Sir Chris Hoy provokes online ire of some Scottish nationalists with independent Scottish Olympic team comments
Daily Mail outraged by Twitter abuse for cycling knight following remarks on potential sporting implications of Scottish independence
Sir Chris Hoy has found himself embroiled in a row with Scottish Nationalist supporters - one of whom branded him a "bigot" according to the Daily Mail following remarks he made in an interview with BBC Radio 5Live earlier this week when he suggested that Scottish athletes might find it more difficult to compete on the global stage were the country to become independent.
Following last year's Olympics it was rumoured that the Scottish Labour Party wanted Hoy to be one of the faces of the anti-Independence campaign in next year's referendum, Hoy says he was also approached by the pro-independence campaign. However Team GB's most successful ever Olympic athlete has steadfastly refused to become involved or offer any opinion on what he described as the "hornets next" although he has apparently made up his mind on which way he will vote.
Questioned by the BBC on the likely sporting implications were Scotland to become an independent country Sir Chris had this to say - firstly on the prospects for a Scottish team at the Olympics:
"You look at the results of the Scottish athletes and teams over the years and we have had some fantastic results.
"But it is not quite as simple as having X-amount of medals last time so we can translate that to this amount next time."
Sir Chris Hoy continued: "Most of the athletes have had to move to facilities which are often outside of Scotland. I had to move to Manchester to go to the Velodrome.
"You look at Andy Murray and he spent most of his time in Spain and Miami.
"The first thing you have to do is provide the coaching and infrastructure for the athletes. It is not to say it is impossible. It is just a different challenge."
That such mild comments from a highly regarded athlete have attracted vitriol is an early indication of the levels of heat likely to be generated when next year's referendum campaign gets underway in earnest. However it has also got to be said that the examples produced by the Daily Mail, which broke the story of the "outrage" all of the comments were from social media sites such as Twitter on which abuse and vitriol on any subject or personality can be found on tap - it also has to be pointed out that the Mail has a vested interest in smearing the pro-independence cause.
While the content of Sir Chris's remarks in the BBC interview is even handed, in cycling at least the irony is that a junior Hoy coming along in an independent Scotland would probably have better access to world class facilities than his counterpart in England - thanks to the efforts of Sir Chris. Scotland has a state of the art world class velodrome, named after Sir Chris, in Glasgow and he has given his support to plans for a new outdoor velodrome in Edinburgh.
It probably is worth pointing out that when it comes to coaching and training Cycling Scotland has also significantly upped its game by the simple expedient of hiring talent from the British Cycling set up, including its new performance director, Gary Coltman who was the manager of British Cycling's Olympic talent team. Tennis fans would also no doubt point out that while Andy Murray had to go and train abroad, so would any potential tennis star from any other part of Britain.
(Some quotes in this story come from transcripts posted on the BBC's Sportsday Live service during and after Tuesday's interview)