Much as Scots have grown accustomed to trying to pretend otherwise, you'll probably have noticed that there's currently another international football tournament going on without us. This evening sees the first appearance in the European Championship of the England team, the only side competing in the entire competition who don't have a national anthem to call their own.
Over two decades of living in England hasn't changed this writer's feelings towards the country's international team much. I still want them to lose – not because I hate the English people, but precisely because I like them.
Cheering on your nearest neighbours in sporting competitions is, in my view, a deeply disrespectful and unfriendly thing to do. Celtic supporters don't cheer Rangers on in Europe. (Remember THOSE days, Rangers fans?) Manchester Utd fans don't say "Well, if WE can't win the league I hope Man City do, because they're from around here like us." The Dutch share a border and a fair amount of culture with Germany, but the two nations aren't known for mutual support and well-wishing.
Sporting rivalry, for all its occasional and frequently-overstated problems, is the least unhealthy outlet for the tribal antipathies that are hard-wired into human DNA. Mocking your neighbours' failures – and accepting in good humour their mockery of yours – is an elaborate and delicate ritualising of the process of civilisation. It says "We recognise that you are different to us, but we have parlayed that genetic enmity into a harmless and pro-social form." It's all the fun of war, without (usually, at least) all the bloodshed, genocide, crippled economies and general unpleasantness.
Wishing your neighbours success, on the other hand, is in its core essence an insult. It indicates that you don't consider them a threat, and that they can therefore be safely encouraged and patronised. When England supporters cheer on the other nations of the British Isles, subconsciously (and sometimes consciously) they're saying that they're not a danger – that they don't fear Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland (and for the extra-condescending, even the Republic Of Ireland) progressing through the competition because if England were ever to find themselves playing them they would present no obstacle to English progress. They are, if you like, cannon fodder, sent out to hopefully remove more serious opposition, or at least blunt its claws a little for the day when it will face the England team.
(The historic military analogy, we trust, is so obvious as not to need spelling out.)
That, then, is why when I find myself watching sporting contests against third parties with English friends, I do them the basic courtesy of cheering for the other side, and expect the same in return. (NB we employ this protocol when watching games in each other's houses, not in pubs – I'm principled, not suicidal. Though remind me to tell you the tale sometime of how I accidentally started a major riot in Blackpool in 1990.)
There are other good reasons to will on England's opponents, too. Scotland is still primarily served with sporting coverage by the BBC, and the Corporation is known for a clumsy approach at times such as these. Inhabit any Scottish corner of the Twittersphere during any game of an international tournament (not just football) and you won't find difficulty in locating hordes of Scots fuming in irritation as the commentators crowbar talk of England into even games between Lithuania and Paraguay, and cut immediately to "news from the England camp" after the most cursory of half-time analyses.
Imagine, then, the consequences of England winning Euro 2012. It's safe to say that we wouldn't have heard the last of it by the time the referendum comes round – we haven't heard the last of 1966 yet, and that was almost half a century ago, when the Soviet Union was still one country rather than 15 and half the globe didn't even enter the World Cup.
It's not just football. The blanket media coverage of England's 2005 cricketing Ashes victory – in which they finally managed to win a tournament with only two teams in it, for the first time in almost 20 years, immediately resulting in the entire team getting MBEs and OBEs – went on for months. By any sort of empirical measure Scotland's home-and-away victories over France in the Euro 2008 qualifying campaign were a greater achievement, but James McFadden didn't get invited to Buckingham Palace.
An against-the-odds capturing of the Henri Delauny Trophy would spark a media outpouring of English triumphalism on a scale never seen before in these islands, and could sour relations between Scottish and English people more than anything since the Highland Clearances. It hardly bears thinking about, and as a resident of England with a great many dear and cherished English friends I don't want to see such a wedge driven between our two peoples.
Sweden, France and Ukraine are all competent sides, but none of their domestic leagues ought to be able to hold a candle to the stars of the Premiership, even with depleted ranks due to suspension, injury and the inability of the English manager to trust his central defenders not to kick each other rather than the opposition. The draw could easily keep England apart from their traditional nemesis Germany until the final. This is the last European Championship with only 16 teams, meaning just three knockout matches (all of which the talismanic and sometimes magical Wayne Rooney will be available for) stand between any side and victory. It's doable.
I for one, though, will be fervently praying it doesn't get done. I like the English people too much. And quite apart from that, it's only polite.