by Rab Bruce’s Spider

All football rivalry aside, England did really well to reach the Final of the Euros, and the game could have gone either way right up to the end. Gareth Southgate has proved to be a very capable manager, and he has a lot of highly talented players who have gelled into a very good team. Not only that, their collective response to the abhorrent racist remarks directed at the young players who missed the penalties has been nothing short of superb.

In fact, the only blot on their behaviour I was disappointed with was when they removed their Runners-Up medals. I can understand that a winning mentality demands that only winning will do, but there is such a thing as sportsmanship, and I think they could have behaved with more grace in defeat. After all, they may have lost the Final, but they earned their medals during the previous six matches. Hopefully, they will soon realise that they made a mistake which they will not repeat should they ever be Runners-up in the future.

Despite my general admiration for the England players, I’m still glad they lost because it has saved us from years of the English / British media banging on about their victory. After all, they still haven’t got past memories of 1966. I know that may sound a bit like sour grapes considering Scotland’s disappointing performance, but I honestly don’t mind English fans celebrating a victory, especially if it had been one as prestigious as the Euros. What I do mind is that their media are able to broadcast their triumphalism into my living room every time I turn on my TV or radio.

Since this is not a sporting blog, I’m not going to say anything more about the team’s performance, nor the behaviour of some of their fans. Instead, I’d like to mention an issue regarding Gareth Southgate’s comments before the game. He may have been pandering to the English media and giving them quotes they wanted to hear, but I suspect he was genuine when he harked back to the Blitz spirit being important before their match against Germany, and then he went on to refer to England as an island. Now, some may argue that Gareth Southgate is a footballer and cannot be held to the standards we might expect of a senior politician, but he is an intelligent and articulate man, and the fact that he thinks this way is indicative of a very strange mind set in the thinking of far too many people in England.

I suppose it is not really their fault. They are fed a daily diet of media stories which reinforce this type of British exceptionalism, and I fear that many of them do not even realise how insulting this way of speaking is to other countries.

We’ve seen recent examples of others telling us what a success it is for Britain that England reached the Final, thus confirming that the England = Britain = UK way of thinking is as strong as ever. When reminded that there are three other countries in the UK, they will come out with excuses or platitudes about us being a family of nations, but the fact that they need to be reminded at all is the problem. For people raised to think this way, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are mere geographic anomalies, like slightly odd regions of England which are similar but somehow a bit different.

I honestly don’t think there is any way we will ever be able to change this way of thinking. Only the break up of the UK might jolt them into realising that there is more to Britain than England. That’s a bit sad, really.

But there is a more dangerous aspect to this British exceptionalism. After all, this sort of thinking is part of what drove the Brexit decisions and the stance against Black Lives Matter. It also drove the booing of most national anthems, and the shocking insults directed at a young German fan who was upset after her team lost. Yes, I know the England team have taken a very strong stance in supporting BLM and other causes, and I have no idea what the individual players’ views on Brexit are, but that is not the point I am trying to make. It is simply that British exceptionalism is rife, and if even moderate, thoughtful and compassionate people like Southgate and his team can be caught up in it, it is no wonder others have fully succumbed to the mind set.

As ever, the only way Scotland can escape being viewed as a quaintly different region of Greater England is to become a normal, self-governing country. The day can’t come soon enough; if only to allow us to have our own media broadcasters who will give us programmes with a Scottish perspective instead of being compelled to listen to the views of our greatest and oldest sporting rivals. The way things are just now, it’s like Celtic fans only being able to watch their team on Rangers TV and vice versa. That’s a pretty dire state of affairs for any country.