THE polls are closed. We have a new government. Armed with a two-inch pencil, we each hammered home our collective message from the nation.

I marked that X so fervently inside the box next to candidate Y they almost fused together to make a male chromosome. How the keyboard warriors on either side of the gender debate would have coped with that detail I don’t know.

A vote for change? A vote for more of the same? A vote for change to the same? Come to think of it, who did I vote for again?

For Mike Mulraney, the Scottish FA’s president, “change” is the kind of word he is currently eating for breakfast. After a season and a half of VAR kicking the Scottish Prermiership in the ribs with its incessant interruptions, delays, fingers to earpieces, jogs to pitchside monitors and elaborate finger gestures, change, apparently, is off the table.

Scottish FA president Mike MulraneyScottish FA president Mike Mulraney (Image: SNS)

Only, VAR is all about change: changes of mind, changes of heart, changes of decision – change to the spectacle of our game. The inertia from Scottish football’s political class over this particular political football is almost enough to incite memories of the poll tax - if I had any memories of the poll tax. Why push through a policy your target demographic clearly can’t stand?

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If yesterday’s change election was anything to go by, then surely the concept of beating constituents about the head with unpopular policies for long periods of time will only lead you to one destination. From the many of us who have had it with VAR in Scottish football, it is not a case of asking for change for change’s sake. Compromise is possible, it’s just that it does not seem to be being spoken about at present. Instead, Mulraney’s recent doubling down about how wonderful VAR has been and how it is going nowhere comes across as tone deaf.

There are aspects to VAR which work. At the Euros, you couldn’t grumble with how the technology has been used. Overall, decisions are being made quickly, the use of semi-automation for offsides is effective, and, crucially, not every single contentious decision has been pored over during a pause in play and checked by referees after sweet nothings have been whispered in their ear by the VAR.

When Scotland were dumped out of the competition by Hungary, it was a telling indictment of our own nation’s approach to VAR that Steve Clarke, a manager not generally renowned for his over-excitement, came out criticising officials after the game for not awarding a penalty to his side after Stuart Armstrong was bundled to the ground inside the box with the score at 0-0.

Stuart Armstrong is bundled to the ground by Willi OrbaStuart Armstrong is bundled to the ground by Willi Orban (Image: Getty)

While I roared “penalty!” at the TV screen like any other Scotland fan watching the match through the gaps in their fingers, as much as I hoped the call would come in on Facundo Tello’s  hands-free device, it never did. Play continued, no delays, and the world kept spinning. Watching the replay back, I still think it should have been given. But I could also see the other side of the argument, that Armstrong did move towards the defender before they collided, and with no clear and obvious error by the referee I support the decision to support the referee’s decision.

Had this incident occurred in the Scottish Premiership, however, you can be sure play would have been paused interminably. Arguments, counter-arguments, slow-motion replays, questions of intent (or, as I like to call it, mindreading) would all have come to the surface of this VAR bog. But what Mulraney and the rest seem to ignore is that, whatever the outcome after all this thrashing about, most decisions remain contentious to some degree.

This speaks to Clarke’s lamentable decision to criticise referee Tello based on his nationality (“He’s an Argentinian, why would I ask him?” Clarke replied to questions over whether he queried the decision after the Hungary game. “Why is it not a European?”). How spoilt are we as a footballing nation that we believe we have some God-given right to have every decision which goes against us reviewed in our favour? Or in thinking that our approach to VAR is the correct one.

Scotland manager Steve Clarke on the touchline against HungaryScotland manager Steve Clarke on the touchline against Hungary (Image: Getty)

Mulraney, the man tasked with selling the SFA’s vision for the future of the Scottish game, seems to believe we’re at VAR’s vanguard, citing the improved percentages of correct refereeing decisions since its introduction as some kind of officials' gospel. As the Armstrong penalty decision highlights, however, many decisions are debatable and claims like these from Mulraney (and, indeed, Clarke) are spurious at best.

It is also unclear who these stats are supposed to impress. No one in world football cares what percentage of decisions are “correct” after VAR interventions in the Scottish Premiership. The only beneficiaries of such brags, it seems, are the match officials themselves. I’m going on a hunch here, forgive me, but I’m guessing the number of Scottish officials representing us at major tournaments is somewhere close to the bottom of the list of priorities for Scottish football fans. Yet time and again, like the micro-issues that often dominate political discourse, the argument that our referees will be left behind if we don’t follow the herd with VAR is often rolled out as a defence for keeping the practice in place. Well, I'm really sorry Mike, but I don't really give a monkeys if our officials are at the next World Cup or not.

The sooner those in power in the Scottish FA and SPFL stop pandering to these hollow ideals the better. The Euros have proved that the spectacle benefits from a softer-touch approach to VAR – with intervention reserved for clear and obvious errors. They owe it to the only constituents who matter to Scottish football – the fans – to do better.