Margo MacDonald: A Jambo Spring, but we’re all the winners

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Guess what I enjoyed most about the Scottish Cup final week? I’ll rephrase that. Guess what was the only crumb of comfort I could take from the Jambo Spring? I loved the terrific promotion of the city inspired by the match: it put Edinburgh among the medals.

In the main, our capital offers a safer environment than other similar cities. It’s a great place to do business. The natives support their teams fiercely and for a couple of hours that Saturday afternoon, the city stopped. Yet after the match the city came to life with supporters of both teams drinking together in city centre bars, happily oblivious to the government’s campaign to re-model social drinking.

That was the good news story. I know how devastated I, and my fellow Hibbies felt about the nature of Hearts’ win. In Hibby hearts, we knew they deserved their victory, but to win by the margin they did? Every fan who was there, and those who saw the replay on TV of the penalty given against Hibs, queries the referee’s decision, because it signalled a loss of confidence and self-belief in the Hibs players.

Just before the penalty that wasn’t, the underdogs had started to dare to take the game to Hearts. But even in the middle of such a cruel situation, tempers and feelings were held in check. Fans didn’t exactly blow kisses to each other. But neither could I hear renditions of the litany of songs known to both clubs that used to be judged appropriate for derbies in particular.

VisitScotland should grab as much as it can carry and incorporate appropriate footage in the next “Come to Scotland” film. The fans’ behaviour, particularly those in what we used to call the “cheap” seats, tells us more about the society than a dozen university studies of the young urban male. Sure, not everyone likes or has an acute awareness of football. But as a community we have made racism unacceptable, without exception, for football fans. And because of this overwhelming rejection, the law in Scotland expresses our society’s opposition to racism and punishes anyone proved to have practised it.

Contrast that with the attitudes and common practice at football matches in Poland and the Ukraine, joint hosts of Euro 2012. It’s years since I was in Poland and the Ukraine. The wall symbolising the Iron Curtain kept the two communities separated from societies like our own as we learned to root out racism. Had the Berlin wall never existed, and had there been the free movement of people and business across all of Europe instead of the formal boundary separating East and West, the crude violence of fans who’ll attend Europe 2012 might have been mitigated, as ours has been.

Policies are key

ARE you clued up on the Referendum, then? Do you nod knowingly as TV pundits attempt to explain the difference between Devo Max and Devo Plus? Do you have the teeniest notion why the SNP is running a two-and-a- half-year campaign? I may emigrate.

There is an argument in favour of an informative, non-showy, campaign to spread knowledge and understanding of the contract we’d like, the policies on offer from the different sides in the campaign, and whether the “social union” of the UK is enough to preserve the aspects of the union as some people wish, or must ultimate, sovereign power stay with Westminster, and not Holyrood.

Right now, there’s total confusion over the status of the parties’ policies, and the difference between policies and the principles on which they’ll fight the referendum. I’m happy to report that the governance unit at one of Edinburgh’s universities has asked the Scottish Government to do the same. Now we’re getting somewhere.

And right on time, the YouGov polling firm boss Peter Kellner has told Alex Salmond that a deal of work is needed to explain defence and security measures, for example. He also has to sort out how he’ll explain Scotland’s status in the EU after a winning vote of Yes. SNP members seem uncertain of their party policy on this one. And the reason we hear nothing about that is the woeful state of the processes of SNP policy-making. Long gone are the days of standing committees on subject areas like education, defence and security, health etc. The SNP has grown lazy in exercising its collective and individual intellect to develop policies it can support and understand. As far as I can make out, Alex and his praetorian guard take care of policy, a lot of it on the hoof.

If Yes is to win, SNP policy-making must improve, and the finished policy must not be foisted on the Yes campaign, but stand as an example of an SNP manifesto after the referendum.