13 Aug 2012

Is a United Kingdom London 2012’s legacy?

With the success of Scottish and Yorkshire athletes reflected in Team GB’s final Olympics medal tally, former PM Gordon Brown says the UK could become a “beacon” for how countries can co-exist.

Mr Brown’s is the latest voice to speak out against Scottish independence, a stance which is being backed by both Labour and the Conservatives.

He used the occasion of the Donald Dewar speech at the Edinburgh International Book Festival to set out why Scotland should maintain its centuries-long partnership with the rest of the United Kingdom.

The former prime minister used the Olympic Games to demonstrate the benefits of the United Kingdom working together for mutual benefit: “This week, of all weeks, we can point to all our Scottish Olympic medals – where it is clear from the views of the athletes themselves that a British team pooling and sharing resources and expertise was the best platform upon which Scotland’s and every nation’s and region’s success was built.”

He said the ties that bound the two nations in the past such as shared religious goals and shared interests in European wars, had been replaced by other modern common benefits such as the NHS and the armed forces.

The “no” campaign is headed by Mr Brown’s replacement as chancellor, Alistair Darling, who will also be appearing at the book festival.

Alex Salmond’s Scottish government plans to hold a referendum on independence in autumn 2014.

Mr Brown also warned that the proposed second question on so-called devo max would be bad for Scotland.

He said: “If you break up the fiscal union, if you break up the sharing and pooling of resources across the UK, then it’s clear that you will either have to cut public expenditure massively beyond what is being done at the moment, or you will have to tax Scottish people more.”

It is the first time Mr Brown has spoken publicly on the issue, though during his time as prime minister he was at pains to back the idea of “Britishness”.

Read more: What would Scottish independence mean in practice?

Team GB’s athletes were praised by Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt for revealing the UK to be a nation that “likes the winning feeling”.

Speaking at a press conference, Mr Hunt added: “We have Team GB to thank for that.”

He said the athletes had inspired the nation and hoped their inspiration would go beyond the sporting sphere to other spheres.

Yorkshire success story

The county of Yorkshire was only fractionally behind Scotland in the Olympics medal tally. Yorkshire has been one of the biggest success stories of the Olympics, with seven golds, two silvers and three bronzes.

The county’s tourism chiefs are hoping that the tally, which would see Yorkshire placed 12th in the medal table if it were an independent country, will bring more visitors to the county area.

Tourism agency Welcome To Yorkshire have published a map to guide people around the county via the home towns of its athletes.

Hull boxer Luke Campbell claimed the final medal for the county adding a seventh gold to Yorkshire’s tally.

Campbell’s medal added to the haul of golds from Leeds boxer Nicola Adams, Sheffield heptathlete Jessica Ennis, Leeds triathlete Alistair Brownlee, Huddersfield cyclist Ed Clancy, Yorkshire Dales rower Andy Triggs-Hodge and North Yorkshire rower Kat Copeland.

Silver medals came from Otley cyclist Lizzie Armitstead, who won the first British medal of the Olympics, and Nicola Wilson, from Morton-on-Swale, near Northallerton, who helped the Team GB eventing team to second place.

Cyclist Clancy also won a bronze medal, along with York rower Tom Ransley and Leeds triathlete Jonathan Brownlee.

‘Phenomenal success’

Gary Verity, chair of Yorkshire Gold and chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, said: “The success of Team Yorkshire at the London 2012 Games has been phenomenal.

“Yorkshire is a great sporting county. Our athletes, with their hard work and determination, combined with outstanding facilities and the perfect landscape for a life outdoors, has produced this amazing amount of medals.

“We hope to welcome more tourists to Yorkshire to come and see our beautiful hills and dales that have been the training grounds for the Brownlee brothers.”

England’s two main hotspots for medals was the urban conurbations of London and Manchester and the region’s around them.

More than a dozen athletes born in and around the M25 took home medals of one colour or another. West Londoner Mo Farah contibuted two golds to the total. Despite hosting the Olympic stadium, east London failed to gain any golds with Newham’s 400m runner Christine Ohuruogu and Walthamstow’s taekwondo Lulato Muhummad among east London’s few medallists.

Asked what could be done to improve the diversity of participants in rowing, equestrian sports and sailing, London mayor Boris Johnson called for more investment in these sports in inner London.

‘We want to give young people the chance to engage in all sports,” he said.