The Jaded Jedi

Journal and General Musings

Commonwealth Games a double edged sword for Independence?

31/07/2014

Gold winning Judo players - The Rennick sisters

Gold winning Judo players – The Rennick sisters

During the summer of 2012 the world’s focus seemed to land on London with a series of events culminating in the Olympics of that year. With the success of an exceptional Commonwealth Games, the start of the Edinburgh Festival and the Ryder Cup (to name but three) a similar spotlight is now being turned on Scotland.

Firstly, I would be the first to say these Commonwealth Games are the best I can remember – well organised, a high sporting standard and really enjoyable to watch. I’ve also been one of those irritated by the comparison (either favourable or less so) with the 2012 Olympics. They are a different beast with massively different budgets and ethos. For what it’s worth, the commonwealth Games has felt more representative of the underlying ideals of the Olympics. It’s interesting that the games can progress at such a high standard without the major corporate sponsorship deals, hoards of ‘hangers-on’ from the IOC and death by corporate hospitality which has often marked past Olympics.  Well done Glasgow and Scotland.

Inevitably, political and sporting commentators alike have commented on the feel good factor the games has brought to Scotland. Many have speculated on the impact this Caledonian summer may have on the Scottish independence referendum scheduled for 18th September.

To declare an interest, as someone who feels more British than English, I would feel a tangible loss if Scotland chose to leave the United Kingdom. With family links to Scotland and a great love of the country, I believe both Scotland and England would be diminished following separation.

Given that position, I took the opportunity to test Scots views on the subject when I visited the games last week. As the games have progressed, it has been interesting to follow the emerging debate on the impact of the games on any decision.

The Scotsman debate (http://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/top-stories/video-commonwealth-games-and-scottish-independence-1-3490864) made some interesting points. The suggestion that the Games were times to suit the referendum made by some seems to put the cart before the horse given that the games were scheduled over seven years ago. Of course, the referendum may well have been positioned by the political class to give the best chance of success. But is that a sensible stance to take? Is there real evidence of the undoubted feel good factor spilling over into the political arena.

The evidence may not be as strong as suggested. The Scotsman make the point that if the referendum was subject to such influences the ‘No’ campaign could have expected a boost when Scotland failed to make the final stages of the football World Cup. This wasn’t evident and many believe the expected tartan surge may not materialise. Others say decisions of this magnitude simply aren’t influenced by sporting success. Certainly, the undoubted ‘Brit-pop’ resurgence of 2012 didn’t stop the anti-government result in local by-elections or the UKIP surge in the European elections of 2013. The indications from England and elsewhere suggest the euphoria of the games diminishes fairly quickly – potentially before the referendum.

1930 British Empire GamesOne theme (reflected in some of the blog comments to the Scotsman debate) reflect on the origins of the Commonwealth Games which  began as the 1930 British Empire Games in Hamilton, Canada. Many of the strongest supporters of the independence debate point out their belief that Scotland was never part of the British Empire. It is unclear (at least to me) where the evidence to support this can be found. However, they believe it would be unthinkable for an independent Scotland to continue in an organisation which perpetuated the concept of the British Empire. It would be ironic if the Commonwealth Games which are reported to boost the ‘Yes’ campaign were to be the last in which Scotland participated.

One of the most striking memories I have of the Games is how all members of the ‘Home Countries’ were cheered with equal enthusiasm. I for one saw no evidence of ‘Anyone but England’.  Indeed, there was a realisation from all the competitors that there was more in common with each other than had perhaps been understood.

A private comment from one of the Glasgow council party indicated that the Games may not have been able to be supported had the UK not backed the bid. There was no suggestion that an independent Scotland wouldn’t have been a credible venue. However, there was doubt that the inward investment (much of which came from the UK as a whole) would have been available were other demands on the exchequer being met from Edinburgh alone.

Finally, the return to Scotland of those Scots who for whatever reason live and work in England, Wales or elsewhere has raised a strong belief that only some Scottish voices are being canvassed. I couldn’t help but contrast the ability of Australians resident in the UK to vote in their home elections yet Scots who have moved across the border have lost their franchise.

I believe the games have been an overwhelming success and I would be one of the strongest voices congratulating Glasgow in its achievement. But surprisingly, the resurgence in Scots identity brought on by the games has raised the question of what it means to be Scottish – particularly if you are a non-resident Scot.  These questions have not been lost of Scots living in the country. Ironically, the broader politics and questions of identity raised by the games could be just as beneficial to the ‘No’ campaign.

Whatever the outcome of the referendum I hope it isn’t the last time Scotland is seen at these games.

6 thoughts on “Commonwealth Games a double edged sword for Independence?

  1. veedoubleyou says:

    I beg your pardon? Best Games? How very dare you. Melbourne 2006 were clearly the best Cwth Games.

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    1. Jaded Jedi says:

      Well in my defence, I did say ‘the best Commonwealth Games I can remember’. Unfortunately, I missed the Melbourne games completely being out of circulation at the time.

