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England might triumph in the Euros… but the real winner could be Scotland as support for independence will explode

Chris Sweeney
Chris Sweeney

Chris Sweeney is an author and columnist who has written for newspapers such as The Times, Daily Express, The Sun and Daily Record, along with several international-selling magazines. Follow him on Twitter @Writes_Sweeney

Chris Sweeney is an author and columnist who has written for newspapers such as The Times, Daily Express, The Sun and Daily Record, along with several international-selling magazines. Follow him on Twitter @Writes_Sweeney

England might triumph in the Euros… but the real winner could be Scotland as support for independence will explode
Celebrations have abounded across England after the football team’s win over Germany. But the triumphalism, led by the establishment, will only add momentum to the bid for Scottish independence, and hasten the UK’s break-up.

England is a nation full of pride and optimism after beating their old foes Germany at Euro 2020.

The build-up to the game was mired in war-like rallying cries and a dissection of historical rivalry between the two countries. And the English establishment has revelled in their team’s victory. But could that be their ultimate undoing?

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The government, the Royal family, the mainstream media, the BBC and all the rest are wedded to the idea of the United Kingdom.

For some time, the biggest threat to that has been Scotland’s bid for independence, marshalled by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon who, after winning this year’s Scottish election, is pushing for another referendum.

To be British is, for the most part, to be English.

Rarely will someone from Scotland, Northern Ireland or Wales primarily identify as being British, despite what their passport may say.

It’s an odd twist of fate that has no real comparison anywhere else.

England looms large over the United Kingdom, but the other nations have their own cultural touchstones. The English national anthem, God Save the Queen, is also the British one. England’s capital, London, is the seat of power for Britain, politically and royally. English bank notes are often the only ones accepted internationally.

The reaction to victory in the Germany match encapsulates the English dominance over British life. Prince William, Kate and their son George were all seen whooping and hollering at Wembley stadium. Yes, they are English, but they represent Britain – and there’s no way they would have been doing that for any other of the home nations.

Boris Johnson was doing it, too, tweeting: “We’re all behind you – bring it home!”

Subtlety has never been one of BoJo’s strengths but his use of ‘home’ simply underlines that England is his priority, not the United Kingdom of which he is Prime Minister.

The BBC’s presenting team also celebrated like schoolboys, as was seen when behind-the-scenes footage was posted online. Yes, they were happy. And no one wants to be a killjoy. But all were being paid by British licence fee payers, and there’s no way they would have celebrated like that for any of the other home nations.

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The BBC commentary team also continually referred to “we” and “us” during the live coverage, despite it being beamed to Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.

All of this is, in some ways, understandable. It’s also hugely irritating, and money-can’t-buy propaganda for Nicola Sturgeon.

And it may have real consequences. In Britain of late, there has been a lot of discussion about how voters in many northern English towns have ditched Labour, traditionally the party of the working class, for the Conservatives. Many people feel forgotten-about and their opinions – such as on Brexit – are not valued. What most of the English establishment don’t appreciate is this is a feeling which a lot of Scotland harbours. Yes, people worry about a lack of jobs or public spending, but neither sparks as much of a reaction as the English-centric attitudes that leave them feeling dismissed and inferior.

Critics often label it as a ‘Scottish chip on the shoulder,’ which is valid. Perception depends on your viewpoint, but what is certain is that the better England do in Euro 2020 – and the more they revel in it – the more Scottish pride will rise. The SNP know this, and it is little wonder senior figures are openly congratulating the English on their success. 

Many voters who might previously have been unsure about independence will feel their heartstrings being tugged by what they deem English arrogance. Those outside of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales may wonder how the results of a few football matches could mean so much. But it’s the symbolism. 

We’re told by London that we’re all part of one happy union, yet if the other home nations excel in the sporting arena they don’t receive the same treatment. Politicians might send out tweets and statements may be issued by Buckingham Palace, but it’s a token effort.

The eagerness to cling onto the Great British concept is what underlines the whole thing but the public outside England know that they are being patronised.

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And all of this is happening as one of the most famous English sporting events takes place, Wimbledon. Sir Andy Murray has won it twice and is, by a mile, the best ever British tennis player. But in Scotland he will only ever be seen as a Scot. The idea of describing him as a Brit is alien, but his true feelings were revealed when a journalist asked him who he was supporting at the 2006 World Cup. “Anyone but England,” was the reply – not because of an English hatred, but of the long-held feelings that many Scots, Northern Irish or Welsh can relate to.

So expect to see Sturgeon crossing her fingers and avoiding walking under any ladders for the next few weeks. The more football fever sweeps England and whips up a groundswell of triumphalism, the more chance Scotland has of becoming independent. And while she won’t be painting her face with the cross of St George, there’s no doubt that, for once, she’ll be on the same side as Boris in hoping the English pull it off.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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