Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland
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Monday 25 August 2008

Hoy rubbishes idea of Scottish Olympics team

(Please see UPDATES at end)

Chris Hoy, winner of 4 gold medals and 1 silver medal at various Olympic Games, as well as being both British and Scottish has rubbished in no uncertain terms the demands by SNP Scottish Executive (aka 'Government') ministers for there to be a separate Scottish team at the 2012 Olympic Games in London:

Referring to comments made by Scottish Sports Minister Stewart Maxwell, Hoy said: "I think he needs to focus on some more pressing priorities,” said Hoy.

"Before there are any discussions of Scotland going it alone at the Olympics, he would have to look at the facilities and the resources which have been put into Scotland in the first place.

"We don’t have an international facility for cycling and we don’t have the coaching structures in place. In fact, we don’t have anything in place, so the whole idea is ridiculous. I’ve not lived in Scotland for nine years because there is nowhere for me to train. I’m a Scottish athlete but I’m proud to perform in a British team."

Similar comments have been made by another British 'Olympian' of Scottish origin, David Florence, silver medallist in the canoeing slalom:

"It’s a non-starter and he should consult athletes first before he comments. Scotland would have to build a new slalom course first and they would have to build a velodrome.

"I am very proud to be Scottish, to have been born in Aberdeen and have Edinburgh as my home town. But I am also very proud to represent Great Britain and everything that stands for, which is not just Scotland.

"I’m as proud to wear the union jack as I am the saltire. I don’t have a problem separating my pride in being a Scot from being British at the same time."

It is indeed pleasing to see some common sense from a couple of fine British (and Scottish) sportsmen, rather than the mindless political propaganda that flows from the SNP Scottish Executive (aka 'Government')!

Speaking of his desire to see a Scottish team at the Olympic Games, Scottish Sports Minister Stewart Maxwell said:

"If you look at Jamaica, a small island nation, they won gold, silver and bronze in the women's sprint, they've got world records, they've won the men's, the women's 100 and 200 metres and the relay.

"This is an exceptionally brilliant nation - at the same time a small nation. Scotland can compete on the world stage - we proved that in the Olympics - and a Scottish team at the Olympics is the future."

Asked what Mr Maxwell would say to those Scots who would rather see Scotland's athletes play a big role in Team GB, Mr Maxwell replied: "What I would say to them, do Irish athletes want to rejoin the UK and be part of the UK team?

"Do we want to get rid of the GB team and have a European team because a European team would sweep the board?

"So I think you have to think about whether or not it's appropriate in the level you represent your own country in. I think it's quite right you represent your own country."

I have quoted at some length what Mr Maxwell said, because whilst I disagree profoundly with his views on this matter I do not feel the need to run away from his arguments. The whole question, Mr Maxwell, is whether our fellow Scots wish to separate themselves from their present political arrangements with England, Wales and Northern Ireland as part of the UK and whether they are prepared in sufficient numbers to express that desire by voting in a majority for 'independence' in any referendum held on the matter. Or indeed if they wish to see further integration in Europe, such that all sportspeople from EU member states compete as one team in the Olympic Games. If they are, then your argument will have been won and presumably Scotland would then set up all the institutions of a fully-fledged separate country, such as the Republic of Ireland or Norway and no doubt that will include a separate team to compete in the Olympic Games. Would the SNP win such a referendum, though? I tend to doubt it myself, because there simply are not enough Scots sufficiently aroused by the issue to make them want to change their lives fundamentally. Most Scots are proud to be so, I certainly am! However, I am also British and am quite happy, and determined, to remain so. I have no difficulty distinguishing between the two sentiments, any more than David Florence does. As for the 'red herring' about one single EU team, well I think we all know how favourably such a proposal would be received by the majority of people in the UK or any of its constituent parts (not a view I entirely share, but I am above all a democrat and a realist).

Desperate attempts by the SNP Scottish Executive (aka 'Government') to use every event touching on relations between Scotland and England within the UK to try and sow discord, render them frankly boring in their obsessiveness - sort of like the political version of Tourette's syndrome or indeed OCD - they just can't let it alone. The Scots are a free people already and most of them are pretty sensible and level-headed individuals. If they want 'separation' or 'indpendence' or whatever you want to call it from the UK then rest assured they will vote for it. Personally I think it would be a far better test of whether our fellow Scots want this to happen if there were a mjaority of MPs elected to Westminster representing the SNP point of view. In other words the SNP needs at least 30 MPs at Westminster before I will have any confidence that this is what people in Scotland really want, rather than just being manipulated into some kind of decision in a referendum, by the shameless propaganda of people such as Maxwell or Alex Salmond (even if Gordon Brown is an easy target right now); Salmond is certainly a master political strategist, but 'con-men' and 'charlatans' usually have great PR skills and I would be the last to deny that Mr Salmond has those in spades!. (And before any SNP supporter takes umbrage, I do not suggest in any way that Mr Salmond is actually a 'con-man' or a 'charlatan' - these are figures of speech for someone who has, undeniably, the 'gift of the gab', as our Irish cousins would say.)

