The Olympics in London has created not so much a summer of sport, but very much a British one. Glasgow’s tribute to the heroics of this summer was to host an open-top bus – which turned out to be a truck – parade for the Scottish Olympians and Paralympians, followed by a celebration in George Square. What was interesting to note was the angry reaction of the crowd to the presence of First Minister Alex Salmond.
The booing of a politician, per se, isn’t a news story. But Salmond’s reception in Scotland’s biggest city represents the SNP’s (relative) systemic failure to fully convince Glaswegians over the issue of independence. This summer’s local council elections in Scotland were very much seen as an acid test for the SNP, and while SNP made impressive gains throughout the country, Glasgow stayed red.
Some have speculated that Alex Salmond was the wrong choice of public figure to address the crowd in the first place, given especially that he made the risky move of being rather disparaging about the Olympics, focusing on Glasgow’s upcoming Commonwealth Games instead. In the event of it this view proved unpopular, and perhaps the crowd were emphasising that.
Salmond has frequently been branded a ‘marmite’ politician, because of the strong feelings he incites on both sides of the fence,.This no doubt accounts for at least some of the booing. Furthermore Salmond has been booed
before, at Hampden Park stadium. This said, however, Salmond has popularity ratings that members of the Westminster cabinet can only dream of.
Any supporter of the SNP will point to the fact that in last year’s Holyrood elections the SNP actually did very well in Glasgow, winning five out of the nine constituencies in the city. Yet the SNP’s success has not been because of an independence mantra, but rather than their ability to prove their competence in government at a time when Scottish Labour have been in disarray. Glasgow’s traditional working class Protestant inheritance of unionism has meant that in Glasgow the independence policy of the SNP has often been a weight around their neck rather than a boon. While Labour’s traditional strength in Scotland has diminished somewhat, the ties to the days when Glasgow was the ‘second city of the Empire’, combined with a preoccupation with socialism rather than separation, have meant that the SNP have a bit more work yet to do before they win over the votes.