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  2. Jaded Jedi says:

    Thanks for your comments Daviddrawsandpaints. As you say it’s good to have a positive debate about the issue. Although we take different views on the best outcome, it’s great to see a discussion that doesn’t dissolve into a simplistic Scotland v. England.
    It’s a major decision for all concerned. From this side of the border, I would like to have seen a more mature discussion (such as the points you make) from both sides which didn’t focus on mistrust or encourage divisiveness.
    And yes – Border Collies … the best !!

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  3. Hi JJ, I was pleased to read these, your, thoughts on the upcoming Scottish Referendum and the positive experience you have encountered at the Games here in Glasgow. I think it is brilliant that everyone in these British Isles should consider the ramifications and give their rational view.
    I may not be the best person to answer some of your questions but I will do my best from an equally personal pov.
    1. Your love of Scotland, and family connections, will surely not be diminished when Scotland chooses to run it’s own affairs rather than be governed from London. These things will not change, we will still be lovable and your family will most definitely not be different!
    From my perspective I believe that both Scotland and England will be enhanced, free to choose their own political direction, for that is what is really about.
    2. You say: “is there evidence of the undoubted feel-good factor” – I hope so. However, as the games are not over yet only time will tell. I would hope that Scots would get a collective lift and boost to national confidence from seeing an event well run and our athletes doing so well on the world stage. Wouldn’t you agree?
    3. Whenever I read anything about indyref on the Scotsman website I am struck by how pro-union it is, with the exception of articles by Lesley Riddoch. Otherwise the comments are, imo, virulently pro-union which is not a great surprise since all the msm in Scotland, including the BBC, (apart from the Sunday Herald, which earlier came out in favour for independence), is owned and controlled from London corporations.
    4. I can’t imagine why any commenter on the Scotsman blog would say that the “strongest supporters of independence …believe that Scotland was never part of the British Empire” They are speaking out of the top of their heads. Most Scots will be aware of our part in the building of the British Empire (I could expand on this if you like). It’s not, of course about history but about today. An independent Scotland would happily no longer be a part of that disastrous, and imperialistic, Empire (disastrous for the indigenous peoples around the world who fell under their control and had their resources stripped to feed that Empire). It’s interesting to note how many of those erstwhile colonies have now fought for and achieved their independence from “Great Britain”, usually with the spilling of blood. At least Scotland can do it through the ballot box.
    5. It most definitely won’t be the last time Scotland would take part in the Commonwealth Games. Like Australia, and Canada, and Jamaica and many others an independent Scotland would still be part of the Commonwealth, and therefore still able to take part in these Games especially since HRM Queen Elizabeth would be our recognised Head of State.
    6. I’m not quite sure the point you are making re funding of these games, but as I understand it they are 80% funded by the Scottish Government and 20% by Glasgow City Council with no funding contribution from the UK government, unlike the Olympic Games in London which received our Scottish contribution. It doesn’t seem fair but there you are. I am pleased that we did this by ourselves.
    7. I don’t know what Australian elections you are referring to and how Ozzys not living there were able to vote but it’s because our Referendum is not about ethnicity but about a political decision about who lives and works here it should be us who decide who governs us. Perhaps the many Scots who were obliged to leave Scotland in search of work (because there isn’t enough opportunity here in Scotland) will one day come back when they see a country run properly for it’s own people and not greedy elites in London are only concerned for their own selfish interests.
    Finally (you will be glad to hear) and as I described earlier, IT WILL NOT BE THE LAST TIME SCOTLAND COMPETES AT THESE GAMES.
    None of this, JJ, is intended as a criticism of you. I applaud your efforts to understand and hope that this response of mine helps in your understanding
    Best wishes from Scotland
    DAVID

    ps: I love your wee borders collie, the best dug in the world!

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    1. veedoubleyou says:

      Australian expatriots obviously retain their citizenship, and can continue to vote in national and state elections as long as they ‘intend’ to return to Australia within six years. Intention is of course a little bit rubbery, being a state of mind, and naturally one can change their mind. Incidentally, Commonwealth nationals can vote in British elections, including the indyref. So if I were living in Glasgow instead of in London I could vote on whether or not Scotland leaves the UK, but one of my colleagues born and raised in Edinburgh but now living in London couldn’t. That strikes me as a little odd – it’s one of the challenges, I suppose, of trying to unscramble an egg.

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      1. Erwin Gosselin says:

        I think I agree with veedoubleyou here. The situation you describe about who can vote doesn’t make any sense to me.
        I am French but live in England since 2010. I am permitted still to vote in French elections because as a French national I am still subject to decisions about my Country.
        What are the people who want independence frightened of… Of course if you limit voting to those who think the world only counts inside your borders from a decision you are (I think the English expression is) loading the dices.
        If your vote is not about ethnicity then all in the UK or Europe should have a vote – unless of course you think you couldn’t win that debate?

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