear weapons, gay marriage being the most recent sources of discontent. I would wish for them to have a formal update on their manifesto in place a few months before 2014 vote, if for no other reason to silence their critics.
At the end of the day, If there's no mass media support for independence (i.e. Scots will continue to only really hear one side of the story, the unionist side), then I don't think it's very likely independence will win in 2014. However with a continued Tory government in London in the offing, not voted for by Scots..you just never know, so yes there will be another independence campaign because that would be part of the SNP's manifesto (say 2016?) and Scots will I'm sure overwhelmingly vote in an SNP government to protect them from the excesses of the Tories.
Some form of devo does sound like the right thing from a unionist perspective doesn't it?...I could see it getting ugly particularly with the DM and Daily Telegraph at the helm of UK public opinion.
From my perspective I really find it galling how a few extremely powerful newspapers have stunted discussion and debate and basically manipulated the UK public opinion with blatant lies and scare-mongering...not at all helpful. As a once unionist, now nationalist, my perspective and once respect I may have had for these newspapers has for sure disappeared.
Re: "It is also more likely the 'No' campaign will win but even if they don't do you think the UK Government will really let Scotland break away without a clear majority and a large turnout?"
There will be a lot of friction if independence won, that's for sure. If Scotland is independent it will need to take its fair share of the accrued debt, however by the same token it will have to take its fair share of the assets...no-one in the press is discussing this .....is that were you get the 'let' from? Otherwise I find the use of word let in the context you've used it offensive....If we are indeed living in a democracy, the UK government doesn't have a choice in the matter

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JJJP Posted on Thursday 30 Aug 2012

"Well, you have not paid much attention." Actually, @RolftheGanger, I have paid a lot of attention, mainly because I know how much Scottish independence would affect Northern Ireland and its status. I was simply making a reply to you saying waving flags by Unionists will "divert the drive" - both Scottish Nationalists and Unionists are waving flags as much as each other in this independence debate.

"Scottish Embassy" - Really? An Embassy? Makes it sound as if Scotland is already an independent country, not part of the UK!

"The SNP Government remains way ahead of the opposition in effectiveness, popularity and likelihood of success." @RolftheGanger, effectiveness, yes I agree, but popularity? I think you would need to show me an opinion poll that shows a majority in Scotland for independence.

"Scottish Embassy" - Really? An Embassy? Makes it sound as if Scotland is already an independent country, not part of the UK!


"EWNI needs to get used to the impending end of the Union." Northern Ireland Unionists have fought for over a hundred years to remain part of the UK (the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Ulster Covenant & Ulster Declaration is on Sept 28th), and there's nothing inevitable when you look at any poll results for Scottish Independence.

"Just be glad that the SNP have more wit, foresight and strategic grasp that the moles of the Unionist parties." @RolftheGanger, I watched a high ranking SNP MSP on a BBCNI interview, and his attempts to insult the intelligence of both the presenter and Unionist MLA he was supposed to be debating with were pathetic, so really I have as low an opinion of some SNP MSPs as I do of most Conservative MPs!

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JJJP Posted on Thursday 30 Aug 2012

@Henry Hooper

I see where you're coming from, and it's interesting for you to say you have moved from a unionist to a nationalist. I am a Unionist with a large U for matters relating to the 4 nations of the UK staying strongly linked (within a British debating arena), a Northern Irish unionist (small u) for internal NI discussion of NI remaining part of the UK (mainly because in local politics, big U Unionists often have extreme views), and a very small n nationalist in the sense of wanting the best for Northern Ireland and being proud of 'our wee country' within the UK ( and because I thoroughly enjoy the Ireland rugby team beating England, and I also look upon myself as being Irish as well as British).

In terms of sport, I do think the Olympics will have an impact on the Scotland referendum, as it will be happening within two years of the Olympic Games, which to me is the medium term (ie. under 5yrs). Once there is a 'no' vote for Scottish Independence, I don't see another referendum being held within at least 10-15yrs, and who knows what the world will look by then.

My problem with Salmond attending the movie premiere in particular, is his want to barge into any situation to make an overt political point (Robbie Coltrane made the same point I believe). He is only the First Minister of the Scottish Parliament, and so is still a step down from the Prime Minister of the UK.

