Friday, 12 July 2013

Andy Murray, Alex Salmond and the Scotland flag



The achievement of Andy Murray in securing his second Grand Slam victory last Sunday is something of which every Scot can be proud.

The fact Murray’s win over Novak Djokovic came at Wimbledon was all the more pleasing, given it is as close as he will get to a home tournament in top-flight international tennis, and it had been 77 years since a man from the British Isles had triumphed on the grass-courts of west London.

On one of the hottest days of the year in Scotland, many stayed indoors to watch Murray’s three-hour, straight-sets win over Djokovic, the world Number 1. Scottish support for Dunblane-born Murray far outstripped actual interest in the sport of tennis, but that could change, given we now have such a high-profile and successful player.

Of course, in general, support for Murray was also strong in England, where the fact he is Scottish was not allowed to detract from his achievement in ending the very long wait for a ‘British’ male Wimbledon champion – all the way back to Fred Perry in 1936.

It would be churlish to deny a share of Andy Murray’s victory to our English neighbours – but, equally, it would be wrong to gloss-over the horrible, nasty Tweets from a section of the English public, which took delight in disparaging Murray’s Scottishness prior to the final, and hoping that the “Jock c*** gets hammered by Djokovic”. Believe me, that was one of the least-offensive of the anti-Murray (anti-Scottish) Tweets amongst a very large number posted on the social media site.

Some would attempt to defend such English attacks on Murray as all that he can expect, given he once said he would support “any country playing England” in a football World Cup where Scotland was not competing. He was 19 years-old at the time, and the answer could have come from the lips of many (if not most) members of the Tartan Army, including me. There is a very long explanation – spanning 300 years of the British Union – that puts in context the difficulty many Scots have in supporting England, at anything. To cut a long story short, it comes down to Scotland having been effectively colonised and run by England since 1707, with the result that we are happy to see our colonisers get their comeuppance on the sporting field, even on the occasions where we have to take our pleasure vicariously.

None of the above in any way justifies the disgraceful abuse directed at Andy Murray on Twitter. Thankfully, though, the Scot responded perfectly by winning the Wimbledon final and ramming-shut the foul mouths of his cyber-attackers.

However, that was not the end of the Scottish/English/British ‘controversy’ relating to Andy Murray’s victory. In the VIP section (it might actually have been the Royal Box) at Centre Court, the Scot was cheered-on by David Cameron, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and, sitting one row behind, by Alex Salmond, First Minister of Scotland. As Murray clinched the match and the championship, the BBC cut to a shot of Cameron in the crowd. There is every chance the BBC Sport producer who controlled the camera feeds had no idea who the man behind Cameron was, the man with a beaming smile and a Scotland flag.

Surely it is perfectly understandable for the First Minister of Scotland to celebrate such a fantastic sporting achievement by a Scot, and if anyone has the right to wave a Scottish flag on such an occasion, then surely no-one could object to it being done by the elected First Minister of the country?

Well, actually, the ‘Tame Jock Cringe’ exhibited by some members of British unionist political parties apparently knows no bounds. Rather than celebrate Andy Murray’s sensational win, some Scots representing British parties focussed on Alex Salmond and took exception to Scotland’s First Minister waving Scotland’s flag as a Scotsman secured victory on an international sporting stage.

Willie Bain (apparently he is a Labour MP) was reported saying, “In my experience, real tennis fans support their favourite players for who they are and how they play - let's keep the stunts out of it.” So, Scotland’s First Minister proudly waving the flag of Scotland is a ‘stunt’. Only in the very small mind of a cringing Tame Jock could a Scottish flag flying to signify a Scottish sporting victory be construed as something negative.

But Mr Bain’s comments were not the worst in the self-loathing stakes. Alistair Carmichael (apparently he is a Lib Dem MP) actually went as far as complaining to the organisers of the Wimbledon tournament, asking, “next year, can you please search him [Alex Salmond] more carefully”.

Perhaps Mr Carmichael or his British unionist party would care to expand on why the flag of Scotland should be confiscated from the First Minister of Scotland as he goes about his legitimate business of advancing Scotland’s interests or even just supporting a very talented Scottish sportsman?

On September 18 next year we have the opportunity to re-take Scotland’s political independence. Not only will independence allow us to govern our own country in the interests of the people of Scotland, it will see us re-take our place on the world stage as a normal, independent nation. No longer would we feel the need to define ourselves in terms of our larger neighbour to the south. No longer would England be in a position to dominate and run Scotland. Perhaps, then, when Scots can stand proud as the people of an independent country, we can also be confident enough in ourselves to support England in the World Cup (if Scotland hasn’t qualified) – and perhaps people like Willie Bain and Alistair Carmichael might find some self-belief and pride in their country, assuming they accept Scotland is a country and not just a region of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

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