Independence Day

Scotland in Roy of the Rovers

The football comic strip released in the style of a beautiful A4 annual, ‘You Are The Ref 3‘ was released to coincide with the World Cup in the summer, giving an international flavour to the iconic drawings from illustrator Paul Trevillion (Roy of the Rovers) that accompany Keith Hackett’s refereeing dilemmas. Apart from being pre-spray it is contemporary in every other way, with great artistic impressions of modern players and a sidebar with answers to the queries about the laws of the game.

Amongst the cartoons of today’s superstars (and Mesut Ozil) there is also the face of the occasional legend from yesteryear: Beckbenbuer (West Germany), Eusabio (Portugal), Pele (Brazil), Cruyff (Netherlands), Bobby Moore (England) and Sylvester Stallone (Allied Forces). All players, apart from the novelty of Stallone, whose teams were in the World Cup. For anyone who remembers the cartoon strip from years gone by it is easy to remember back to older columns where, for example, Steve Archibald, Mark Hughes and Pat Jennings featured, as they did for club and county. While none of their nations qualified in 2014, for football fans, it has always been easy to understand that within the United Kingdom there were different countries.

So, as the Scottish Referendum has taken most of the news coverage in the fortnight (suddenly, despite being on the agenda for over a year), the fear being whipped up against the idea that a nation, a once famous footballing nation no less, shouldn’t be given its own independence, appears illogical. It is an arrogance that has come from left, right and down the centre and may be an example of one area where football is centuries ahead of the political class.

Sending in the clowns Cameron, Clegg, Ed Miliband, George Galloway and Nigel Farage at the first sign of trouble was a telling clue of an argument out of touch. While the ‘Better Together’ campaign have been ahead, with the exception of one-poll, from day one and have had every newspaper, bar one Scottish paper, supporting the establishment, their scare stories and representation of the status quo has been particularly unappealing. And finally, people seem to be waking up and smelling the Irn-Bru.

Throughout there has been a dismissive attitude to a nation as subjects of a governing class rather than citizens who have their own football team. John Major effectively suggested Devolution gave Scottish people ideas above their station, while others more to Major’s right have said the they shouldn’t even have the right to choose. The BBC’s right leaning political correspondents including Nick Robinson, Allegra Stratton and Laura Kuensberg have been talking up press releases from otherwise ill-reputed Banks, which as explained here have as much reliability as a racing tipster rather than being based on any economic science.

Even more strange are voices that would surely recognise nations from Palestine to Portugal have a right to govern themselves suggesting that the Scots embracing a progressive patriotism should stand down. Yet the Labour Party is more concerned with losing a valuable electoral block from North of the Border than doing what’s right and remembering there is a border, albeit invisible.

The SNP may not have presented themselves as being dramatically more competent than the bunch that have mismanaged the treasury from Westminster for years, but the referendum isn’t on the SNP as an Administration, it is on independence. The SNP can lose power in Scotland another time, but now is the chance for all the countries that used to compete in the Home Nations tournaments (including England) to define their own democracy.

There is an 85% take-up of the vote in Scotland and a resurgence in the democratic process. Having let the opportunity of Proportional Representation pass us by, a portion of the disenfranchised have another chance on Thursday, on what could be Independence Day. As any football fan knows, the United Kingdom isn’t a county, it doesn’t even have it’s own team.


Mel Gomes is the author of the e-book Glory Nights from Wankdorf to Wembley which documents the escape of travelling to watch sport. It is available to preview for free and download in full from Amazon and Smashwords. More details, including photos and links to reviews, here.

Glory Nights: From Wankdorf to Wembley

The Substantive is a platform for new, independent writing on popular culture. As well as the e-book, you can also buy the t-shirt, with all proceeds put towards the running of the site.


The Substantive ‘The Boss’ t-shirt, with an original Bruce Springsteen print by the artist Lilly Allen, is 100% ultracotton and made by an ethical and environmental partner. Pictures, more details and a link to order here