If Scotland make history and qualify for the knock-out stage of the Euros will it boost the SNP’s flagging fortunes?

Don’t even dare to insult my intelligence either by suggesting that Labour’s party managers don’t experience a chill when they see tens of thousands of Scottish people singing Flower Of Scotland on foreign soil so close to a General Election

Beginning with Switzerland in 1954, Scotland have qualified for eight World Cup tournaments and four European Championships. 

Yet, not once in that 70-year stretch have they managed to get out of the initial group stages of these tournaments. They remain the only one of the countries of the British Isles never to have done so and this represents an eternal stain on our reputation, especially as Scotland invented modern football

This evening in Stuttgart, Scotland will never have a better chance of progressing to the next stage of a major international tournament. Defeat Hungary, reckoned to be the weakest team in their group, and we’re home and hosed. 

Never having experienced the sensation of seeing my country achieve such a thing, I can’t say for certain what the mood of the country will be like.

But you can bet your backside that Scottish Labour would rather this hadn’t happened 11 days out from an election during which the SNP have been on the ropes. 

Each day since before last Friday and our opening game against Germany, the press and television have been awash with pictures and footage of kilted Scottish people, clad in all manner of tartan apparel and haberdashery, looking happy, healthy and self-confident. 

More than this, however, is that the European media have been commenting approvingly of the Scottish fans’ happy fervour. Such has been the Scotland supporters’ impact in those cities hosting our three games that they’ll probably be hosting their own annual Scotland Day.   

In none of this coverage is Scotland referred to as part of the UK. Across the world, it’s accepted that we are a standalone country, comfortable in the European family, possessing identifiable national characteristics and all of it underpinned by a vivid and unique backstory. 

They also think that Scotland must be a great place to live if its people can be as happy as this in defeat. 

Auld enemy
This recognition of Scotland as an entity distinct from England on many levels was manifest in two enduring images from the first week of the Euros. 

In one of them, an elderly German woman with a walking frame is being sheltered from the heavy rain by an umbrella borne by two Scotland supporters. 

In the other, hordes of drunken England fans are cheering as blow-up model Spitfires are being thrown above the heads of their hosts. 

This was just a few days before they visited Cologne, a city that was subject to 262 separate RAF air raids in WW2 that killed more than 20,000 civilians.  

Confidence boost
RESEARCH around international football success and its impact on domestic politics has never been scientifically or statistically proven one way or another. 

There are, hosever, plenty of episodes throughout the history of football which suggest that it can affect events in the political or geopolitical domain.

This sits alongside some studies around the impact of football success on the economy. 
In 2014, a body called Social Indicators Research published a report by the Spanish academics Roberto Vazquez and Vicente Royuela on the extent to which countries’ performances at global tournaments were indicators of national development. 

While there were no proven patterns providing certainty, the academics indicated that international football success did increase a sense of general happiness and heightened feelings of community spirit and self-confidence. From these, it’s not unreasonable to suggest there are economic benefits. When people feel good about themselves they like to spend money and share their bonhomie. 

I have experienced this personally and can confirm the suggestions made by Senors Vazquez and Royuela. If Scotland win tonight, my local hospitality sector will be getting hammered and the vibrant, eastern European and Middle Eastern late-night victual providers will also be getting a decent turn. 

Feelgood factor
IN England, there’s long been a mistaken belief that their World Cup success in 1966 played a major part in Harold Wilson’s landmark election win in the same year. It’s just that, well … the election occurred a full four months before England’s triumph on July 30. 

What’s probably more valid is that Mr Wilson and his Labour Party skilfully surfed the feelgood factor derived from the World Cup in his term of office. 

However, it was a far different story four years later when England were defending their title in Mexico. This time, England’s first few games in the tournament would be played in the run-up to the UK election that year, in which Labour were expected easily to defeat Edward Heath’s Conservatives. 

Having played exceptionally well in their group matches – including a classic encounter with Pele’s Brazil – England were expected to reach the final once more. 

In their quarter-final match, they raced into a 2-0 lead against a German side featuring Franz Beckenbauer and Gerd Muller. 

Inexplicably, though, they suffered a late collapse after goalkeeping errors by Peter Bonetti, substituting for the injured Gordon Banks. The Germans went on to win 3-2 in extra time. 

Four days after the West Germany defeat, Edward Heath was Prime Minister after the Tories pulled off one of the all-time political shocks.     

Harold Wilson refused to give credence to the notion that England’s defeat – and the manner of it – had influenced the election outcome. His ministers thought differently. 

Harold Wilson
A Guardian article in 2010 recalled that in his memoirs, Denis Healey had made an astonishing revelation: Mr Wilson had talked about the impact of England failing to make the final several months prior to it. 

The Minister for Sport, Denis Howell, was even more certain. In his retirement memoir, he’d written: “The moment goalkeeper Bonetti made his third and final hash of it on the Sunday, everything simultaneously began to go wrong for Labour for the following Thursday.”