Even before Mick Pork pointed me in the direction of David Herdson's piece in Political Betting (aka Stormfront Lite) today, I was toying with the idea of offering my thoughts on this subject, because it isn't just southern Tories like Herdson who take the view that a decent run for England at the World Cup would have have been good for the Yes campaign. The theory goes like this - the London media drive us crazy for the next few weeks by talking at their UK-wide audience as if we are all English, and we eventually become so offended that Don't Knows and soft Nos start asserting their own national identity in a political sense. But my guess is that it's largely people who have football fanatics as friends and family who imagine that would have happened. Indeed, it may well have happened within that section of the population, but that is far from being the whole of Scotland. By contrast, casual viewers of the World Cup could easily have ended up being swept along with the Eng-er-land fixation of the media and found themselves practically thinking they are English (brainwashing often works, remember). And then of course there is the large section of the population who wouldn't have given a monkey's one way or the other. So I personally think that the net effect of a good England run would have been neutral at best, and possibly mildly harmful for Yes at worst.
Frankly, I'm relieved to see England go out, because it means that our status as neutrals will henceforth be reflected in the television coverage we watch. Although now that all four "Home Nations" are in exactly the same position as countries who have been knocked out of the World Cup, it'll be interesting to see whether that is fully reflected in the coverage, or whether England's future prospects will still be considered worthy of discussion in a way that the prospects of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are not. (OK, I think we already know the answer to that!)
Herdson goes on to indulge in this piece of fantastical thinking about how the Commonwealth Games might not be good for the Yes campaign either -
"There are of course other opportunities over the summer for Scottish patriotism to fuse with nationalism in a rather more positive way (i.e. rather than being simply anti-English), the Commonwealth Games being the most obvious. A successful Games, however, could be used by both sides: either to assert Scotland’s ability to deliver top level events on its own or, alternatively, to show that independence is unnecessary to it being able to do so."
Jesus. Anyone who has been following the funding arrangements for the Commonwealth Games cannot help but conclude that this is something that Scotland has managed to do in spite of being part of the United Kingdom, in contrast to the Olympics, which London managed to do because of money drawn from every part of the UK, including Scotland.
However, I do agree that it remains to be seen what the effect of the Commonwealth Games will be. It will distract attention from the referendum campaign at a crucial moment. The BBC will present the event from a wholly British perspective, with no Scottish opt-outs, and with viewers invited to think of the distinction between the four "Home Nations" teams as being a mere formality. I still think the benefits will outweigh those factors, but at this stage it would be foolish to imagine we can be 100% confident of that.