Helen Martin: Keep rivalry but don’t go too far

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LAST week was one of national identity crises for England and Scotland, compounded of course by the first Scotland v England football match in 14 years.

Compounded also by the bizarre interpretations of nationalism, racism and discrimination that seem to be expressed by everyone from the police to shoppers on Leith Walk.

Apparently having little better to do last week, the police turned up in the Royal Mackintosh Hotel in Dunbar before the match to complain about a notice advertising that “Scotland versus Them” would be shown on the pub TV and demanded the owner remove it.

This seems a little overzealous, to say the least, on the part of Plod. In every team game there is an “us” and a “them”. The officer’s concerns that his English colleague would have been even more offended had he seen it didn’t make much sense either. Dunbar is in Scotland, therefore Scotland is “us” and England is “them”. Simples.

I’m not certain that “them” is a racist or discriminatory term anyway but, as the Tartan Army were quick to point out, it is certainly less offensive than “the Auld Enemy”, an oft-used phrase to describe the English and one that graced the pages of dozens of newspapers last week without 
editors being clapped in irons.

When it comes to football, humour is what really matters. And humour is what we usually get. Come on, who doesn’t see the funny side of the Scots at Wembley singing “We’d rather have a panda than a prince”, or “We’ll deep fry yer goalposts”? Fortunately the London police are a bit more laid back and didn’t interpret that as treason, or a threat of damage to private property.

So, accept the old rivalry, accept that it’s all a bit of a laugh and don’t take it too seriously. Good plan.

But then we have a barber on Leith Walk taking part in the Leith Flag Festival intended to celebrate ethnic diversity. Keith Hales, who is English, opted for the Italian flag and the St George’s Cross. Apparently being English is a bit too diverse for Leith Walk, hence even “smartly-dressed” shoppers were swearing at him, threatening him and demanding he rip it down – the English one of course, not the Italian tricolour which was perfectly acceptable.

Some might think he was a bit naïve, given that the big match was coming up. Far more would sympathise with the poor man. He wasn’t trying to wind anyone up, he was just flying his national flag as instructed, taking part in his local community celebration.

It’s really not that difficult. When it comes to sport, we Scots don’t want England to win. That’s just the way it is. Andy Murray, Alex Salmond and Walter Smith have all slipped on that banana skin by being honest.

But that’s very different from being horrible, insulting, abusive or threatening to an individual on the basis of their nationality.

When it comes to getting it right, being too touchy is as bad as being blatantly racist. If fools on both sides can’t even cope with a football match, how can they be expected to cope with the results of a referendum?

Privacy is not part of service

GOOGLE is quite right when it says anyone using Gmail should not expect privacy. Only the most naïve would.

Its only revenue is going to come from advertising targeted at us on the basis of the contents of our e-mails. Why else provide the service?

Bad reception for telly costs

I NEVER really understood the theory behind Edinburgh’s giant TV screen.

We all have TVs of our own, not to mention iPads. At home we can sit privately, comfortably, sipping a glass of wine. Why would we want to watch a huge communal screen in Lothian Road – sorry, “Festival Square”?

It is to be switched off through a lack of interest, something of a mercy now we’ve discovered that though it was installed by the BBC it was costing us £2000 a month to maintain, or £24,000 a year for four years totalling £96,000. Has the council been frittering away our dosh on any other nonsense fripperies they might now like to declare?

Time to trumpet action to save endangered elephants

IT’S all very well saying human life should come before that of animals. The problem is humans always have and always will wage war, torture and kill each other. We can’t stop it.

Meanwhile, as we dole out foreign aid to be

siphoned off by despots and dictators to buy private jets, palaces, Rolex watches and fund even more arms, we do far too little to solve problems we could – such as the predicted extinction of elephants in the next 12 years.

An elephant is killed every 15 minutes in Africa by brutal and illegal ivory poachers. Why can’t right-thinking governments around the world get together to create an elite international squad of SAS, Delta Force, Spetsnaz-type experts to protect them and capture or eliminate the thoroughly evil and cold-hearted poachers, even if only in Kenya?

This is the last window we have to save these magnificent creatures. It would create diplomatic bonds, a common purpose between superpowers and be a magnificent gift to the world.