High Ground edition 5; dateline 3 May 2011

And they’re off: the 2011 Scottish election runners and riders

It’s all about to kick off up here with another round of elections to the Scottish Parliament and a challenge to see just how many sporting metaphors we can mix in one paragraph. MacSideliner has had a peek at the manifestos, as some policy wonk at SportScotland surely has done this time just so they are not left in the gate as they were at the 2007 elections when they misread, or maybe never even read, the polls ahead of the ballot and were caught with their pants down when the winning party, the SNP, were found to have included the phrase “abolish SportScotland” in their party manifesto. Surely there can be no repeat of that sensational own goal?

So what do the parties say about sport? The good news is that they are all saying a bit more than they did four years ago, with the SNP saying the most and having sport references pretty early on in their thumping good read (other thumping good reads are available). Sport is in the contents page, first jumps out on page seven and then has its own detailed spread on page 32 of 44. The SNP’s main contenders, Scottish Labour, take a slightly different tack with various references around health and activity here and there in their manifesto, leaving the more meaty sport content to the end of a much lengthier overall manifesto, which weighs in at around 90 pages. The Lib Dems and the Tories are both more Spartan as you might expect, with the Lib Dems going for a light touch and the Tories getting all outdoorsy and fresh-air-fiendy (not exactly their words but you get the idea).

There has always been and will always be a strong link between sport and nationalism; think Nelson Mandela and the makeover of the South African rugby team. If you haven’t seen it, try Invictus on DVD. Its’ highly recommended; the sport scenes are better than Escape to Victory I can assure you. This nationalist tie-in makes things relatively easy for the ScotNats most of the time as they simply have to ask the voting public, do you want your team (the one in the Scottish jersey) to win? That’s a harder gig for the Unionist parties due to the “Britain is England” media coverage that sometimes occurs. However, the SNP don’t get it all their own way as when it comes to the 2012 Olympics and its position it can be difficult not to sound a wee bit churlish, saying, we want our money (and by that we mean the funds diverted from Scotland to 2012) back so that we can use it mainly for the 2014 Commonwealth Games legacy. Glasgow 2014 is “oor” international multi-sport event and whether the money should be returned or not is a subject in its own right but its hard not to sound gripey all the same. It’s a bit like when your neighbour borrows the barbeque, doesn’t give it back and invites you over on a nice summer evening and you have to make polite conversation. Always a tricky one.

According to the pundits this an election based more on personalities than policies so MacSideliner decided to have a look at this angle based on the politicians and some of the sporting personalities the parties have lined up for the contest, not forgetting their interesting manifesto ideas. So let’s look over the form book of the political runners and riders:

Hearts supporter, Tartan Army foot soldier (not joking – Google Alex Salmond in tartan top hat and see what comes up), decent golfer by the look of his swing but will always struggle to make the weight and be subject to the “who ate all the pies” terracing chants, although he would probably simply say, “It was me; any more left?” Fierce competitor who should never be counted out. 
Celebrity sporting endorsement? Probably Craig Brown, former Scotland international team football manager (actual title ‘head of coaching and football development’ – the SFA always like to get their money’s worth). The nationalists have focused on a luvvy-related charm offensive targeting real actors rather than the play actors from the sports world.
Interesting  ideas: community sports hubs and community ownership of local sports facilities

The Labour Leader is a quiet competitor who was first to don a Scotland football tracksuit at a recent election publicity event. He looked the part although I didn’t see his ball skills in close up or replay. Certainly managed to get into the trackie which may put him a few points ahead of Alex.
Celebrity sporto? Well usually at some point Labour pull in the big gun, the really big gun, of Sir Alex, Fergie, Boss, the Govan Gaffer to tell everyone that he is pwoud, pwoud, very pwoud to be supporting Labour and why being a successful Scot in Manchester is a good thing. Oh yes.
Interesting ideas: reinvigorating the Active Schools network and bringing forward a sport bill in the next parliament.

The Liberal Democrat’s leader has opted for photo opportunities with himself riding quad bikes in the great outdoors looking like a Putinesque action man but, thankfully, keeping the shirt on at all times.
Celebrity sportinista? MacSideliner fell into the “don’t knows” on this one. Difficult to think who it could be. Perhaps footballer Maurice Johnston, famous for appearing not to know which “team I’ve always wanted to play for” at various times in his career.
Interesting ideas: develop a Scotland-wide school Olympics and support the involvement of democratic community organisations and co-operatives in the governance of football and other sports. Honestly!

The Scottish Tory leader has big respect. She has made no effort to try and look like she has sporting credentials. She could get away with the look of a Commonwealth Games bowls champion though and has the confidence to carry it off. She has also scored the goal of the tournament, or rather the try. Her celebrity sports supporter is no less than Gavin Hastings, Big Gav, former captain of Scotland and the British (and Irish, shh) Lions. She and Gavvo did a PR shoot where they both displayed pretty good handling and passing skills.
Interesting ideas: a £2 million charitable trust fund to give all pupils aged 11 to 15 one full week of residential outdoor education. Sponsored bike schemes in towns and cities to encourage more cycling.

The Scottish Greens co-convenor hasn't said too much on the sports front but what he has is pretty OK stuff. No celeb sport endorsement as you’d expect from the Greens but you might have half expected Sir Chris Hoy as he is never off a bike. The knighthood probably put a spoke in that one though.
Interesting ideas: an entitlement for pre-school and primary pupils to have at least two hours of outdoor education at least once a week and a commitment to developing opportunities for education in the outdoors and out of school, equivalent to at least one half-day a week based on the Norwegian model. Continue to support the Active Schools Programme to increase the opportunities for young people to try a variety of physical activities. (He said quite a lot there actually!)

The feisty Independent ex-PE teacher, supporter of grassroots sport and friend of The Leisure Review is standing again for election. As convenor of the cross-party group on sport in Holyrood she has used her position to campaign for the community and local clubs to have better access to schools’ sport and exercise facilities. Here is what Margo says she has done already and you better listen up at the back: “I won an extra £400,000 for Midlothian's ski centre so pupils across the Lothians can learn to ski. I won a government pledge to renegotiate PFI/PPP contracts where possible. And everyone loves a winner...” Actually she never said that last bit.
Celebrity endorsement? Margo is a celebrity in her own right.
Interesting ideas: If re-elected she will continue to promote exercise for all and Exercise on Prescription for older people in particular.

Flying the flag (but which one?)
Just a last quickie for this month. The royal nuptials (you might have caught these on telly while flicking through the channels looking for Trisha repeats) brought into focus the odd identity crisis moment for Scottish punters and probably some of our politicians too. Some guy called William, whose pater is a Prince of Wales, who attended St Andrew’s University and played rugby for Scottish Universities, possibly because his auntie is the patron of the Scottish Rugby Union, was getting hitched in London. Although this William is a bit of an ordinary bloke, he is also known as the Duke of Cambridge, except when in Scotland where he is the Count of Strathearn. Sounds like an ideal profile of a rugby player for the ‘modern’ game and he even invited Brian O’Driscoll (real rugby royalty) to the wedding. At this point you might like to consider what a future King William would be known as by some ‘football supporters’ in Scotland but, with football managers and others being sent explosive devices through the post, MacSidey can’t quite see a funny side on this occasion. Of course, depending on how elections go here imminently and thereafter, perhaps in the near future the new king’s name line might be irrelevant rather than irreverent.





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