SO, England lost. Sunday’s Euro 2020 final was another case – after the 2018 World Cup semi-final – of the best England team in my lifetime not being able to finish the job. I suspect their time will come. This is a young England squad with a young manager who impresses more, on and off the field, with every passing match and every passing press conference.

Going into the World Cup at the back end of next year, England will take their place alongside their conquerors Italy, Spain, France and the usual suspects Argentina and Brazil as favourites to lift football’s biggest prize.

It seems that Scotland will be cheering on (ABE) Anyone But England. This is not the conclusion of Twitter, which is perhaps the worst medium from which to gather an accurate interpretation of public opinion, but from polling conducted by YouGov just before England’s semi-final against Denmark, which revealed just over one-fifth of Scots wanting England to win, with almost double the number supporting the Danes, and a similar amount expressing no preference.

Again contrary to the impression from Twitter, this split is not conducted along political or constitutional lines. Of course, there are nationalists who ordered in pizza for the family, changed their social media profiles to il Tricolore and bought their small children Italian strips for the occasion, but such people are far less numerous than social media makes them appear.

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Far more numerous, though, are those with an underlying desire, even need, for England to lose, particularly at football. They include many nationalists, but also hundreds of thousands of unionists, who outnumber supporters of England’s football team against a foreign nation by two-to-one.

No, on the contrary, this almost visceral need for England to lose is a much deeper, psychological issue for Scots. I do understand it, and indeed I’ve flirted with it at times. The popular refrain amongst those who want to be seen to be decent and thoughtful is the “I don’t mind the players but I don’t like the media” logic.

I see that. I’ve spent my adult life listening to the BBC and ITV telling me every two years that England are about to win the World Cup or the European Championships, despite the tangible evidence that the English football team is one of sport’s great under-performers compared to its peers in Germany, Italy, France and Spain, all of whom have won at least three major tournaments in my lifetime, compared to England’s zero.

It is wearing. It is, of course, no different to how the Scottish media would behave under the same circumstances, but it is wearing nonetheless, and we are unique in Scotland in having to take a feed from a broadcaster based in one of the other nations competing in the tournament. The Swedes didn’t have to put up with Danish broadcasters in 1992; the Turks didn’t have to endure the Greek media in 2004; the Dutch didn’t have to consume the German media in 2014. We have no choice, and this surely feeds resentment.

However that is an argument about decentralised broadcasting – valid, but for another day.

There is nothing wrong with sporting rivalry, and nothing wrong with taking sides – indeed, sport would be rather pointless without rivalry. However, truly historic sporting rivalries have at least two sides.

In football, we saw one at the weekend when Argentina beat Brazil in the Copa America – two teams who see one another as their great rivals. In tennis, also on Sunday, we saw Novak Djokovic draw level with Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer on 20 grand slams – all three see one another as their great rivals.

HeraldScotland: England fans after the finalEngland fans after the final

This is not the case with Scotland’s and England’s football teams. We may see them as our great rivals, but the feeling is not mutual. They look to Europe, particularly to Germany, for adversaries. Indeed, they seem to rather like us, with all the evidence being that if the Nike Mercurial boots had been on the other feet on Sunday night, the English would have been almost united in cheering on their northern neighbour.

It is this which, I must say, I find profoundly dispiriting. There is nothing more pitiful than your supposed great rival killing you with kindness. However the most distressing facet of this one-way relationship is what it says about us more broadly as a nation.

We have, in this country, an obsession with England which transcends political and constitutional camps, and transcends aspects of our lives well beyond sport. But in politics it finds its happy place, from where it burgeons and permeates other areas of our existence.

I have experienced it, and witnessed it, for the last 20 years, having first entered politics just after the opening of the Scottish Parliament. It is not an exaggeration to say that one of the very first checks a unionist or nationalist parliamentary researcher does on any piece of breaking news, is how it compares with England.

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Take waiting times in the NHS. Nationalists are not particularly interested in how these might compare with, say, Finland – as long as they’re shorter than England, they have a media line for the BBC and STV, or a Twitter meme.

Or take GDP growth. Unionists are not particularly interested in how it compares with, say, Germany – as long as it’s slower than England, they have the basis for a newspaper column or a leaflet for a by-election.

The list of examples is effectively endless. Listen to any Minister or their Shadow on Good Morning Scotland this week; listen for the cross-border comparison. You won’t wait long. This lowest common denominator politics is not only wholly unambitious; it is a destructive block on progress.

Being a little better than England is not the bar I want Scotland to set itself, particularly in those public services where both Scotland and England fall far short of peers in the OECD countries. I want us to be better than the best, whomever the best is.

If our politicians take the lead, they might just find the rest of us follow.

On the football, I cheered for England last night, more than I’d ever done before, because I’m so impressed at the individuals involved in the set-up.

But my main takeaway from Euro 2020 is that I don’t want Scotland to be a nation which celebrates winning one point out of nine, simply because that point happened to be at the expense of England.

What a miserable bar to set.

Andy Maciver is director of Message Matters

Our columns are a platform for writers to express their opinions. They do not necessarily represent the views of The Herald.