Henry McLeish misspent his youth traipsing round the old
Division Two with East Fife. Jack McConnell misspent
his stitching up opponents and carving out deals in the Labour
Party. So there was never much doubt that when McConnell
took over as First Minister that Scotland's bid
for the 2008 European Championships was in jeopardy.
This writer believes that the only real chance Scotland had
of being successful was as a solo bid. That was the one trump
card we held over everybody else. A joint celtic bid with
Ireland may seem better than the multi-country Scandinavian
approach or one from Eastern Europe but was never
going to be as good as the Austro-Swiss bid (two
small countries, infrastructure in place, stadia all but ready,
an imperceptible land border between them, not to mention
the HQ of UEFA).
But news that the Irish section of the bid is in disarray
just one day before the deadline for submissions is surely
fatal. In order to fulfil their side of the bargain, the Irish
need to build a new stadium. For that to happen, Bertie
Ahern's governing Fianna Fail need to win the Irish
General election this year. Now their coalition partners the
"Progressive Democrats" ( I use the quotation
marks because these word can only be loosely applied)
have had second thoughts about backing the stadium.
In the murky world of Irish politics (where so much can
depend on what your Granddad was up to in 1921) anything
can happen, so its not quite all over yet. But UEFA can
hardly fail to have been underwhelmed by first, the failure
of Scotland to go it alone, and the farce now unfolding in
Time, perhaps to accept the inevitable and start preparing
the ground now for a genuine Scottish solo bid in 2012. The
only person to gain from this is Jack McConnell. He has skilfully
downgraded his predecessor's scheme and can now sit back and
blame the Irish for its failure.
Of course there will be those who welcome the bid's demise,
claiming that it will mean more money for schools and hospitals.
This website is as staunch in its support for our public services
as anyone. But to be quite frank, we will ALWAYS need to spend
more on education and health. If we wait till the day we
have a perfect education system and a perfect health service
before we commit any public money to a sporting tournament,
then we will wait until doomsday.
There are lots of things to get annoyed about
in the Sunday Mail. But given that it has often been
the sole Scottish newspaper available to me for almost thirty
years, I am able to forgive it much. I don't have to read
the rantings of Selina (I was once somebody important,
honest I was, really) Scott and her interminable
royal name-droppings. Nor do I have to bother with Alison
( Life's really hard, spent all week at free lunches, bistros,
wine bars, got pissed rather a lot) Craig.
And I thought I could do without the juvenile scribblings
of SNP economics spokesperson Andrew Wilson
and his back-of-an-envelope fiscal policies. But the current
edition of the Mail contains what is possibly the stupidest
idea I have ever heard in my life. Wilson suggests that
it would be a good idea for Scots to support England in the
Wilson claims to be a football fan (well, a Motherwell
supporter anyway) but I doubt if he's ever been to a game.
Even the most casual of acquaintances with the Scottish game
would be enough to let anyone know that, outside of certain
sections of Ibrox, this is a totally crazy suggestion.
Now, I wouldn't want anyone to get the idea that this writer
is anti-English. Not by a long chalk. I've spent my entire
adult life in England. It is true that I first ventured south
after hearing someone shout "fuck the English"
at Hampden Park. However, my response to that was
"as long as its just the women, that's a great idea."
But I'm one of those who is comfortable with being Scottish/British/European/Jock
Tamson's bairn. I've always backed English clubs in Europe
(unless against a Scottish team). This goes back to the days
when the English sides were managed by the likes of Shankly
and Busby and their best players were men like
Law, Bremner and Mackay. I've no problems about
cheering on a British golfer in a major (sure I'd rather have
Lyle, Monty or Lawrie, but I'd also sooner see
Westwood or even Faldo win than a Yank). And
the Ryder Cup is the one great sporting event which
makes everyone on our continent feel genuinely European. If
you don't believe me, wait till later this year when you'll
hear British people talking about "us" and
asking how "we" are doing as a Swede,
Spaniard or German lines up a putt.
If its a British boxer I'm in their corner, I'll even choke
on my strawberry with delight if Timbo wins Wimbers.
But NATIONAL TEAMS are a different story. OK, I'll
make an exception in cricket where the only way for a talented
Scottish, Irish or Welsh player to play internationally is
for England. Though I wish they'd change the name to reflect
Billy Connolly once said that every Scot is a nationalist
at Hampden, Wembley, Murrayfield and Twickenham
and that's where it should end. Sentiments I for one wholly
endorse. All the stranger then to find an SNP official spokesperson
telling us to support England in Japan and Korea this summer.
I'm afraid that Andrew Wilson's thinking here is as muddled
as his economics. Come the start of the World Cup the overwhelming
majority of Scots will be honorary Nigerians, Swedes
and Argentinians. Perhaps this was some pathetic attempt
to portray himself as the face of moderate separatism. If
so it wont wash. If the SNP ever have their way they will
treat my wife and my son as foreigners in Scotland. And they
will do the same to every other member of the vast Scottish
diaspora. Altogether of much more serious consequence than
whoever wins the World Cup.
In any case, Wilson has forgotten that most Scots already
support two teams - Scotland and whoever is playing against