David Cameron will today urge the rest of the UK to send a clear message to Scotland that they want us to stay in the UK. Despite this campaign being apparently for Scotland to decide, of course. The speech will come from the Olympic Park in London and is presumably timed to coincide with the start of the Winter Olympics. However, it’s via another global sporting occasion this year that I believe Scotland can showcase its modern independence credentials.
The World Cup in 2010 had barely finished before I was longing for the next one to come around so referendums, Ryder Cups and Commonwealth Games to one side, 2014 was always going to be a good year.
The competition, of course, didn’t even start for Scotland in 2010 (and neither will it this year), it ended miserably for England and I can barely remember how my adopted-by-marriage Sweden faired. I do vividly recall watching Denmark play Japan however, and a Danish bar in London being chock full of Scandinavians cheering them on. That’s right, not just Danes but Scandinavians, primarily the neighbouring Swedes.
‘So would all Swedes support Denmark?’ I ventured. ‘Why wouldn’t they?’, came the bemused response.
It made me somewhat ashamed that a similar bout of neighbourly love would be a rare thing in Scotland for any highly-charged England game.
It is likely that a tension still remains within the Yes camp as to whether proponents of independence ‘should’ support England or not. People are free to do what they like of course but on the one hand there is the Andrew Wilson school of thought, who made the headlines as Economy Spokesperon when he said “I cannot wait for the day when we are so confident in ourselves as a nation that we can bring ourselves to support the so-called Auld Enemy”. On the other hand there is the Alex Salmond camp who rather churlishly supported Trinidad and Tobago simply because they had several players based in the Scottish leagues and that “that’s the nearest we’re getting to the World Cup”.
I don’t have to look too far among friends, family and work colleagues to find English people so why shouldn’t I support them as a British person, just as Scandinavians fall back on supporting neighbouring countries? I luckily outgrew the Anyone But England (ABE) mentality at a relatively early age. It is a shame that it is taking others a bit longer.
There’s nothing wrong with banter of course, or healthy rivalry even, but too often I perceive the ABE mentality to be due to a lack of Scottish confidence and an unease with our nearest neighbour. The dressed-up excuse that ‘the media would go on about it if England won’ is wearing pretty thin. Of course they would, and they should, as no doubt the media do in all other countries with teams good enough to win the world’s biggest sporting competition.
I have no such demons. I intend to vote Yes and I intend to support England all the way to World Cup victory. Far from seeing the two as contradictory, they are views that should belong together if we want to see a strong, self-satisfied independent Scotland, steady on its own two feet and comfortable with its place in the world. Let’s allow that chip on the shoulder to tumble free, we’ll feel better for it. And let’s be honest, it shouldn’t be difficult to support any team playing against Italy, Uruguay and…… hang on…… bear with me……… JUST GIVE ME A MOMENT OK!…. Costa Bloody Rica.
My best case hope is that a loose grouping may be formed called Yes England. A visible band of pro-independence supporters who will also be supporting England in the Summer, and are happy to display both endeavours during England games, in the pub most likely. A few drinks chatting about the independence campaign and wishing England well in their warm-up and World Cup games.
That, to me, is what modern nationalism is all about and I rather suspect that David Cameron’s words today will sound rather old-fashioned by comparison.