WELL thanks god its almost over. Euro 2020 should have been remembered as a banquet of football but the last few weeks have been among the most excruciating in all my many years as a fan of Scottish football. Worse still they have exposed the shaky platform on which our network broadcasting culture is built upon.

Scotland was the only nation competing at Euro 2020 that did not have its own end-to-end national broadcasting set-up.

OK, so Scotland qualified for a major tournament after a lifetime in the ­wilderness, but we had a poor tournament and never came close to the victory that might have seen us progress beyond the group stages.

We were given an ice-cold reminder of how inadequate our current squad are at the highest level. That was not what I ­expected. Nor did I think we would fall so painfully short of our ambitions.

Beyond that there was the daily drip feed of England’s journey to the final. It has been an excruciating month of ­bombardment by stealth, which has ­seriously exposed the lacunae and ­unfairness within network ­broadcasting. For a moment I was cast back to the ­campaigning days of the Scottish Six when civic Scotland argued that they were not being delivered the quality and diversity of news we deserved.

The National: File photo dated 16/07/13 of the BBC logo at Broadcasting House in London, as the over-75s could be asked to make a voluntary contribution towards their TV licence under a BBC initiative potentially fronted by stars of pensionable age. PRESS ASSOCIATION P

We have just suffered a stark ­reminder that the London-based networks are ­incapable of providing live news, ­current affairs or sport that is sufficiently ­nuanced to work for a Scottish audience.

In mitigation, BBC Scotland have worked tremendously hard in the ring-fenced areas that fall under their jurisdiction, particularly on radio where there was a pop-up alternative coverage for Scotland, and on the new BBC Scotland channel, who commissioned a series of documentaries that both celebrated and lamented Scotland’s presence in ­tournaments past.

Alas that effort was not replicated at network level.

The live commentary and analysis of the games fell woefully short and a huge gap opened up, ­exposing the presumption that the network is first and foremost England and that the ­presence of Scotland and Wales at the tournament was at best a sideshow.

Unquestionably England went much further in the tournament and had an ­appreciatively better team but to treat ­licence-fee payers as a sideshow is not good corporate strategy, especially in such sensitive times.

STV’s performance was hardly any ­better. They entered the tournament with the questionable track record of blindly following the ITV network and broadcasting live England games, free-to-air, when Scotland’s matches were partially hidden behind a paywall.

This is not all STV’s fault, they are a commercial broadcaster committed to profit maximisation and so having access to live football of almost any description helps in that objective.

When it came to Euro 2020, STV’s ­limited offering was wooden and ­uninspiring. However stilted, there was at least a studio setting aimed at Scottish viewers, whilst much of the BBC’s big match studio coverage simply imagined that what worked in England would be acceptable elsewhere.

In one exchange I read online, the BBC Scotland journalist Tom English posed one possible solution. That viewers in Scotland should turn down their television volume and tune into the live radio coverage from BBC Scotland. Quite apart from the demeaning inconvenience and the technological fact that their radio is out of synchronisation and nearly a full minute behind the pictures, it is not a ­solution that Tom’s fellow countrymen in Ireland were required to accept.

RTE showed all 51 games live and free-to-air with an ­experienced on-air team of Irish sports personalities ­including ­Damien Duff, Stephanie Roche, Liam Brady, ­Ronnie Whelan, and Ray Houghton. There was no ­requirement that Irish ­nationals, ­including Tom ­English’s family in ­Limerick, should be advised to scuttle around looking for a ­radio frequency to give them live coverage ­appropriate to their audience.

Money cannot be the explanation, at a broadcaster with a published track record of paying phenomenal sums of money to its on-screen football talent.

The National: Gary Lineker

Only this week, the BBC admitted that the former England striker Gary Lineker is still the BBC’s top earner despite agreeing to a pay cut of just under £400,000. Last year it was announced the Match of the Day host had agreed to his wages ­being reduced. Tuesday’s report showed he earned £1.36m in the 2020/21 ­financial year, down from £1.75m.

For the record, I like Gary Lineker, he is a naturally informal broadcaster who frequently stands-out as a credible figure in a sea of dolts, and his social media personality suggests he has intelligence and decency beyond the game of football. Whether he is worth is current wages is a different matter.

Lurking behind the Euro 2020 coverage is more insidious factor, namely that shows that are not sports-led get in on the party atmosphere too. This was ­particularly true of BBC Breakfast, The One Show and some of BBC Scotland’s softer current affairs output on both ­television and radio.

Across a matter of a few days, I was ­invited on to a wide range of shows in both London and Scotland to discuss the so-called ABE debate, shorthand for ­Anyone but England. I turned down all the requests except for a discussion with Andy Scott, a Scottish journalist based in Paris with the news agency Agence France Presse.

My reasoning is that I do not accept the mildly coercive premise of the debate and do not accept that Scottish people should feel nudged, embarrassed, or bullied into who they should want to win a football match.

A cynic might say the ABE question is somehow a proxy for the independence debate, and that anyone who cannot be trusted to support Harry Kane must be suspect in other ways. I think it’s wrong to silo the complexity of self-governance into wanting Kane to win a game.

The National: England's Harry Kane celebrates scoring their side's third goal of the game during the UEFA Euro 2020 Quarter Final match at the Stadio Olimpico, Rome. Picture date: Saturday July 3, 2021..

It is difficult to portray how ludicrous this argument appears beyond Britain. I cannot imagine that Portuguese ­citizens felt obliged to support Spain or that ­Russians wanted Ukraine to win the tournament after they had bowed out.

Euro 2020 has exposed a yawning gap in television coverage of international sporting events, but it is not insurmountable. Most people I have spoken to have very modest aspirations, mainly to enjoy the tournament free from the persistent psychobabble of an English mind-set trapped within the warring characteristics of triumphalism and insecurity.

This could easily have been fixed if BBC Scotland had been allowed its own live match commentators, someone like Liam McLeod and match analysts like James McFadden, Michael Stewart, and Leanne Crichton. Beyond that there should have ben a wrap-around studio set-up in Pacific Quay to provide a more objective reflection of matches.

The problem that has been so flagrantly exposed over the last few weeks is that broadcasting bosses in London imagine that their core coverage from London is universally acceptable and sufficiently impartial to suit all the nations of the Union. That is fantasy.

The days of Scotland merely accepting what London says are surely numbered and if the mandarins of the BBC believe that the last few weeks of football broadcasting have helped paper the cracks of a disunited kingdom, they are woefully out of touch with public opinion.