Scotland politics

Scottish independence: Do politics and sport mix?

Former Scottish first minister Lord McConnell has called on both sides of the independence debate to declare a "truce" during this summer's Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

He is worried politicians may try to hijack the sporting event ahead of the referendum on 18 September.

However, Scotland's sports minister, Shona Robison, said she did not share the concern about the Games which begins on 23 July and runs for 11 days.

But do sport and politics really mix? Here is a look at some examples......


Image caption Alex Salmond held aloft the Saltire flag after Andy Murray won his first Wimbledon

Andy Murray's victory at last year's Wimbledon was a great Scottish and British sporting triumph, and both First Minister Alex Salmond and Prime Minister David Cameron were there to cheer on the Dunblane megastar.

Mr Salmond celebrated by bringing out a Scottish Saltire, in full view of the world's TV cameras, which had been stashed in his wife Moira's handbag.

Some national newspapers criticised the first minister for waving the flag directly behind Mr Cameron's head, but Mr Salmond insisted he had not upset Wimbledon's All England Club owners.

There then followed a kind-of game of political one-upmanship - the prime minister said immediately after the win that he thought Murray deserved a knighthood. Mr Salmond said: "Andy is king of Scotland, he can have anything he likes."

Football crazy

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption It was unclear whether Mrs Thatcher was rooting for Celtic or Dundee United to win the final

Politicians who decide to associate themselves with football is a risky proposition which can go both ways in the PR stakes.

One such occasion was the decision to have Margaret Thatcher, the then Tory prime minister, as the guest of honour at the 1988 Scottish Cup Final.

Standing beside husband Dennis, it was seen as a good way to show her position as prime minister of the whole UK.

Mrs Thatcher - a hugely divisive figure in Scotland, where Labour was the dominant political force - was subjected to boos from the crowd, while the prime minister's opponents encouraged fans to wave specially-prepared red cards at her.

(PS, for the record, Celtic beat Dundee United to win the cup 2-1, with Frank McAvennie scoring both goals for his team.)

Balls up

Image copyright SNS Group Bill Murray
Image caption Alex Fergusson seen here fourth right, apologised for his mistake

Back in 2007, someone had the idea that Scottish Parliament Presiding Officer Alex Fergusson (not to be confused with Manchester United legend Sir Alex Ferguson) should make the draw for the CIS Cup semi-final.

But chaos ensued when he mixed up the numbers and miscalled the ties when the four balls were drawn.

Dundee United's then chairman Eddie Thompson - under the mistaken impression his team was playing Hearts - spent four hours on the phone making arrangements with the Tynecastle club, only to later find out they would actually face Rangers, once the fixtures were amended.

"It was a member of the media who contacted me long before I heard from the SFL and I thought he was off his head," he said at the time.

Mr Fergusson - presumably more of a rugby man, given he's from the south of Scotland - apologised for the "genuine error", and tried to laugh off the gaffe by saying that, as a life long fan of (semi-professional) Stranraer Football Club, there was no ulterior motive.

Flag faux-pas

Image copyright James Crossan
Image caption Images of the North Korean players were shown on a big screen at Hampden beside the South Korean flag

Politicians who blunder at sporting events is one thing, but sometimes a lack of attention by others when it comes to political sensitivities can also cause problems.

As part of the 2012 Olympics, Glasgow's Hampden Stadium was chosen to host a women's football game controversially featuring the North Korean side.

But when a video introducing the team featured the South Korean flag, the players walked off - although they were later persuaded to play the match against Colombia.

The blame lay with Olympic officials in London and Prime Minister David Cameron - keen for the event not to become a full-blown diplomatic incident - described it at the time as an honest mistake, adding: "We shouldn't over-inflate this episode - it was unfortunate, it shouldn't have happened and I think we can leave it at that."

Tough crowd

Image copyright PA
Image caption Ever the pro-politician, George Osborne wore a smile. despite the heckling

Mrs Thatcher was not the first - nor will she be the last - politician to get booed at such public events, and a more recent example came during London's summer of sport in 2012.

During the city's Paralympic Games, Chancellor George Osborne attended the ceremony to present medals for the men's T38 400m race.

But, as his name was announced in the Olympic Stadium, Mr Osborne was loudly booed.

The event came at a time when the chancellor said he was having to make tough decisions, but cutting spending to get Britain's massive deficit down was not a universally popular decision.

Other politicians who found themselves getting booed at the Paralympics included Jeremy Hunt and Theresa May.