LONDON—After carefully avoiding taking a side on the issue, former Wimbledon champion Andy Murray changed course Thursday and signalled his support for Scottish independence on the day of the historic vote.
The Scottish player sent out a post on Twitter early Thursday, just hours ahead of the polls opening on the referendum to break away from the United Kingdom.
Murray indicated that negative campaigning by the anti-independence side had made up his mind in favour of secession.
He tweeted to his 2.7 million followers: “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!’
The 27-year-old Murray, who grew up in Dunblane, Scotland, resides in England and would not be eligible to vote in the referendum. But he is one of Scotland’s most high-profile global figures and his words will get wide airing in the country.
In 2013, Murray became the first British player in 77 years to win the Wimbledon’s men’s title, a victory that was celebrated with national fervour all across Britain. He also won a gold medal for Britain at the 2012 London Olympics, draping himself in the Union Jack after beating Roger Federer in the final.
“If Scotland became independent, then I imagine I would be playing for Scotland,” Murray told reporters at the recent U.S. Open.
However, questioned repeatedly in recent years and months about independence, Murray steadfastly refused to come out for one side or the other. He was mindful of the reaction he received in England when he said—jokingly—that he would support “anyone but England” at the 2006 World Cup.
“I don’t know a whole lot about politics, and I have made that mistake in the past and it’s caused me a headache for seven or eight years of my life and a lot of abuse,” he said.
After Murray’s Wimbledon victory, Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond waved the “Saltire,” the blue and white Scottish flag, in the Royal Box.
Murray was critical of Salmond’s gesture and spoke of his national identity.
“I am proud to be Scottish, but I am also proud to be British,” he said at the time. “I don’t think there is any contradiction in that.”
Should Scotland vote for independence, Britain would lose its No. 1 tennis player. Murray would be free to represent Scotland on the tour and also in Davis Cup.
It’s uncertain whether Scotland would be able to form an independent team in time for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. If not, Scottish athletes could either continue to compete for Britain or compete under the Olympic flag.