Scottish move to host Euro 2008 ‘as good as winning bid’

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The government minister behind Scotland’s unsuccessful bid to host the Euro 2008 football championship used a cabinet meeting to tell colleagues the proposal was “as good as the winning bid”, official papers reveal.

Among strategies to play down the public impact of not going ahead with the joint bid with Ireland were plans to shift the blame to the Irish, newly released Scottish Executive papers from 2002 show.

Then Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport, Mike Watson, detailed in a memo to ministerial colleagues points to highlight to the media if the cabinet was to decide not to proceed with the bid, including “the Republic of Ireland was unable to meet their end of the bargain”.

Other points included stressing that the Scottish Executive “have approached the whole exercise in a thoroughly professional manner and have not let our heart over-rule our head”.

The bid was regularly discussed at Cabinet meetings that year with the then First Minister Jack McConnell telling colleagues in May, following the UEFA Champions League final at Hampden, indications were that the final decision was likely to be between Scotland and Ireland’s bid and the joint submission from Switzerland and Austria.

He said the Scottish and Irish proposal was viewed as “very strong”.

In December, UEFA announced Switzerland and Austria would jointly host Euro 2008.

Mr Watson told Cabinet colleagues the result was “very disappointing” and that the “Scottish/Irish bid was a good as the winning bid”.

He said the £500,000 cost to the Scottish Executive was not “wasted” as useful lessons had been learned.

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