Scottish independence: rivals quick off blocks to claim Olympic gains

Picture: Reuters
Picture: Reuters
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AS THE Games drew to a close last night, the battle for the political legacy – namely whether it had been good or bad for the Union – was in full swing.

Supporters of Alex Salmond’s Yes campaign were quick off the mark to seize on a poll showing that more than one in ten of those surveyed were now likely to support independence following the success of Team GB at the London Games.

The Panelbase survey of 800 Scots found that 12 per cent of those interviewed said the success of Scottish athletes such as Sir Chris Hoy and Andy Murray had made them more sympathetic to the Yes campaign.

However, Labour MP Douglas Alexander, the shadow foreign secretary, insisted that the Games has been a “nightmare” for the SNP.

The former cabinet minister, writing in today’s Scotsman, said the Olympics in the UK capital had allowed Scots to “celebrate again what we share across the United Kingdom” handing what he claimed was a major propaganda victory to the pro-Union Better Together campaign.

Mr Alexander talked of an Olympic fortnight in which he said the SNP’s “story of separateness lost, and lost badly, not just on the TV screens, but in the consciousness of millions of Scots”.

The claims came after the UK’s greatest Olympian, Sir Chris Hoy, declared he was “proud” to be part of a British team alongside athletes from England and other parts of the UK, in his first comment on the issue of Scottish independence. The latest row was sparked by the Panelbase poll, which the SNP claimed showed the campaign for Scottish independence had a head start.

Just 29 per cent of those polled said they wanted Scotland to remain part of Team GB if voters backed independence in the 2014 referendum.

There was also a suggestion that Team GB’s sporting triumph’s has not bolstered support for the Union, with 80 per cent of those polled, most of whom voted SNP last year, saying that their views on independence had not changed.

SNP MP Pete Wishart welcomed the results of the poll that showed eight per cent of respondents saying they were now “more for independence”, with another four per cent “slightly more for independence”.

He said: “This is clear evidence that the puerile efforts of the anti-independence parties to politicise the Games have backfired.

“I’ve been delighted to support Scotland’s Olympians and Team GB during the London Games, and will be delighted to support Team Scotland at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, and at the Olympics following a yes vote in 2014.”

“With the gap between support for an independent Scotland and the Union now down to a swing of just 4.5 per cent, we are very confident indeed of achieving a yes vote for independence in autumn 2014.”

Labour MSP Richard Baker, a director of the Better Together campaign, dismissed the SNP claims about the poll that also showed eight per cent of respondents saying they were now more likely to vote against independence.

Mr Baker said: “Of course Team GB was a great example of what we can achieve together in the UK, which is why it is very hard for Alex Salmond to say more would be achieved by Scotland separating from the rest of the UK.”

Professor John Curtice, a professor of politics at Strathclyde University, said that the Olympics had reaffirmed the existing views of voters.