Test The Nation

by Quinn

Sod the budget; before Radio 4 began their coverage this afternoon they featured a short half-hour programme entitled The Secret Migration, about English people who have moved to Scotland, and I caught the tail end of it. It was quite interesting, as many of Radio 4’s idiosyncratic documentaries often are.

They interviewed Scots, about what they thought of the new arrivals, and the English, about how they had been received as immigrants and about their feelings towards their new homeland. The English people I heard were uniformly positive; the Scots sounded not so sure.

One Scot, though, (I could find out who he was if I “listened again”, but I’m not going to) said that the real test was who the newcomers supported when it came to sport. Sure, you could move to Scotland, fall in love with Scotland, fall in with all the local customs, but unless you supported Scotland against England in a football match then you weren’t welcome in Caledonia. I don’t think he was being entirely serious, but it’s an interesting point, one that recalls Norman Tebbit’s (in)famous “cricket test”.

If that argument is part of a well-oiled machine in some people’s minds then perhaps I can consider myself a spanner in the works; for where do I fit into this? It should be easy. I was born in England, I have lived all my life in England, I support England in football against any opposition, and I consider myself to be thoroughly English.

But my mother hails from Perthshire, I was delighted when Scotland beat England in the rugby the other day, and I feel attuned to and at times aggrieved by what I perceive as the pro-English bias in much of the media. I may support England in football, but the only national team’s football strip I’ve ever bought is Scotland’s (that gorgeous tartan one from a good few years back).

I think it comes down to this; my head insists I am English, but it hasn’t cleared it yet with my heart. So in football, a sport I follow week in week out, it is easy to support England because I think I know what I’m talking about and most of the Scotland team are alien to me. In rugby, however, a sport I happen upon each winter for the 6 Nations and every four years for the World Cup, and whose rules seem impenetrable and arcane, I come with no preconceptions, no knowledge, and I can’t help but feel my heart tug towards the boys in navy blue. The same happens in most other sports. Perhaps it is partly that gut feeling for the underdog, which Scotland often are, that sways my allegiance their way, and I was particularly anti-English in 1990 when their rugby team was captained by Will Carling, smugness personified. The Scottish grand slam in the 5 Nations that year was particularly sweet as it followed weeks of English propaganda about the “inevitable” clean sweep for Carling’s lads.

So where does that leaves me? I am English. Part of me must feel as if I’m Scottish, but I’m not. To all intents and purposes I’m English; yet what sort of Englishman will often cheer England’s defeats in sporting contests, and can be irritated when he sees what can too often seem to be an English trait of arrogance fused with an innate sense of superiority? But I’m not Scottish, and I certainly have no wish to be a plastic Jock; you won’t find me in McShea’s Scottish Bar, downing pints of heavy whilst donning a McEwan’s hat on St Andrews Day.

Thankfully, official forms make it quite clear what my nationality is. I hold a British passport, so that must mean that I am British, plain and simple. Sure, it’s a cop out, but that will do for me. And anyway, I’m not really bothered one way or the other; this is just yet another contrived excuse for a blog post.

PostScript: If Sam Allardyce becomes the next England “head coach”, don’t be surprised if I start supporting Scotland in football as well.