Douglas Alexander: Collective achievement of Team GB athletes brought about nationalists’ nightmare scenario
THE nationalists have worked hard at their story of Scotland over the last decade.
They have worked hard to harness to the cause of independence the confidence and prosperity built in the years following the establishment of the Scottish Parliament.
“Be Part of Better”, their slogan in the 2011 elections, captured their determination to try and make voting SNP the inevitable choice for voters with a sense of pride and aspiration for Scotland.
In pursuit of their goal – separation of Scotland from the UK – the nationalists have had to tell a story about Britain to justify the break-up they seek.
That’s why, despite their claims to be “positive”, they suggest at every opportunity that the rest of the UK is now so foreign in its values and so different in its outlook that break-up is not just appropriate but inevitable.
The problem for the nationalists is that this narrative of separation has never proved a winning story. It does not ring true to the majority of us because whether through reasons of family ties and friendship, an affinity with aspects of shared culture, or an admiration of shared institutions from the NHS to the BBC and Team GB, millions of us reject separation as our fate.
These feelings, held by millions of Scots, help explain why the Olympics have proved such a nightmare for the nationalists. It is not simply that their unwillingness to offer good luck to Team GB made them sound small, and their talk of Scolympians just sounded embarrassing.
Nor is not simply the evident pride with which some of Scotland’s finest athletes held the British flag and declared themselves proud to be “Scottish and British”.
It’s much deeper than that. This past fortnight has proved to be a huge cultural as well as sporting moment.
Many more Scots witnessed our shared history on these islands, through the industrial revolution, the celebration of our NHS, and a tribute to our pop culture across the generations. The ceremony was a celebration of the UK that inadvertently pulverised the nationalist’s narrative of difference and division.
No wonder they’ve been left spluttering defensively that feelings evoked by the Olympics are irrelevant to politics.
To make this assertion is to pretend that emotion, sentiment, and stories don’t matter in politics. Indeed, it’s to wilfully ignore many of the deeper roots of the nationalists’ own electoral successes over recent years.
Of course memories will fade. Of course the horror of unemployment and recession endure.
Yet, the Olympics have allowed us to celebrate again what we share across the United Kingdom – not because politicians demanded it but because we wanted to.
• Douglas Alexander MP is shadow foreign secretary
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