Next Saturday England play Scotland at Wembley. During the week ahead, London will prepare for the Tartan Army to arrive - a prospect that awakens terrifying memories of football-fan mayhem in the 1970s and 80s.
A rabble-rousing soundtrack to this escapade is provided by the author Irvine Welsh, who with the group Primal Scream has released a record: The Big Man and the Scream Team Meet the Barmy Army Uptown. Laced with cursing, it has been received as anti-English, though Scots recognise it as anti-Glasgow Rangers; a side with Protestant, unionist support. As a result, Welsh has received death threats, and the Scream Team had to pull out of gigs for fear of violence.
All of which illustrates that Scotland is hardly a united front. Celtic hate Rangers; Glasgow hates Edinburgh. Above all, Scotland hates England: or so one might think. But is the old enmity really still there?
"We are brought up to think the English are a load of bastards," says Andy Fraser, a Scot who works in public relations in London. "The Thatcher years stirred it up, and plenty of Scots still have a chip on their shoulder about the English." For many Scots that nationalism is planted early, in the education system. "It's drummed into you at school," says Mary McLean, a Scottish designer based in London. "It's a lot of crap, really, but it still comes out in sport." As David Stevenson, the Scottish head of youth programming at Channel 4, says: "I don't hate English people but I do hate the English football team." Even immigrants to Scotland can pick up on anti-English attitudes. Ernesto Leal, a Chilean brought up in Scotland, arrived in 1976 and found a hostility that was "focused on the football". It was not, he felt, mere unfriendliness. "It is a deep thing that goes back hundreds of years."
"There remain huge amounts of righteous aggression towards the English," says Katherine Wilson, a Scot who begrudgingly works in London. "Even now I feel annoyed that it's our water and oil that the English are using. It may indicate a slight inferiority complex. But Scots are different. They're often nicer, for a start."
Professional Scottish nationalists tend to go softly-softly. "It isn't that the Scottish hate the English, but there is a big problem with the government," says Kevin Pringle of the Scottish National Party. "Scottish society has its own laws, education system, banknotes and football association. But this is overlaid by the Westminster structure." Pringle acknowledges the age-old antagonism. "The Scots have long historical memories, which reinforce the desire of the people for autonomy from England." Could this old antipathy become a Balkan-type situation with ancient rivalries taking vicious form? "Not at all," says David McCrone, professor of sociology at the University of Edinburgh. "National identity depends on there being a hated `other', and Scots define themselves against the English. But Scots do not feel that conflict with England is a major issue." Nor, he adds, do the English, most of whom are not hostile to devolution, and do not reciprocate the Scots' hostility. "I tell my students that the relationship between Scotland and England is like a marriage of convenience which involves negotiation."
McCrone adds that Scottish identity is no longer so enshrined in the "surrogate politics" of sport, as the populace is more involved in mature political demands. Tom Nairn, a colleague of McCrone's in the sociology department, agrees: "Scottish nationalism is real and deep-rooted and demands political action. But it doesn't translate into feuding or ethnic conflict."
David Stevenson, who lives in London, has found "vestigial" prejudice in England. "Bars sometimes refuse to take your one-pound notes, and people joke about `Jimmies' and Rab C Nesbitt." On the other hand, while he is "intensely proud" of being Scottish, he thinks there is a backslapping aspect which is "shite". …