“SHEN nerve maare-low oo-cry-enee”. That’s the phonetic version of the start of the Ukrainian national anthem. It roughly translates as “long live Ukraine”. Scottish fans are being urged to sing along tonight, or try to.

It will be rare indeed to hear Hampden roar for the rival nation’s anthem in a World Cup qualifying match. But one suspects the Scottish fans will give a good account of themselves and that the bi-colour flag of Ukraine will be as prominent as the Saltire.

It’s going to be emotional, that’s for sure. There's never been a football match quite like this.

The Tartan Army do not agree with the former Scotland captain, Graeme Souness, that Ukraine should win. But they're acutely aware that the rest of the world is rooting for the opposition.The winner will play Wales on Sunday for a place in the Qatar finals.

Just Scotland’s luck. The best team in years, and the first real prospect of qualifying for the World Cup in more than two decades, and everyone wants us to lose. Except Russia.

The planet wants a repeat of the Eurovision Song Contest. But you can’t win football by algorithm, as Bill Shankly might have said. It will, as ever, come down to boots on the ground in a contest of skill and sinew. Though it may be difficult for the Scots to go in hard against Ukraine: every foul will look like a war crime.

One can only imagine what is going through the minds of the Ukrainian players. Their coach Oleksandr Petrakov tried to sign up to fight in Kyiv, but was rejected. President Zelenskyy clearly felt he'd better assist the war effort as a football hero. Mr Petrakov has reportedly been using jokes to psych his players into match-playing mode, giving an entirely new meaning to the phrase “gallows humour”.

The match comes at an acutely difficult moment for Ukrainian patriots. The war is not going well. The Russians are winning in the Donbas. A hundred Ukrainians are dying every day in the most bloody conflict seen in Europe since the Second World War .

Read more: Europe is relearning the language of popular militarism

The European Union, which dithered over sending arms to Ukraine after the Russian invasion in February, has dithered again over banning imports of Russian oil and gas. Shamefully, European countries will continue to finance Vladimir Putin’s war machine by purchasing his hydrocarbons.

Europe is also stalling on arms supplies. President Zelenskyy is desperately appealing for long-range artillery and tanks which Germany appears reluctant to authorise. You sense that European capitals are waiting to see if the Russians can consolidate their position in the East of Ukraine preparatory to peace talks. They don't want to back the loser.

Many in the West, from Henry Kissinger down, have been calling for the Ukrainians to be “realistic” about their chances of driving the Russian invaders out of their country. They already lost Crimea in 2014. Just accept that Ukraine will be partitioned. It used to be part of Russia anyway. Why waste more lives? Isn't jaw-jaw better than war-war?

This is what's called real politik. Many European leaders would frankly prefer this war to end now so that the global economy can recover its balance. But Ukrainians aren't minded to give up their country for the convenience of Western leaders whose countries have not been invaded in living memory. It is a war for national survival.

Moreover, self-interested realists in Brussels and the US Congress don’t seem to realise that you can’t bargain with militant imperialism. Putin will not stop at the new borders of the Donbas. There's no going back to the old normal. It is still essential for all our security that Russia loses this first full European war in 80 years.

Read more: Ukraine's heroes are fighting for European civilisation itself, so pass the ammunition

The invasion has shattered the complacent assumptions of the last 30 years. Borders were supposed to be an anachronism in the age of globalisation, European integration and climate change. Nationalism is still regarded by the metropolitan elite as the passion only of narrow-minded Brexiters and Scottish separatists. But Ukraine has reminded everyone that nationalism and borders are there for a reason: they are the first line of defence against invasion, for a start. It is nationalism that has motivated Ukranians to give their lives.

Nations are also the guarantors of democracy. Indeed elective democracy is only possible within clearly-defined national borders. The modern nation-state emerged in the 19th century as countries fought for independence from the Empires that had dominated Europe since the Middle Ages. Empires like the Russian one that Putin wishes to restore by annexing Ukraine

Scotland occupies a curious position in the dialectics of nationhood. In the 19th century, Scots of all classes were happy to be part of Great Britain and the imperial project. Scottish regiments fought heroically for the British Empire in conflicts like the 1865 Crimean War. Scotland did not regard itself as an oppressed nation or an internal colony like Ireland. Far from it. We were partners in the colonisation of a quarter of the globe.

Only in the minds of the most anglophobic nationalist is Scotland today an oppressed nation. SNP folk may complain about Westminster control or the “cancer” of London domination, but Scotland is not going to be invaded by England. Scots have full democratic and human rights.

Our culture is not threatened. We are not exploited economically by a foreign power – except arguably over oil revenues, but we don’t talk about Scotland's Oil any more. Scotland still receives subsidies through our flexible friend the Barnett Formula – as yesterday’s spending review confirmed.

So Ukraine cuts both ways in the independence debate. Many Scots want to take back control from Westminster and Scotland has a right to national self-determination. But as we cheer Ukraine on the Hampden pitch we can be thankful that the struggle in Scotland is in some respects a phoney one.

For all the harsh words between Nicola Sturgeon and Boris Johnson, and whatever finally happens in the constitutional rows that will shortly rage in the courts, our national question is still essentially an argument among friends and neighbours, not mortal enemies. And on Ukraine, both Scots and English can unite in singing Slava Ukraini.

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