Comment is Free carries an excellent piece today by Pat Kane:
Like my old political hero Jim Sillars, I have contempt for the "ninety-minute patriotism" that gets expressed in Scottish life through major sporting events – and in no form more contemptible than when Scotland isn’t in the World Cup, England is, and any team other than the Anglos will do. This is a long and well-documented tradition, but it’s recently had some surprising and alarming proponents. (Comment is Free)
Kane is obviously referring to First Minister Jack McConnell, who supported Trinidad and Tobago, in stark contrast to Gordon Brown, who is vocally backing England.
For what its worth, I think McConnell is within his rights. After all what’s football without a bit of local rivalry. I doubt many English people really prefer Brown’s fawning over Paul Gascoigne’s Euro 96 goal.
Although both Brown and McConnell’s view may well reflect their real beliefs, their is obviously deep politics behind their public statements. McConnell has his eye on the Scottish electorate, Brown on the voters south of the border who may object to a Scotsman becoming Prime Minister.
As a result, the World Cup has helped to highlight the West Lothian question more than ever before. As someone who has been banging on about the issue for years now, I welcome that.
It might seem hypocritical of me, therefore, to raise some concerns about some of the uglier manifestations of Anglo-Scottish tensions.
However, the issue for me has never been whether England is stealing Scotland’s oil, or Scotland is sponging of England’s taxes.
Instead the problem is that the interests of democracy in both nations are subordinated to a pre-democratic institution, the union, maintained by an establishment which is only too happy to use its powers of patronage to play the English and Scottish off against one another.
There has been a detectable softening of British attitudes towards Ireland in recent years, precisely because the Republic is no longer a pawn in this game.
The Westminster establishment would like nothing better than to denounce nationalism as the work of the mob. English and Scottish nationalists share a common interest in avoiding that.
The the primary responsibility perhaps rest with those with the strongest political leadership, which means the SNP.
Would this not be a good moment for Alex Salmond to wish the England team good luck, perhaps in the context of welcoming the continuing resurgence of English identity?
Such a statement would achieve several things for Mr Salmond:
It would emphasise that, unlike Jack McConnell, Salmond doesn’t need to burnish his nationalist credentials.
It would also highlight the fact that unlike Gordon Brown, Salmond is not a supplicant for English patronage, and therefore his stance would earn more respect both north and south of the border.
Surely that represents a real political opportunity.