It was all about Andy – and tedious independence referendum bickering was not going to ruin the occasion

Yesterday was one of the hottest days of the year – yet millions of us, from the Scilly Isles to Shetland were inside watching the tennis, willing Andy Murray to come through and claim the Wimbledon title. Even before the match started, though, there was the usual tiresome bickering on Twitter about whether he was Scottish or British. For once I agreed with Scottish Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon when she said:

Our hot-headed friends on both sides of the debate on Scotland’s future would do well to take inspiration from Andy’s focused performance. No matter what Djokovic threw at him – and he threw some spectacular shots into the mix –  Andy’s head was where it needed to be. Actually, there are lessons for all of us in politics here.

It was a delightful moment when it finally came. It was the second time in my life I’d seen a British person win a Wimbledon singles title, but I was only 9 years old when Virginia Wade won the Women’s title in 1977. Yesterday was the first time I’d witnessed such an event  in a tastefully decorated room, away from the turquoise carpet and purple walls of the 1970s. It should have been a moment of unadulterated celebration.

Within minutes, though, the grousing had started and intensified when Alex Salmond unfurled a massive saltire to celebrate. I’d have done the same myself. Let’s face it, we had plenty of St George’s crosses in Tim Henman’s day. It’s fine. There were plenty union jacks and saltires in the crowd. Most people watching will have thought nothing of Salmond’s effort, but the febrile types who inhabit Twitter got into a very boring slanging match, with really unacceptable language being used on both sides. It is never ok to have a go at someone’s weight. If you search Salmond on Twitter, you’ll find some pretty horrible stuff.

On the other side, Better Together’s innocuous tweet of congratulations wound up some nationalists who couldn’t stop themselves from some vicious retorts.

We have 15 months to go until this referendum. The day after, we all have to live with each other whatever the result. It’s going to be an exhausting process if we can’t even enjoy a tennis match and be proud of a fabulous sporting hero without getting into a slanging match. Surely we all want people to take part in the debate about our future enthusiastically and without fear of being slated or worse for voicing their opinions.

Nick Clegg, by the way, got the tone of his congratulatory tweet absolutely perfect.

This time last year, Andy Murray had won no grand slams and was bitterly disappointed after his performance in his first Wimbledon final. Now, he’s sorted his head and his game out and is an Olympic champion and double grand slam winner.  Similarly, both referendum campaigns need to be better at relating to people. Only one side can win next September, but each campaign should be looking to put on  the most detailed, engaging, outward-looking, well behaved, positive and respectful show. Murray and Djokovic gave us a fabulous match yesterday. Both played some superlative tennis that was a joy to watch. Scotland’s referendum campaign is painful, even for those of us who are interested. It’s time to put the claws away and approach the whole thing with empathy and understanding.

And just as an aside, my co-editor Stephen Tall has hurt me grievously today by reminding me of my great age. He was but a mere babe when Virginia won, but read his post to find out how he’s been on the receiving end of some everyday sexism.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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9 Comments

  • “the grousing had started and intensified when Alex Salmond unfurled a massive saltire to celebrate”

    I’m not so sure it was massive.

    My issue is that when interviewed Salmond said he did not get to use his Saltire last year. If you support someone (or a team) it is as relevant to wave flags and cheer when they need picking up as when they need congratulating. Murray made me proud last year and happy this year. I have no issue with the Saltire and Union Flag being flown together or separately as he is both Scottish and British. If he decides he does not want to be thought of as British I will continue to applaud him as I do sporting greats of other nations but being English would no longer actively support him.

    So Mr Salmond, win lose or draw waive the flag for those you support. Only doing when they win seems a little shallow…..

  • It’s simple, as he won he is British, if he lost he would have been Scotish, 😉

  • The newspapers had to scrap their “Scot loses Wimbledon” headlines at the last minute. Just when they thought they’d get home early on a sunny evening!!!

  • But politics can and should be about passion sometimes, Caron. If the Independence debate were entirely focussed on the cascade of figures from both sides, to which really no-one knows what weight to put on any of them, or whether they will be short or long term in effect. So, in the end, you have to take a decision based largely on what you feel, which will often skew the way you interpret the figures as well. I know some debates are not all about passion, and it pays to keep your head and try to do a sort of SWOT analysis – I suppose the competent, and wise, politician knows where the distinctions are.

    And just in case people may think I am just a dry-as-dust politico with no other interests in life, I did watch the whole final – as I watched the semis throughout (and the Ladies’ Singles also, just in case I have everyday sexism levelled at me!!) I will not do a John Inverdale, I promise!

  • I think Nicola got the issue spot on. If you want to bring politics into this, then ask what can national governments achieve to sustain sporting success eg investing in grassroots.

    For what its worth, I hope tennis will remain one of the sports in the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and Murray can be involved on a joint ticket which brings the rest of the country to support our teams.

  • Sincerely hoping that Scotland votes to stay in the UK. What upsets me is that as a Scottish descendant I do not even get a chance to vote. I have (half??)jokingly indicated to my family that if Scotland does choose Independence, I will choose to become Irish (which I can do through my Irish grandmother).

    Anyhow, let us rejoice in Andy’s well deserved success as we can Scots, Irish, British – all together better as one nation, striving to make the EU what it should be.

  • Steve Comer 9th Jul '13 - 10:09am

    I think its about time for a ‘turquoise carpet and purple walls’ revival myself!

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