THE English women’s national team’s victory at Euro 2022 was a watershed moment for the English team, women’s football and football generally. It was devoid of all the usual hysteria, celebrity overkill and jingoism associated with the England men’s team.

This is a moment for reflection on what women’s football has had to overcome to get here. The English FA banned the women’s game in 1921 saying it was “quite unsuitable for females”, as did the SFA. The FA only unbanned it in 1971, the SFA in 1974 – the latter being one of the last in the world.

Watching English football for Scots has its hazards. Despite the reminder that there are four nations in the UK every day in the Birmingham Commonwealth Games, we have all the usual confusion and conceit talking about England in the Euros as “the nation”, “the country”, “we” and imagining that everyone in the UK somehow lives in “a fictional nation”, in the words of Ruth Wishart, which just happens to be England.

Such profound misstatements are jarring to say the least.

Yet at the same time there is nothing wrong with the English women’s team, English fans and commentators revelling in this moment of collective joy. That is part of the wonder and magic of professional sport.

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It is possible to admire this, and to celebrate the talents of the players and passions of football fans, without falling into the trap of getting worked up about how some English people talk of England as being some slight on the rest of us in the UK.

It is more complex than this, and we have to differentiate between English folk just talking about their joys and identifying with their team, as everyone does who follows football, and the insidious “England as Britain” mindset pumped out by parts of the media and politics.

There used to be a potent argument put forward in Scotland that English media would not stop going on about 1966. That perspective was once right, but was undermined by the extent to which some Tartan Army supporters went on about the supposed degree that the English media went on about 1966. We were the ones left obsessing about the English obsession, which isn’t a good look.

There is a wider current – “Anyone But England” (ABE) – defining ourselves through whoever England is playing at football.

This is dramatically different from a healthy rivalry, and jettisoning it doesn’t mean Scots have to support England. It is more that we can surely aspire to have the confidence to see the world not through how we see England, but through a wider international horizon.

Over the weekend Pat Kane retweeted a 1970s piece of TV footage where cultural icon Hugh MacDiarmid talked about Scotland politically and culturally in the seventies.

He dismissed devolution as something not worthy of his support, but even more so revelled in his support for “Anglophobia”, removing English cultural influence from Scotland, and in effect advocating a cultural “separatism” between the two nations. It was and is unattractive and unviable – and a voice and perspective from another age of Scottish powerlessness and inferiorism that we do not need to hold onto today.

The Scottish debate needs to differentiate a few things. The “England as Britain” mindset in media, culture and politics is not only annoying, it is part of the misrepresentation of the UK and connected to its misgovernance, broken politics and broken system.

In this there is much scope for common ground. The vast majority of people who live in the diverse, varied country that is England are equally misgoverned by Westminster and the British political classes.

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England is a nation and name which the media and most UK politics does not want to acknowledge or even say. This is true of the Conservative and Unionist Party but even more so the British Labour Party. Both prefer to subsume “England” into the wider idea of “Britain” which can then be articulated by some as “England as Britain”.

This evasion and silence contributes to how both major parties and the political system not only sees the UK but England, adding to the myopia and misrepresentation which underpins the undemocratic way that England is governed and its experience of direct rule from Westminster.

The UK has Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish democratic institutions. There is no English Parliament. There is no English Government. There is a UK Parliament which sees itself post-1707 as a continuation of the English Parliament and still propagates and articulates English political traditions. These include the folklore of parliamentary sovereignty and the absolutism of the central state.

The “England as Britain” fairy tale damages and holds back all nations of the UK. It is not an accident that in terms of referendums about democratic government and their future, Scotland has had three referendums, Wales three and Northern Ireland two, while England has had none.

The National Wales: Second indyref moves closer ...

The people of England have not been asked on a single occasion what they think is their most appropriate form of government and democracy by the Westminster class. This is because to do so would begin to unravel the whole system and shows that not asking the English is not only anti-democratic, it is unsustainable.

Football might only be a sport, but it does illuminate wider cultural and societal truths. The English women’s triumph shows that it is near nye-impossible to stop England as a nation finding voice and expression. And it says something about how the four nations are represented, and who gains from the current dispensation.

Scottish responses to this shouldn’t fall into the trap of being small-minded and hunting for slights and insults. Instead, we need to make common cause across these isles, between those of us in Scotland wanting change and our English neighbours and friends, along with the Welsh and those living in Northern Ireland.

Our common cause should be uniting against the narrow, blinkered Westminster take of Britain with its racism, xenophobia, stigmatisation of minorities and those who challenge it, as well as its continual living in the past and harking after the British Empire.

We still live in the shadow of the Empire State and whichever party is in office – Tory or Labour – the War Party is still in power, with its obsessions of militarism, overseas action and the endurance of the UK as a warfare state.

Scottish self-government has to aspire to take the high ground and be outgoing, optimistic and generous, and make alliances with those across the UK who want to throw off the shackles of the Westminster system and its rotten, broken and corrupt politics.

It has to emphasise the principle that not only does Scotland have the right to decide its future, so too does England. In this we can make common ground, find shared language and aspire to a new set of relationships across these isles.

If Scotland aspires to be a modern, democratic and progressive country, we should encourage England to also embrace such a future, and find mutual inspiration in finally breaking free from the constraints of the British Empire State.

This column originally appeared in our sister title, The National, in Scotland.