In the very year in which it plans to hold the Independence Referendum, the Scottish Government has, according to yesterday’s Sunday Herald, ‘appointed’ American events business, Jack Morton Worldwide, to create the opening and closing ceremonies for the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. It has been given a budget of £14 million.
What does this ‘appointment’ say about the Scottish Government’s honest evaluation of Scotland’s capacity to function as an independent nation?
Is Scotland deemed by its own government to be unable to deliver such events?
Are we instead to play safe with a bland multinational corporate middle-of-the-roader?
Jack Morton Worldwide’s CV boasts the far from distinguished 2004 Athens Olympics; the 2010 Football World Cup in South Africa (who remembers anything other than the audience’s vuvuzelas?); and ”some of the celebrations’ for the 2011 Royal wedding. Which celebrations exactly?
This ‘appointment is itself astonishingly late in the day, failing to copper fasten confidence in the calibre of the advance planning for so major an event.
What Scotland needed was a gutsy and well founded vote of confidence in its indigenous ability to create, perfect and present memorable celebratory spectacles.
A marriage between Glasgow’s site specific imagineers, NVA and Edinburgh’s Unique Events would have lacked little in creative ability and experience of major events to enable them to take on and overcome such a challenge.
NVA’s capacity for spectacle in scale and innovative sophisticated engineering solutions is up there and presently out there in the spectacular human light show on Arthur’s Seat for the Edinburgh Festival. Details of this and their other celebrated events can be found here on their website.
Unique Events creates and manages the internationally renowned annual Hogmanay celebrations in Edinburgh; and has done the opening of the Scottish Parliament and the Glasgow 2002 Uefa World Cup.
Together these companies would have benefited from demonstrating that they could rise to and beyond the challenge of the two Commonwealth Games ceremonies. Failure to deliver – and to do so in good time and within budget would not have been an option. This is the sort of cliff face challenge without which we will not grow in ability, confidence and competitiveness.
And imagine the message about Scotland that an indigenous triumph would have blazed to the world.
The spectre of the calamitous mismanagement of every aspect of the Scottish Parliament project continues to be an awful warning. But no one then was suggesting Scotland should go it alone.
What the Jack Morton Worldwide ‘appointment’ demonstrates is first a government that is manifestly incapable of planning to the point of making so late a commitment to dressing the key international shop window for an event of worldwide dimensions.
It then lays down an irredeemably damaging testimony of that government’s lack of confidence in the country it is urging to fly solo.
If the SNP government, driving the independence agenda, does not think Scotland is ready to go, why should anyone else?
Let’s hear the defence of this decision.