Thursday, September 20, 2007

In or Out?

London 2012
Sorry No Offensive Images
In the shadow of Ming's suicidal tax policy of punishing the greedy rich, such as those with a combined household income of over £70,000, the remainder of the Lib Dem conference has been a relatively staid affair culminating in a very staid performance by Sir Menzies in his keynote address.

There was even one session that I am full of praise for, but I think that deserves a post of its own that shall follow anon. This therefore will be the final bit of Lib Dem bashing for their week in the spotlight.

It comes courtesy of their Scottish Liberal Democrats leader, Nicol Stephen from the BBC yesterday:
Scotland should be given a greater role in hosting events for the London 2012 Olympics, the Lib Dems have claimed.

[Mr Stephen said] "Also, Scotland needs to get wider benefits from the Olympics than are currently planned.

"Great opportunities in terms of tourism, business and sport, but at present they are simply not being delivered."

Source: BBC News

The report goes on to highlight that the only direct involvement that Scotland will have in the hosting of the games is the playing of a few games of the Soccer tournament at Hampden Park.

I've commented on Scottish issues several times on this blog and I don't think anyone could accuse me of having an anti-Scottish bias, I couldn't if I wanted anyway, as my Scottish mother still has a good right hook for her age.

I'm actually on balance a supporter of the 2012 games being in London too.

Yes, the costs are huge and I'm sure the ability of the current Government to break records in mismanagement of major projects will push them higher still. My low-tax, small state instincts baulk at this but for all that I'm still looking forward to the chance to live through the experience of living in an Olympic host city.

Yes, the logo is repellent and doesn't seem to be 'growing on' anyone yet, but I'll still be very proud to see the Queen and Mayor Johnson opening a games. I'm sorry that Rugby Sevens didn't get its chance to take its amazing successes at Commonwealth games levels to even greater heights, but I've also got every confidence as a country we can stage a truly memorable event. Memo to RFU…perhaps a little tinkering with the scheduling of the Twickenham round of the IRB sevens circuit could be arranged to demonstrate to the IOC the error of their ways?

Nicol Stephen
Nicol Stephen,
Selective Memories?
Despite my general support of many Scottish positions and of the London 2012, I have little time for Mr Stephen's position. Is this the same Scotland which is refusing to take part, along with the Welsh, in a British team for the Olympic soccer tournament, thereby possibly jeopardising public support for the host nation's own team at their own tournament? The home of the SFA whose justification of their stance is based on what, according to both FIFA and UEFA is a completely baseless assertion that their voting rights within both these organisations may be compromised if they ever played in a combined British team.

A survey suggested that two thirds of Scottish football supporters supported the idea of Scottish players taking part in the British Olympic team, yet the Scottish Football Association refused even to attend meetings at which the football assocations of the Home Nations were to discuss the possibility. As is so often the case both in sport and politics it appears that lions are once again being led by donkeys.

Under the circumstances some Scottish politicians and SFA should be making it clear that they understand it is no longer appropriate for even their limited role in hosting events, especially in the soccer tournament, to continue. They should really be voluntarily waiving their rights to stage games at Hampden, rather than demanding more.

Mr Stephen went on to criticise the way that so much lottery funding was being directed towards London 2012. In this, I have at least a little sympathy with him. It is certainly true that the current government has twisted and politicised the way lottery funding is used to such an extent that many of its original worthy aims are just a distant memory.

If, however, we consider the lottery as it now is, just another form of state funding, then Mr Stephen is on less firm ground. For years we have listened to, and at least in my case have understood, the need for unequal distribution of state funds, very often in Scotland's favour, on the grounds of special needs and situations. Now we have a case where the special need pertains to a situation in the south east of England.

There is certainly a case that less state money should go to the Olympics in total, but given that some would be required in even the most ideal of situations, the concept that the nation as a whole contributing to an events affecting just one region applies just as strongly to London as it does to Edinburgh. I'm sure there was significant central government funding when Edinburgh won the rights to host the Commonwealth games, and I don't recall any special local taxes being raised as is the case with London 2012, and it is only right that equal treatment be offered south of the border.

Perhaps the most glaring hole in Stephen's contribution though is the one fact he forgets to mention. These arrangements for hosting events were not made in the last year or so. They would have been made under the last Scottish government. As much as Mr Stephen and his colleagues may wish to pretend it was otherwise on so many matters, that Scottish government was a coalition of the Labour party and Mr Stephen's own Liberal Democrats.

Perhaps a little note of regret from Nicol Stephen on his own party's involvement in the settlement that he now criticises may have been appropriate, since I don't recall any real dissent over the actions of his own government's sports ministers at the time.

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