Sunday, 8 June 2014

A new ally in the Land of the Silver?

If you're a member of the Tartan Army watching the World Cup you're maybe wondering just who to be cheering on in Brazil. Well don't be surprised if you see some Saltires fluttering around the stadium when Argentina step up to face Bosnia. Argentina is a country that will be looking on with intense interest at what happens on Peter Shilton's 65th Birthday, the 18th September - maybe they will be celebrating a Yes victory by doing a sort of Hand of God salute!

The reason why Argentinian fans would be so enthusiastic about a display of Scottish solidarity is not difficult to consider. The rivalry with England is something both Scotland and Argentina share on the football pitch. Both rivalries with England of course produce a classic display of world football notably in 1966, 1986, 1998 and 2002 for Argentina and 1996, 2013 and many others before for Scotland. Then of course the blue and white lends itself to a mutual support although for Scotland's strip it's dark blue compared to Argentina's midday shade. And of course, let's not forget, Scotland's fondest memory of the World Cup is their trip to Argentina in 1978 with THAT goal by Archie Gemmel against the Netherlands.

That goal.

Off the field, if many in Argentina's football fraternity are as entrenched in their views about the Falklands, or the Malvinas, as their political leaders in Buenos Aires then without doubt they will see Scotland's opportunity for independence as a chance to complete the quest for decolonialisation of the British state. The President of Argentina will be watching closely what happens at the other end of the Atlantic in September anticipating a Yes vote with eager anticipation.

Personally I don't agree with Argentina's posturing over the Falklands. It would be wrong not to want self-determination for the Falkland Islanders having wanted it so much for Scotland. They do not typically identify with Argentina, they prefer to turn to the British state for their citizenship and being descended from Anglo-Celts it's hard not to share their view. But it does mean, for people living here in Britain, relations with Argentina leave a lot to be desired. And for those Scots that want to see a good relationship with Argentina a Yes vote would they feel be exactly what they need.

With Scotland removed from the British state, Argentina can form a new bond with at least one part of the island of Great Britain that is refreshingly less acrimonious. And with that could potentially come new opportunities. For example if Scotland were to follow the Republic of Ireland's lead in 2008 that might include a Visa agreement which would allow Scottish citizens the chance to work in Argentina. Of course there's plenty of places around the world to work but why not Argentina? Many Scots in Scotland would love to be associated with that kind of foreign policy of reaching out and shaking hands. The UK's foreign policy appears so much to be stuck in the 19th Century. But that's Westminster's issue, Scotland can choose a different direction. Diplomatic disputes between Argentina and the UK over the Falklands are likely to have an unwanted negative effect on bilateral trade but this would not be an issue with trade agreements between Argentina and an independent Scotland who would have no responsibility for the Falklands.

So in the land of the silver (that's what Argentina literally means) could we find a new ally? Well hopefully a much more positive relationship with Argentina. But Scotland cannot be seen to take sides on the Falklands issue. One person who probably will have a strong opinion is Veterans Minister Keith Brown MSP. He himself saw action in the Falklands and if he is to hold a defence or foreign affairs brief in an independent Scottish Government he will be all too aware of the importance a good diplomatic relationship with Argentina. If Holyrood is not put under too much pressure to take Argentina's side on the Falkland's issue while refusing to aid Britain's watch over the islands, then there's no reason why Scotland can't strike the right balance in how it's government interacts with a country who really should be our friend not our foe.

In the meantime, I look forward to seeing an England v. Argentina Semi-Final hopefully with both Rooney and Messi gracing the floor having scored their first finals goal. Why it will have taken them both three World Cups to get to that stage of being a goal scorer in the greatest show on Earth I can only wonder. But what I can tell you is.... I can't wait!

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