Ayear or so ago, just after Scotland's whitewash at the Six Nations, I received an email which contained one of the most entertaining conspiracy theories I have read in many a year.

Taking into account the mess Scottish rugby was in, its author had put that together with the horrors being suffered by the national football team and, in particular, Craig Levein's decision to play without a striker against the Czech Republic in Prague some 18 months earlier.

This was, the writer contended – while pointing towards the number of Englishmen in key roles within the two professional sports that field the national teams with which most Scots collectively identify – proof of a Unionist plot to demoralise the nation through sport in the run-up to the independence referendum in 2014.

It was, of course, wonderfully ridiculous stuff – I sincerely hope deliberately so – and yet, with the latest World Cup campaign over faster than any in history for our footballers, I thought back to his message and to how a genuine issue had provided the germ of an idea.

Central to it is the question of how much sport really matters. It is considered to be civilised man's alternative to war. If that is so, then while we are having a civilised debate that revolves around national pride, what damage does sporting failure do?

I do not think for a minute that Craig Levein, Andy Robinson and Gordon Strachan have ever set out to fail, or to do anything other than please Scottish people. With the benefit of hindsight, though, maybe the SNP government should be starting to wonder whether they made the right decision when, having promised to break up sportscotland ahead of first coming to power, they then failed to do so.

An opportunity to completely overhaul sport in this country was missed at that stage and things have gone from bad to worse since.

Coach after coach has been sacked in both football and rugby but the reality is there is a desperate lack of talent emerging and that is down to the failure to stimulate interest and encourage competition at an early age.

We live in a country where, bizarrely, it has been considered wrong to encourage sporting competition in schools so as to ensure that less physically-orientated pupils are not made to feel inferior, while at the same time allowing those whose strengths lie in their physical prowess to feel inferior if their academic performance does not measure up.

That is partly a result of the attitudes of teachers and local councils but also of the governing bodies failing miserably to promote the importance of competitive sport in schools, the one place where they have access to all pupils and the opportunity to find out what they are good at.

On which note, I recently pointed towards the reversion of the Scotland rugby team to reliance on its three traditional heartlands of the Borders, private schools and imports.

The anticipated howls of protest, claiming anti-Borders tendencies or chippiness towards the private sector, did not materialise. Instead a couple of freelance colleagues have been sending me messages in the interim pointing out the extent to which that reliance is repeated in the current national under-18 and under-16 squads.

As with the likes of Levein, Robinson and Strachan at senior level, the blame does not lie with those selecting the players, but with those who are not giving state school pupils in our biggest population areas the opportunity to develop and hone their skills in a properly competitive environment at an earlier age.Yet no-one wants to discuss this among the powers-that-be because no-one in sports governing bodies seems to want to be subjected to any sort of measure of their performance.

In recent years I have been approached by a succession of sports bodies seeking increased coverage. Their approaches have always been welcomed, with the caveat always included that they must accept that increased coverage also means increased scrutiny.

To a man and a woman those involved claim at the outset to understand that before gratefully acknowledging any increased coverage and offering thanks for support, invariably laughing off my reminders at that point that our job is not to support, but to report.

Thereafter comes the inevitable next phase when the interest raised means that those who believe there are issues to be raised within the sport in question bring them forward. That is not the sort of coverage that was sought and so those who asked for the attention either complain or retreat into silence because what they really wanted was not coverage but free advertising.

A characteristic of modern sports administration in this country seems to be the need to talk everything up while dismissing as kill-joys those who point out failings. The consequences of failing to apply proper self-criticism has, then, left us forced to agree with a Welsh has-been who tells us our national football team is the worst we have ever had.

Meanwhile, some are trying to tell us we should gratefully race to appoint permanently the caretaker coach who oversaw a Six Nations campaign in which our rugby team lost more matches than they won.

It is time, perhaps, to consider what has happened to our self-respect and whether, in this civilised battle for the future, irrevocable damage has already been done to morale at a time when some are hoping to maximise a sense of Scottish national pride.