Magazine article The Spectator

What Really Insults the Scots Is That the English Don't Hate Them Back

Magazine article The Spectator

What Really Insults the Scots Is That the English Don't Hate Them Back

Article excerpt

The Scotch First Minister, Jack McConnell, will doubtless be huddled before a television screen today, dressed in a Portugal football shirt and perhaps munching salted cod, out of respect. An awful lot of his compatriots will be doing the same thing: the Treaty of Windsor, signed with Portugal in 1386, may well be the longest lasting alliance in English military history, but it will be superseded by the less formal, 90minute Treaty of Gelsenkirchen between Scotland and Portugal. If the Portuguese win their World Cup football game against England, there will be immense jubilation north of the border -- free drinks all round, the waving of the Portuguese flag out of every bar and car, the consumption of vast amounts of bacalhau with 'neeps and tatties', symbolising the union of Europe's two most limited and primitive cuisines. If England win, however, the infuriated Scotch will most likely go on the rampage, attacking any convenient English target. A visceral hatred of England is now almost compulsory if you are a member of the Scotch race. And it is reinforced by the Scotch news media and the comments from prominent Scotch politicians who, like Mr McConnell, see votes in deriding the English with their own little version of Louis MacNeice's 'Bagpipe Music': It's no go your Frank Lampard, It's no go your Rooney/ All we want is a tin of sardines and a quick Portuguese victory.

This loathing is not returned. The Scotch football team labours towards humiliation against the likes of the Faroe Islands or Rockall (I forget which) and scarcely a hair is turned south of Jedburgh. I suppose utter indifference is, in its way, more slighting than outright hatred -- but it is not an indifference occasioned by good old-fashioned racism.

Simply, nobody down here really cares. Why then, in 2006, should the Scotch people care so much? Is the relationship between us, Scotch and English, not, at the very least, fair and equable and cognisant of history?

Instead of oppressing them, these days we reach into our wallets and subsidise them.

Instead of ruling over them, we let them run most of their own affairs, without complaining at their manifest incompetence, and even allow one of their number to control our national finances. Perhaps this is the key and we should look to Freud or Lacan for an answer: subconsciously, the Scotch yearn to be oppressed by us and wish they were still a subject race. In which case, hell, Jimmy -- just say the word, we'll be there for you.

I read a delightfully disingenuous piece of Scotch apologia from a chap called Ed Wood in the Daily Telegraph. It is not a hatred of the English that motivates your average jock to cheer for whichever country we are playing, he argued, but rather a laudable sympathy for the underdog. Well, in footballing terms it is not very easy to know who is the underdog between England and Portugal, although I doubt that the matter will be debated for too long in Sauchiehall Street. Nor do I expect the Scotch people to readily drape themselves in the flag of St George if we come up against Germany or Argentina.

On the football field, Scotland has long punched way above its weight for a nation of just five million people -- and its record against England is, for such a tiny, depopulated country, extraordinarily good; they raise their game at the prospect of stuffing the English. …

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