The United Kingdom is united in sporting glory
We are only half-way through the Games of the 30th Olympiad of the modern era, and already it is clear that the medal haul for ‘Team GB’ is, quite simply, incredible. Our sportsmen and women have surpassed all expectations; they have given the nation a veritable golden shower of success after success. The demotic sporting feel-good factor has finally exorcised the ghost of 1966.
His Grace has been reading the Twitter streams of sundry Scottish nationalists, boasting that if their nation were independent, they would now have eights Gold Medals, ranked right up there with France. This is not merely nationalist propaganda; it is nonsense. Scotland has won only one solo gold: the rest have been whole-UK team efforts. While there is no doubt that the Scots bring much to the nation’s sporting table, it is not beyond dispute that replacements for team events might easily be found from the other constituent countries that make up the United Kingdom. It is, however, beyond dispute that Scotland could not achieve the same on their own.
And Scotland’s greatest contribution, Andy Murray, appears more than content to wrap himself in the Union Flag. That picture will present Alex Salmond with all manner of problems: the referendum on Scottish independence may still be two years away, but the glorious flame of these Olympic Games will not have been extinguished from the national psyche within two years: if England can still talk of 1966 a generation on, the whole United Kingdom will still be talking of 2012 a century hence. Like Chariots of Fire, it will become part of our islands’ history; intrinsic to the culture of greatness; an expression of national pride.
This is the United Kingdom united at its confident best. Following hard upon the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, the family of nations has rediscovered something of their combined greatness. When Queen Victoria celebrated her 60 years on the Throne in 1897, the diverse races, religions and cultures that made up the British Empire paid homage from the four corners of the earth. As Queen Elizabeth II has celebrated hers in 2012, those diverse ethnicities and religions now dwell in Britain: this Kingdom is an Empire.
When a man called Mohamed Farah, of Somali descent, can win the 10,000 metre Gold for Britain, we should be proud. When a woman called Jessica Ennis, with a Jamaican father, can rise to become the greatest heptathlete in the world, we should rejoice. Such exalted achievements are not made on behalf of England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland: they are uniquely British successes, transcending parochialism and petty nationalism.
So, when in 2014 Alex Salmond invokes the spirit of the Stone of Scone and rants on interminably about the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn, wheeling out the geriatric Sir Sean Connery to exhort the Scots to vote decisively for their independence, let them reflect on that picture of Andy Murray draped in the Union Flag.
Scotland’s history is inseparable from that of England: both have been mutually infused culturally, artistically, linguistically and spiritually, and the United Kingdom has been a powerful vehicle of assimilation. Scottish independence will lead not only to economic instability, but to relative global insignificance. And in the world’s sporting league tables, while the remainder of the United Kingdom sails, cycles, runs, throws and jumps their way to another golden shower of Olympic glory, Scotland could rightly be proud of their solitary Gold, ranked right up there with Georgia, Venezuela, Lithuania and Iran.