Tavish Scott: SNP’s white paper drops a clanger

Tavish Scott. Picture: Neil Hanna
Tavish Scott. Picture: Neil Hanna
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ANDY Murray should be pleased; our government has kindly allowed him to chose which team to play for. So in the event of Scotland leaving the UK next year, Murray can be Team GB at the next 2016 Olympics in Brazil or Team Scotland.

This nationalist rule applies to all athletes. Those who train and compete south of the Border and who depend on National Lottery funding apparently will be allowed to make their own decision. A Team Scotland at the Olympics shorn of the gold medal potential of Murray would be somewhat depleted. So it appears odd that the Nationalist government, rich in desire to create brand Scotland, would turn down the potential to ensure a Scottish Olympic team is as strong as possible.

What next? Is a national football team now not necessary? Team GB at the Qatar World Cup? That seems implausible. Not because of politics, but the outrage of the Tartan Army. Just as manager Gordon Strachan takes the Scotland team on a run of four undefeated games, why would we wish to be held back by a stuttering English side?

These appear minor matters. Except they are not. More people spent this week dissecting Celtic’s Champions League performance than the Nationalist manifesto published on Tuesday. Apart from the nation’s enduring love affair with most sporting events and certainly football, the manifesto was a wish list of what might happen if Alex Salmond separates Scotland from Wales, Northern Ireland and England.

Policies such as an Olympic Team Scotland were offered. The SNP claims that, despite leaving the UK, Scotland will still be part of a national lottery. Scotland does not benefit from lotteries running in other European countries so quite why the foreign country that will be Wales, Northern Ireland and England would allow Scotland to benefit from a UK lottery is puzzling. This matters for sport. Vast amounts of lottery money are poured into athletics. UK track and field stars depend on it, as do many Scots across many sporting disciplines. So, with such a beneficial system why would the world of Scottish sport want to throw that away?

Launching a manifesto ten months before polling day is a high-risk strategy. This week many trees will be felled to promote analysis and commentary on the SNP manifesto. The independent analysis will be considerable. Universities may observe how thin the higher education offering is. Financial commentators will note that the budget analysis makes heroic assumptions. Parents across Scotland will simply wonder why the SNP, having been their government holding full powers over childcare, are offering something they could have started six years ago. That looks a real clanger. On childcare, the SNP has taken the voter to be stupid. Is this week’s manifesto a game changer? Absolutely, but not in the way Salmond believes.

• Tavish Scott is Liberal Democrat MSP for Shetland