Firstly, well played on your stunning win yesterday and I’m pleased that we remain the only team in Euro 2020 to take a point at your own midden. It’s small consolation, but when you haven’t qualified for anything in twenty-three years you grasp any straw available.
A lady on the radio today asked if those of us who live in Scotland and whose team, to borrow from the late great Tommy Docherty, are home before the postcards, will now be lending our support to you. A caller suggested that there was an element of anti-Englishness being stirred up by our main party. I hope – I’m certain – that that isn’t the case. For my part, I’ve never been made less than totally welcome on my many visits south.
So here’s my take.
Not that you really need it, I’d really like to support you. I sometimes reflect that your squad – happy, hard-working, progressive, multicultural, optimistic, with a captain that wears the pride rainbow and a striker who feeds hungry weans – represents what England would like to see itself as (and could be) rather than what it currently is. To me, the lads wearing your shirt represent what Lincoln called the better angels of our nature. Steve Clarke made mistakes in the tournament, but his description as the England group as “good people” was bang on the money. Not least Gareth Southgate, whose fetishism for the royal family and inability to distinguish England from Britain can be forgiven as he wasn’t scared to call out the racist element of your country’s Brexit vote.
Paradoxically, I’d be more inclined to support you if I was just a normal football fan living in an independent country, but I just know how such support from the position of our current constitutional arrangement would be spun – and I’m already dreading how the shameless WM government would spin an England win as the glorious rebirth of Global Britain. It would gar me greet to witness the efforts of Raheem, Harry et all to be bandwagoned, and I fear that this most shameless of governments wouldn’t hesitate to do so for a single second. They – you deserve so much better.
Couple of final thoughts for now.
I can just about remember when the anti-England stuff at the football was real – but you’re talking nearly four decades ago. There’s a plausible theory that football, in the absence of a parliament, was our outlet for political expression and that the reconvening of our democracy in ‘99 took a lot of the heat out the relationship. That’s certainly been my experience. As usual, the BBC in particular are telling this non-story through the prism of a Scotland and a relationship with its neighbour that has changed utterly in the past few decades (funnily enough, they do the same with Germany, who always look a bit baffled at the hype over a game with England when their supporters really see Holland as the old enemy). Which kind of reinforces the case for Scotland having control over its own media – something that was rejected out of hand ahead of the ‘97 devolution referendum. Control of Scotland’s narrative is too important to be entrusted to Scotland, whose people might realise that actually they were bigger, wealthier and smarter than they’d been told they were for at least three centuries.
Finally, while it’s tempting to just ignore the slanderous accusation that the SNP is stoking anti-English sentiment, it’s probably worth saying two things. Firstly, go to any SNP meeting and you’ll be immediately struck by the number of non-Scots accents. My own group has people who speak in German, English and American tongues. If you choose to live here, you’re Scottish. End of. Like the late William McIlvanney said, we’re a proudly mongrel nation.
Unlike the gerrymandered Brexit debacle, the 2014 vote was notable for the breadth and reach of its franchise. Not only sixteen and seventeen year olds, but also nearly half a million folk hailing from other parts of our islands who had decided to make Scotland their home. It was this latter demographic that voted in large numbers to remain in the UK, and ultimately cost Scotland – at least temporarily- its place amongst normal, median sized, self-determining nations.
It is to the eternal credit of both the independence parties and the wider movement up here, that this is, rightly, never ever mentioned. You live here? You vote here. You are welcome. Next time – soon – you’ll get us over the line.
I hope England becomes the modern, tolerant, inclusive place that you’ve shown it can be. And I know that Scotland is close to fulfilling its own destiny too. We aren’t going anywhere in a physical sense. We’re just, all of us, growing up. We’ll soon be what we always should have been. Rivals, yes, but also friends, neighbours, equals, rivals.
Good luck in Rome lads. Whatever happens, you’re doing yourselves proud.
We’ll meet, no doubt, further on up the road.