SCOTLAND’S qualification for next summer’s European Championships can be a shot in the arm for Scottish independence, a leading economic expert has predicted.

Professor Mike Danson, of Heriot-Watt University, told the Sunday National: “I think people are more likely to vote for independence if they’re confident and the national team are doing well.

“And given that they’re on an upward trajectory anyway that confidence among the fans, within the team, and then as a country as a whole is probably on an upward trajectory as well and therefore gives the confidence that we’re not too wee, too stupid, etc.

“That sort of mindset will be further undermined by the team doing well. And it’s not a trivial point. There are deeper-rooted aspects to that than Scotland just winning a game.’’ The First Minister Nicola Sturgeon captured the buoyant mood of the nation when she greeted the penalty shoot-out win over Serbia by tweeting: “Massive congratulations to Steve Clarke and the team. After 22 years, @ScotlandNT men are off to a major tournament. What a lift for the country. Well done!’’ Scotland’s major constitutional milestones have corresponded with high points in our football history.

There was the Scotland XI of SNP MPs sent to Westminster in 1974 just a few months after Willie Ormond led the country to its first major championships in 16 years, and went out in the group stages of the World Cup still unbeaten in West Germany.

The Devolution Referendum followed Ally’s Army and our adventures at the World Cup in Argentina in 1978.

And the natural fall-out and national despair that followed that ignominious exit dampened spirits ahead of the 1979 count.

And while the wave of nationalist fervour that culminated in the return of the Scottish Parliament after 292 years was unstoppable in 1999 it didn’t harm the cause that we had qualified for the previous two major championships, the Euros in 1996 in England and the World Cup in France in 1998.

With elections for Holyrood in May next year and support for indyRef2 growing, Scotland’s Euro march can help the cause.

It has long been accepted that footballing success can transfer into the wider economy.

Professor of Retail Studies at Stirling University, Leigh Sparks, said: “Potentially this is a tremendous boost because it could come just at the right time, just as things are easing out, just as things are looking more positive. In which case it will be some celebration I expect.

“When the Euros are on there will likely be an increase in alcohol sales, take-away food, hospitality. There’s a real boost around those sorts of sectors.

“And a lot of retailers will put on displays linked to the Euros which also gives a boost to other products in the store as well.

“And then you’ve got the direct sale of Scotland kits and all the rest of the stuff that goes with it.

“And various companies will come out with advertising and promotional products linked to Scotland as well.

“So all of that will be an increase in retail sales and if we get good weather that will be increased even further.

“Qualifying, particularly after such a long time gives a boost to the mood, gives a boost to consumers generally. The big boost will be around the campaigns leading up to and including the Euros.’’ Sparks believes too that any lifting of social restrictions by the Euros could also provide a boost to the Hampden Park games with Scotland facing the Czechs and Croatians at home.

While the Czechs and Croatians clash in Glasgow there will also be a round of 16 games held there.

He added: “The idea that if we could get people back into stadiums at that point and get all the things around that then you’d get another tremendous boost to the economy and Glasgow would clearly benefit from being that location.’’ The societal benefits of Scotland’s qualification were also highlighted by sportscotland who said: “This has been a challenging year for everyone and the feel-good factor that this win has generated for the nation cannot be underestimated.

“We know that sport has the power to change lives and, this year in particular, we have seen communities across Scotland use sport for physical and mental health challenges brought out on by Covid-19.”