Sunday, 16 September 2012

Bursting Salmond's Baloon

Alex Salmond was jeered when he appeared in front of the crowds welcoming Scotland's Olympians and Paralympians in Glasgow on Friday.

So, just like Gideon Osborne, a crowd jeered at Alex Salmond.

To quote yesterday's Times, "Returning athletes were greeted like rock stars, but Alex Salmond was jeered by the crowd."

This must have been all the more galling because Lord Moynihan, a sports minister under Margaret Thatcher, the sort of Tory who usually gets a knee jerk negative reaction north of the border, was cheered onto the stage and "when he was followed by Mr Salmond the boos rang out".

Now I don't really know what the significance of this is, I don't really know why they booed him, or how much of the crowd booed him.  However what I do know is this: the SNP have really gone through agonies this summer over their identity.  First they were faced with the royal pageant fest that was the Jubilee of someone who is our monarch too - and a popular one at that!  Then they were faced with an Olympics held in our country.  Then they were faced with the success of those games and of Team GB.  And finally the whole thing was repeated again - successfully - with the Paralympics.

Many Scots were to the fore in these games, often succeeding as part of a team or a pairing with fellow countrymen and women from all corners of Britain.  We are both British and Scottish.  Something most of us instinctively understand and are totally comfortable with.  True some are more Brit than Scot, others more Scot than Brit, but we are British as well as Scottish nonetheless.

The referendum is about identity as much as anything else and it is deeper, more complex and ultimately more interesting than a narrow nationalism can accept.

I believe even the more considered and developed ideas of Scottish nationalism that have been expressed are, in the final analysis, quite narrow and limiting too.

Salmond was booed after a summer where he seemed to try to avoid the words Great Britain or Team GB.  After a summer where much of the pro nat chat on social media like Twitter was along the lines of 'it will never work', 'its all far too superficial and commercial' and 'I feel in no way British', then grudgingly admitting, 'I do feel British' but quickly adding that that's a social union - and 'err yes, I really enjoyed the Olympics'.

Perhaps this is why Salmond was jeered by Scots in Glasgow on Friday.

This summer has also been full of hype.  Yes hype for the Jubilee and then the London Olympics, but also hype for the never ending referendum and the cause of an independent Scotland.

There is also all the hype against Osborne symbolised by his boo-boy moment earlier.  The economy is struggling and there are things you can criticise Osborne for, and there are aspects of his approach open for debate.  But like other western economies he faces the issues of a massive structural deficit, sovereign debt challenges and chronic low growth.  There was a strong consensus in 2010 over what needed to be done and some realisation that there was little flexibility to allow for any panacea of easy growth solutions. 

Jeff Breslin writing at Better Nation touched on an aspect of this consensus as it affects Scotland, 

'The Scottish economy’s fortunes are currently noticeably clearly intertwined with the rUK economy’s, making a mockery of the back-and-forth breast-beating between Governments over which is doing marginally better than the other"'

"After all, what is Alex Salmond proposing – a low tax, fiscally conservative, light touch economy. It won’t be music to many Nats’ ears, but you’d struggle to fit too many Rizla papers between Osborne’s vision for the UK and the SNP’s apparent vision for Scotland."

Perhaps the significant thing about people booing Salmond is that helps to burst some of the hype.

Salmond is not our 'Dear Leader' - he is a politician with an agenda.  And most Scots do not support that agenda.  And furthermore there are more issues that face us than Scotland's national question and we are not on the march to inevitable independence.

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