JAMES TRAYNOR stirred up a hornets' nest in some quarters when he said on Tuesday that Scotland shouldn't host Euro 2008. Nonsense, says Scotland's Shadow Deputy Minister for Sport Fiona McLeod. And here the SNP's MSP for West of Scotland states just why she feel's Scotland should make a bid
WHAT is it about Scotland? Euro 2000 has just been proclaimed as the greatest championships ever. So what happens when some of us here start to suggest we could do that?
One dip of our big toe in the waters that are the international stage and we catch a collective cold.
We're too wee, we've not enough stadiums. What about transport? We've no chance. Apparently we've not enough beds either but that never stopped the Tartan Army making do on their forays abroad.
The Scottish cringe, it would appear, is alive and well. All the SFA have agreed to do is investigate the possibility of putting forward a bid. Not exactly throwing caution to the wind.
Yet some commentators are already gorging themselves on a diet of doom and gloom. Scotland's bid has been consigned to the dustbin of football history before we've even had a chance to like the idea.
Why not Scotland? And why shouldn't the Scottish Parliament lead the nation in the pursuit of such treasures? Other countries and parliaments do it.
The SNP has always viewed the Parliament as much more than a place of government. The Parliament should and can play a vital role in supporting and promoting efforts to bring major events to Scotland. Ireland does it.
Their parliament spearheaded bringing a stage of the Tour de France to Dublin. It cost a couple of million but brought thousands and a worldwide television audience to the Fair City. And they have already secured the Ryder Cup for a country without a single famous golf course and limited golfing heritage.
So why should Scotland do it? Major sporting events bring with them huge pride for the hosts. The right events enhance a nation's reputation. They demonstrate a country's vision, showcase a self-confident nation at ease with itself. Scotland should aspire to be just that.
They also attract hundreds of thousands to the host country. The longer people stay for a sporting event the more they spend. Ask any of the Tartan Army how much they spent during France 98 - but not while their wives are within earshot.
The European football championships will bring players, support staff, administrators, broadcasters, journalists and most importantly, fans. Across the world, millions more will be glued to their televisions.
In Scotland, the media will have found the perfect host country. Quirky, exuberant home fans, couthy locals with deadpan expressions and comments to match and spectacular scenery as a breathtaking backdrop. All before a ball is kicked. The world will see Scotland and will choose to come here as a holiday destination. That's how it works for other countries who host major events.
It's time for Scotland to look up and look around. Governments and big business invest in attracting such major events because they produce a huge economic and social spin-off.
You do not host an event for the event to make a profit. You do it because everyone else makes a profit. In the short term and the long term, nations benefit.
If we're really lucky, the icing on the cake will be Scotland qualifying beyond the group stage and thousands of youngsters queuing at the doors of their local clubs wanting to be the next Zidane, Figo or Totti.
And it will be the job of Parliament and politicians of all parties to ensure the youth programmes and facilities are in place to capitalise on their enthusiasm and turn potential into reality.
Obviously we must tread carefully. There's no point rushing into this only to fail. We must get it right if we are to succeed.
That's why we need to commission a feasibility study which covers all aspects - the cost of upgrading the sporting facilities, the number of bed spaces required, how many visitors we can expect, how we ensure they spend as much as possible in our communities.
If public money is required, the SNP expects the Treasury to cough up. They've done it for England on a number of occasions. There was pounds 2million in lottery money and a government envoy for their 2006 World Cup bid. For Euro 96, the Football Trust spent pounds 19m on stadiums.
No one in the SNP is suggesting looting the budgets for health, education or housing but a real public-private partnership could easily create the necessary pot for a successful bid.
The Executive came up with over pounds 2m to save Hampden for the nation but there's not much point saving the stadium if we've no football to put in it.
The great unknown factor is of course UEFA. For an inside track, we must hug those who move in these corridors close, listen to them and heed their advice. What we must not do is talk down our chances before we've even got a bid off the ground.
There's no reason why we couldn't have everything in place for 2008, if only we believe in our ability to do it. We need cool heads and brave hearts.
Let's ask ourselves this: Do we Scots want a bid from Scotland to host Euro 2008 to succeed? If the answer is yes, then we should unite behind that desire and make it happen.