THERE is a theory that a majority of Scots voted No in the 2014 independence referendum because as a nation we lack the self-confidence needed to take matters into our own hands. Believing in ourselves and being willing to portray an image of success doesn’t always come naturally to us. It is why we specialise in self-deprecation and cast a suspicious eye at anyone considered acting above their station.

It perhaps also partially explains a lack of recent success on the sporting front. Despite the proliferation of sports psychologists and the recent fad for visualisation and mental stimulus techniques, you do sometimes wonder if our athletes really genuinely believe they deserve to be on the same level as the best in the world. Drilling deep into the Scots psyche to discover more on this would surely be an instructive but time-consuming exercise.

Recent national performances in our two most popular sports - football and rugby - have been largely lamentable. The men’s football team have struggled for so long now that the country has almost become inured to their failures. An entire generation or two have known nothing but a world where Scotland doesn’t compete at major events.

The women’s team have offered some sunshine among the gloom but even their recent World Cup adventure ended in the sort of catastrophic fashion their male colleagues appear to have patented. Throwing away a three-goal lead in a decisive match before a finger-pointing post-mortem after a few drinks felt typically Scottish.

Rugby has offered little respite. Having pushed to be given the opportunity to qualify for a World Cup quarter-final place in the aftermath of a typhoon, it was Scotland who ended up being blown away. Japan showed national spirit and determination in droves as their visitors meekly capitulated. “Ah well,” a nation shrugged. “Never mind.”

It is in danger of becoming a vicious cycle. The lack of success on the international front not only damages those involved but has a detrimental effect on those coming after them, looking for inspiration.

Where are the role models? Who should young Scots be looking to emulate? Is it any surprise that many younger football fans prefer to pull on the shirts of Belgium, Brazil or France rather than their own? These, after all, are the countries their heroes play for.

The few who have broken the trend by succeeding at world level have done so by detaching from that debilitating Scottish cringe. Andy Murray may be self-deprecating and self-effacing away from tennis but on court his sense of belief has always been unshakeable.

Born in Scotland but nurtured in Barcelona, his confidence and desire to prove himself rather than worry what others may think seems almost un-Scottish. His tenacity to keep playing when the end seemed nigh was another indication of his unique mental strength. We should cherish him while we can as there may not be another like him for quite some time.

Josh Taylor is another blessed with the requisite focus and self-confidence to compete with the best. Scotland’s only current boxing world champion faces his toughest test to date next Saturday when he takes on Regis Prograis in the final of the Muhammad Ali Trophy.

Self-belief is a vital component in any boxer’s make-up but Taylor’s calm assurance doesn’t seem in any way contrived or artificial. If he could transplant that attitude into some of his compatriots then perhaps Scotland could go back to enjoying wider sporting success.

Nostalgia is rarely an accurate barometer for comparing eras but, growing up in the 1980s and 1990s, we never seemed short of national heroes. It proves that being Scottish need not be a barrier to success. As a nation we just need to somehow find a way to get that gallus swagger back again.

TALKING of boxing….there was sad news earlier this week when Patrick Day became the fourth fighter this year to lose his life as a result of injuries sustained in the ring. The American’s death has again promoted calls from brain injury charities and others for the sport to be banned.

It is a natural reaction to what many will consider an entirely avoidable outcome. And it is easy to see why opponents see it as an illogical, dangerous and often barbaric pastime.

But to throw the towel in on boxing completely would be an overreaction to a still mercifully rare tragedy. The argument that even a solitary death in the sporting arena is one too many is a strong one but misses the point when it comes to boxing.

Day and the others who sadly lost their lives this year stepped voluntarily and willingly into the ring every time. There was no conscription required.

There are a myriad reasons why boxers take up the sport – to get fit, to scratch a competitive itch, in search of fame and fortune or simply for the visceral thrill of it all – but all do so of their own free will and mindful of the dangers they face while doing so.

It takes a certain kind of bravery to step into a ring knowing there will be someone standing just a few feet away intent on delivering relentless physical damage to your wellbeing until one of you can stand it no longer.

But those who have tragically succumbed to their injuries all willingly accepted that risk to participate in a sport they loved.