They say he’s British when he wins and Scottish when he loses. Despite representing GB since the age of 11, Andy Murray’s allegiance has been scrutinised long before the question of independence arose. After seemingly suggesting that he’d be supporting “Anyone but England” during the 2006 Football World Cup and previous lack of dedication to the GB Davis Cup team his dedication to GB as a whole has consistently been put under the spotlight.
The importance of Andy Murray’s role during the debate as such an important Scottish figure was clear, not only by how his ‘coming out’ tweet “Huge day for Scotland today! no campaign negativity last few days totally swayed my view on it. excited to see the outcome. lets do this!” was one of the most retweeted of the campaign, but the volume of abuse he suffered – the likely reason other Scottish sporting figures such as Sir Chris Hoy, who, as important as Murray, were reluctant to give their opinion for this very reason.
Many high profile Scots such as Alan Cumming, Sir Alex Ferguson and Annie Lennox were harassed by the media to pick a side and lend their support to either the ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ campaign. Some were more forthcoming than others, and others preferred to sit on the fence, often due to the threat of abuse from ‘twitter trolls’, usually subjected by those on the ‘Yes’ side – notoriously dubbed the ‘cybernats’. As one of Scotland’s most celebrated sporting achievers, Andy Murray was often in the limelight for his views on independence, and when he finally broke his silence on the matter, he faced similar attacks.
It showed another side to Andy Murray. The extent to which his tweet reached, underlined its power as a political tool, with both sides surely desperate for his support since the referendum was announced. Those who did not take to Twitter to send Murray their words of outrage, suggest his Tweet was nothing short of cowardly. Sent at 1am in the dead of night, and the very early hours of the day of the referendum, Murray would have known full well that the media would not be permitted to report on his tweet, nor would they have the time to anyway. If this had been his view all along, why had he not declared it earlier? Moreover, many pointed out that the referendum wasn’t about the ‘positivity’ or ‘negativity’ of either campaign, but what was best for Scotland, and didn’t appreciate the input of someone who has lived the majority of his life in England, currently based in Surrey, and on one hand enjoys the support of the British people during competitions, draped in the Union Flag and funding of the LTA, but on the other thinks this a suitable platform in which to voice his support for Scottish Independence.
Politicians are simply desperate to jump on the Andy Murray bandwagon. Particularly for the parties that campaigned for the case of the Union during the referendum, it is an opportunity to manifest their ‘Scottishness’ despite their dedication to the UK as a whole. Again, as a prominent figure of the independence case, it shows a willingness to not hold political views against those who supported a particular side and to unite as Scots, post-referendum (Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie seemingly not invited). Famously, Alex Salmond appeared in the seats behind Prime Minister David Cameron, waving the saltire in what many branded an embarrassing and controversial ‘stunt’, even by Andy Murray himself, with many criticising the First Minister for detracting from Murray’s achievement to attain personal momentum for his independence campaign.
Murray will be a marmite figure now for most in the UK, post-referendum and it will be interesting to see how the usually fiercely loyal Wimbledon support turns out. It is important to note that since the result, Murray has regretted his tweet – not his opinion, but how he expressed it. Additionally, it must be clarified that in the past, he has expressed his identity as both British and Scottish, with English grandparents and fiancée. Nevertheless, Yes supporters will back him with extra gusto, whilst some – not all – No voters might second-guess it. Personally, ranked at 106 in the world, I hear James Ward stands an excellent chance at Wimbledon this year.