Also, having had family who have worked in the Civil Service, I baulk at seeing Salmond and his 'entourage' spending money on Business Class and (allegedly) one 'luxury return ticket' to the USA, when I know Civil Servants of whatever rank are instructed to fly economy. Furthermore, taking flights to and from Edinburgh and London in my view is unacceptable at the high costs quoted by the Daily Telegraph, when I know that senior Civil Servants in the Scottish Administration are instructed to take the train for the same journey, at lower cost.

I can't help but smile at your mention of free education, as I'm sure there are many Northern Irish University students heading to Scotland this year to get that free education with their Irish passports (dual nationality). With Northern Ireland having such an incredibly high proportion of Scottish descent living here, due to the plantation of Ulster, maybe Scotland and Northern Ireland should be the ones joining together as a new country? (I'm not entirely serious about that).

"The priorities of the people in Scotland are quite simply diverging from those of the majority of the electorate in the UK and it is this simple fact that has turned me into a nationalist." Personally, I don't think priorities are diverging, especially if you take away London and the immediate area of the South-East out of the equation. None of the 3 major parties in Westminster seem to be catching the public's interest or views, and I think the fact that the SNP in Scotland have got the basics right in terms of what the Scottish public want while mainly English parties haven't yet in the UK as a whole isn't a strong enough basis to leave the UK all together, forever.

"Remember the 2014 date was part of the SNP manifesto (..that's the promises you make to your voters and you don't break it, novel idea in the UK eh?)." If I remember correctly, there was no specific 2014 date in the SNP manifesto. It was only announced 3 days before the election, after much pressure on the SNP, and so the 2014 date is not a manifesto commitment. If your party is based so firmly on one major achievement, ie. independence, it seems mad to me to a) wait another 3yrs to have the referendum you promised when you got into power, and b) not have solid proposals about independence, when you have had so many years to formulate them.

I still think it's a bit of a false argument that's made about how the 'Tory' government is the big reason for becoming independent. Personally I don't like any of the main 3 UK parties. Labour doesn't bother to stand in Northern Ireland, has always supported the nationalist SDLP yet can be the UK government of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, not to mention what the Labour party under Harold Wilson had planned for NI. The Liberal Democrats don't stand in NI either, and their policies and attitudes are not those you would find in NI. The Conservatives at least have always stood up for NI's existence, though they have generally done it for different reasons to many Unionists in NI.

As you can see, I don't have that high an opinion of the 3 big parties, especially when they get into power and no one in NI has voted for them, but I'm still a Unionist as I know that like Scotland, we both have devolved powers, and so can on the whole do our own thing, while also getting to vote on UK wide legislation. The Conservatives won't be in power forever (despite what they tell themselves), and so the argument falls through if Labour gets into power. After all, the last Prime Minister was Scottish, and that's never going to happen for a Northern Irish MP!

"When all is said and done..the best people to make decisons that affect Scotland are the people of Scotland. If there is anything at all wrong in this single principle can you tell me what it is and shoot me down in flames." I have nothing wrong in that principle at all. I would hate to have voters in England voting on Northern Ireland legislation! The only thing here is Alex Salmond's wish to have an independent body other than the Electoral Commission oversee the referendum, and allowing 16+ to vote. If he has such a big problem with the Electoral Commission, then really he should be questioning the validity of the elections that gave him and the SNP a majority & power. The same also stands for 16 year olds to vote I feel. Also, his desire to set the wording a vague as possible for the referendum question reduces my confidence in him and his honesty.

In the end though, I do have a great respect for Alex Salmond and what he has achieved. He is a masterful politician (even if I question the basis of his political beliefs), but in the end that could be the SNP's greatest weakness: that they are reliant on him alone for their public appeal.

A final question that I have been pondering is, what would happen if eg. the Highlands of Scotland vote for Independence, while the Lowlands vote to stay part of the UK, with very clear majorities and turnouts in both areas, while the majority overall in favour of independence nationwide is under 1000? Could we see a 'partitioned' Scotland??

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