Brian Monteith: Serving up an identity crisis

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Before Wimbledon started, the one scenario that few people, if anyone, anticipated was that Andy Murray would lose in the men’s final and win the sympathy, admiration and even possibly the collective heart of the British public.

It was a tribute to his self-determination and skill that he made that final at all. Then when he won the first set he had us anticipating the historical possibility that he might just be the first British man to win since Fred Perry in the days of Herr Hitler and Stanley Baldwin, but then the graceful mastery of Roger Federer kicked in and, despite many 
moments of brilliance, he succumbed to the relenting pressure of those precise returns of serve and accurate backhands.

Then it happened.

Overcome by the emotion and expectation that had been heaped upon him, not so much by the crowd as by the British media, he choked a little on his sentences, had to compose himself a few times and shed a tear or two as he thanked everyone for getting behind him – and even found the ability to make a joke at his own expense about getting closer to that title.

The self-deprecation sealed it as a very British moment.

Instantly, the amazing number of 17 million viewers watching felt for him – and most that had not understood him before would suddenly have recognised he was not the dour Scot or the grumpy Kevin-like teenager, but someone who had a personal side they had not seen or even contemplated.

Murray had appreciated the history of the occasion and was undoubtedly concerned that the British people might feel let down.

There were, of course, Saltires being waved when Murray served those unreturnable aces, but there were many more Union flags flapping in the hands of spectators that viewed him as one of their own in the stands, on Murray’s Mound and in the lounges of Surbiton and Salford.

That’s because it was a particularly British occasion and, no doubt to the chagrin of the Scottish Nationalist Party, the vast majority of English people were supporting Murray to the hilt.

There would be a some Federer admirers through a purely sporting basis and some that were hoping a Federer win would help provide finance for Oxfam, but Schadenfreude-style support to spite Murray because he was a Scot? I don’t think so.

It has, in fact, been an especially British year.

The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee roused genuine appreciation for her commitment to public service across the whole of Britain. Scotland may not be big on street parties – I don’t believe we ever were – but there can be no doubt she is held in as much regard in Scotland as the rest of the UK. The fact that Alex Salmond says she is indispensable to his plans for divorce say it all.

The anniversary of the liberation of the Falklands was more of a media event for us in Britain, but the sacrifices made by many Scots on those distant islands has not been forgotten and reminded us of how the UK will, if it can, protect those it calls British – even thousands of miles away.

The Olympic torch relay was much ridiculed before it began by, I suspect, the same people that derided the Diamond Jubilee, but suddenly took off and drew crowds in a way that shocked the MacChattering classes preoccupied with how to have two questions in the separation referendum when a straight yes or no would suffice.

Now we have the Olympics for real and Scots will be amongst the British team vying for best performances against the world’s greatest – and may even win a medal to boot.

My point is, as is my remit for this paper, a political one.

If we were a nation independent of Great Britain then on Sunday Andy Murray would not have been British, he would have been a foreigner, like Roger Federer and would not have enjoyed the same degree of support. The reason we know this is true is that if Andy Murray were from Dublin instead of Dunblane no-one – and especially not the Teasoich – would be calling him anything but Irish.

Similarly, Scots would not have fought to save the Falklanders from the Argentineans but would have been part of some United Nations peace-keeping force that would have rewarded the Argentinean aggression by ensuring they never left the territory.

The Olympic torch would have travelled from Carlisle to Hexham, to Berwick and then south to Newcastle, never crossing into that other 
country.

The Queen? Well, she would possibly be our monarch but only because she has more respect than all the politicians put together. That moment will pass for SNP republicans as soon as the crown is placed on the head of Charles, Duke of Rothesay – if not before.

Being Scottish and British is not about the economy, stupid – it is about identity and the quicker that defenders of having our birthright to enjoy joint nationality at any one time realise this then the better the chances of their campaign winning will be.