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Humza Yousaf

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When it Comes to the Olympic Games - Politicians Should Take a Long Jump

Posted: 06/08/2012 15:57

By any measure the level of home support for Team GB athletes has been astronomical, even watching on my TV in the living room the noise from Olympic Park, the Velodrome or the Aquatic Centre has been deafening.

There seems to be a collective spring in the nation's step which is rubbing off onto our heroic sports men and women with GB now sitting third in the medals table. Incidentally, it is also our Scottish athletes' best showing in almost a hundred years with our sports men and women notching up nine medals.

However, in the midst of all this collective euphoria, there seems to be politicians out there hell-bent on ruining the Olympic experience for all of us.

"Never forget, small minded nationalists are out to destroy Team GB!" came the apocalyptic tweet from failed Scottish Tory leadership candidate Murdo Fraser after Andy Murray's sensational thrashing of Roger Federer to claim Olympic gold on Sunday. Similar tweets have been commonplace amongst anti-independence politicians and commentators over the last week.

The truth is that London 2012 will not swing the referendum on Scottish Independence one jot. I am sure those who are passionately committed to remaining as part of the United Kingdom and those who vociferously believe in independence for Scotland will remain staunchly entrenched in their respective positions regardless of how many medals we chalk up. However, the undecideds, who may well hold the key in the referendum battle, are canny enough to know the debate is much bigger than what colour of kit Andy Murray wears.

That is why the latest poll, which came out during the Olympics and after the Diamond Jubilee celebrations, showed support for the SNP had risen 2% from our historic landslide victory in May 2011.

The vast majority of people understand that independence isn't, as our opponents incorrectly assert, about flag-waving, kilt-wearing or shortbread-eating romanticised Braveheart nationalism.

In fact those who believe in independence for Scotland, including Alex Salmond himself, have been saying for years that our cause is not about flags or anthems but fairness and compassion.

The referendum that will take place in 2014 is a referendum about whether we want to have the full powers to create jobs for our children, whether or not we want to rid ourselves of the obscenity of nuclear weapons or whether or not we should have the powers to create a welfare system that pays for work and doesn't harm the most disadvantaged in our communities.

Fundamentally, our premise is very simple, we believe in independence because we think every decision about Scotland should be made by those who care the most about the interests of our nation, which by definition is the people of Scotland.

So there is no contradiction in cheering on Ennis, Hoy or Farrah, as I have done over the last week and yet believing in Scotland's ability to completely run her own affairs, just as she has been doing in-part, since the advent of the Scottish Parliament.

Just as Murray trained in Spain with Rafa Nadal to perfect his tennis skills, I see no reason why Scottish athletes, in an independent Scotland, couldn't train in whatever city in the world that helps them progress in their chosen sporting field - be that within or outside of the UK.

The discussion on Scottish independence has a long way to go, but politicians of all hues have a responsibility to raise the level of debate. Arguing over whether or not Andy Murray's lips were moving during God Save the Queen is frankly pathetic. As a 27 year old, perhaps it is unusual for me to tell other politicians this - but guys grow up, get a grip and let us enjoy the Olympic Games in peace!

Humza Yousaf is the SNP's Member of the Scottish Parliament for Glasgow.

 

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