UPDATE: (Wednesday 27AUG08 16.35 RST) Well, this issue continues to rumble on in blogland - Richard Thomson trumpets what Chris Hoy, according to that 'journal of record' The Daily Record, really thinks of the idea of having a Scottish team at the Olympic Games; naturally I wouldn't quarrel with what that august newspaper reports him as saying, but I would just highlight one small part of what he is supposed to have said:

And he said he believes Scotland could form a world-class team - with the right investment in sports. (Reported speech only, no direct quotation)

And that really is the crux of the issue; could Scotland, as a nation, afford to put in place the training facilities someone like Hoy requires? Or would he have to continue to do his actual training elsewhere? Just as, I expect, many sportspeople from smaller (or less wealthy) countries take themselves off to places such as the US or Australia (or indeed England) where they are likely to find better facilities to allow them to maximise their native potential. And does any of this matter? For as Richard Thomson says:

"In the end, we come back to the fact that most athletes probably are more concerned with their sport than politics; that they are in the main proud to compete for whoever; and that what people see as the merits or otherwise of a Scottish Olympic team vis-a-vis 'Team GB' is largely a matter of conjecture and personal preference."

All very reasonable and I think pretty uncontroversial, given our deeply differing views on the basic question - the merits or otherwise of Scotland continuing to function as one of the two founding nations of the 'United Kingdom'. However, as I was linked by Richard for what I said above, I am happy to observe that whilst I quoted Chris Hoy's actual comments completely faithfully I am happy to acknowledge that the title of this post "Hoy rubbishes idea of Scottish Olympics team" perhaps over-egged the pudding a little, even if it would have made for a more cumbersome and less catchy title to have amplified it thus: "Hoy rubbishes idea of Scottish Olympics team until and unless the investment is made in Scotland to provide the level of facilities he needs to train to the highest competitive level". Chris Hoy did after all say of Scottish Sports Minister Stewart Maxwell's calls for a Scottish team at the Olymic Games: "I think he needs to focus on some more pressing priorities". Frankly, I couldn't agree more! Will the SNP let this topic alone, or any other where they think they can gain further leverage for their obsession with 'independence'? I doubt it very much. The basic argument has not gone away though and supporters of the continuance of the UK, like me, will require to maintain vigilance to combat the idea that the SNP and its supporters would have us believe that the ending of the UK is, with the presence of a minority SNP Executive (aka 'Government') at Holyrood, somehow inevitable. It is not - and the idea should never be allowed to take root, or go unchallenged, that it is. The time to discuss Scotland having its own team at the Olympic Games will be after a referendum has been won by the SNP to take Scotland out of the UK, if that ever happens; until such time it is premature, to put it mildly.

2nd UPDATE: (Wednesday 27AUG08 22.55 RST) It seems I have been much too generous in accepting at face value what Mr Hoy is said to have said to The Daily Record! It seems the quotes used were somewhat 'selective'! Here's a link to a Record article; I'll now repeat all the direct quotes attributed to Chris Hoy, just for the record:

"I was proud to represent Scotland in the Commonwealth Games.

"That's something I will always cherish.

"Scotland is part of Britain - they are not mutually exclusive. I'm a proud Scot and I'm a very proud Brit as well.

"For him (Scottish sports minister Stewart Maxwell) to call for a Scottish Olympic team at this stage is ridiculous.

"I wouldn't have three gold medals hanging round my neck if Iwasn't part of the British team."

Just to be clear, The Daily Record is not a publication that I read (or wish to read); indeed, before her eyesight deteriorated to the extent (as a result of the infamous macular degeneration) that she can no longer read newspapers of any kind, I banned my own mother from bringing her Daily Record into my home whenever she visited (I know, I must sound like a complete tyrant and a horrible son, and I accept to some extent the former, but I think I can state confidently that my mother would dispute hotly the latter), so quoting from that publication as I have done in this 2nd update can be put down to force majeure, something that will certainly require a good shower before bedtime! It is now even clearer to me than it was before that however 'reasonable' some SNP supporters or apologists may be (and Richard Thomson has certainly always seemed to me to be pretty level-headed, whilst having a very different viewpoint to the one I hold), it is necessary always to be on one's guard; they are fighting a 'war' and so must we, who support our country the United Kingdom; none of this should be taken to mean, or to imply, that I am not very happy and proud to be a Scot as well as British, because I am happy to be both and find absolutely no contradiction in this.

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