ONE of the last things I would want to do is sound anything like Richard Keys – believe me – but I found myself thinking of his infamous line of defence as the Tartan Army booed the English national anthem last week, and the England fans responded in kind when Flower of Scotland was aired.

There is a line where rivalries between groups of football fans can cross from being simply dismissed as ‘banter’, but for my money, the booing of your biggest rival’s national anthem just about crawls under that bar.

You may think differently. Scotland hero Ally McCoist received huge stick from many who have idolised him for stating that he was offended by the Tartan Army’s behaviour at Hampden. The added complication being of course that God Save the King is also the British national anthem, and national identity can be a complex thing in our complicated little country.

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You may also think that the booing of any national anthem at all smacks of disrespect, and that is fair enough, too. But for me, it falls into the pantomime category. As did the loud retort of the Rangers support at Perth on Saturday, who sang ‘you can shove yer Tartan Army up yer a**e’. All good, not-so clean, fun.

I am not so naïve as to say that politics should be kept out of football. They go hand-in-hand. But there seems to be a narrative that supporting Rangers and supporting Scotland is now incompatible in a post-referendum world. You can’t support independence if you are a Rangers fan, and you can’t support the union and support the Scotland team.

Except, opinion polls show that a great many Rangers fans were indeed yes voters, and Rangers fans still make up the largest section of the Scotland supporter’s club. Its almost as if social media isn’t actually the real world. But I digress.

I don’t defend the booing of the English anthem because I want to propagate the image of the ‘cuddly’ Tartan Army though, with their (here’s that dreaded word again) banter and their kilts and their Glengarries and their friendly, ambassadorial nature.

Much of that image is accurate, but it also disguises an increasingly sizeable fringe of the Scotland supporter base that do indeed bring shame upon themselves and upon their country.

What seems to have been lost rather in the ‘anthem-gate’ aftermath is that the booing was the least of our worries at the national stadium. It was during and after the minute’s silence for the late, great Craig Brown and victims of the recent tragedies in Morocco and Libya that there was real cause for criticism of fan behaviour.

Yes, it could be argued that many in the England support were provoking a response as they drunkenly and loudly slurred ‘Engerlund, Engerlund’ during the silence. But whatever your views on the monarchy, it is difficult to square indignation over a lack of respect being shown to the deceased with a lusty chorus of ‘Lizzie’s in a box’ by way of response.  The classy Brown would surely have been disappointed to hear thousands of Scottish fans belting it out.

Later in the game, too, we were treated to numerous renditions of ‘Harry Kane’s a mongo’, a word used to degrade and dehumanise disabled people in the same way that ‘spastic’ once did. It has surely already gone the way of that term in becoming unacceptable to use in any context.

So, it is difficult – for me, at least – to get too exercised about a bit of booing when this sort of thing was also going on.

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No doubt there will be many who indeed see all of this as ‘banter’, or fair game when it comes to the low bar set on the football terraces. But there are many within the Tartan Army who will piously criticise the Old Firm for the abhorrent songs and chants often heard at their games, while turning a blind eye to unacceptable behaviour within their own ranks, dismissing it as ‘a bit of a laugh’.

You can’t have it all ways, and a section of the Scotland support absolutely – in my view – crossed the line from rivalry into repugnancy. And in doing so, demolished the notion of exceptionalism that is often evident when discussing the Scotland support. That ‘we are different’, and somehow ‘better’ than other groups of fans.

The Tartan Army have long enjoyed a stellar reputation. They raise funds for charities in the countries they visit, and have built much of that reputation on their aversion to violence. You are unlikely to see Scottish fans hurling plastic chairs across some German square next summer, for instance, and that contrast to the conduct of the English support is worn – proudly and justifiably - like a badge of honour.

That is all well and good. But that reputation will soon take a hit if the section of the Tartan Army who think it is fair game to sing songs glorying in death or ableist ditties – no matter who they are directed at – don’t clean up their act.