Misguided stamp of approval for Scotland's World Cup team

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The Independent Online

It could have been so different: Edward VIII might have reigned and not abdicated; Hitler might have failed to conquer France; Scotland might have won the 1978 World Cup.

It could have been so different: Edward VIII might have reigned and not abdicated; Hitler might have failed to conquer France; Scotland might have won the 1978 World Cup.

Yesterday, the Post Office revealed just how some of the main events of the 20th century would have been if the nation's history books had been left to its stamp designers.

An exhibition in Glasgow has put two sets of postage stamps on display for the first time; the stamps were produced ahead of sporting and political triumphs that never happened, and which had to be hastily aborted when the results went the wrong way.

The three-day show, starting today, includes proofs of a commemorative issue celebrating the Scottish Assembly in 1979 which was finally defeated in a devolution referendum.

These are joined at the bi-annual National Philatelic Exhibition by other artwork produced fora Scottish triumph in the 1978 World Cup.

Such was the level of belief in the team sent to Argentina that a 9p stamp was prepared, showing Scotland's players holding aloft the glittering trophy with the slogan "World Cup Winners 1978".

But a 3-1 defeat against the unfancied Peru, followed by a 1-1 draw against Iran, which even a famous 3-2 victory over Holland could not rectify, meant that the victory stamp never got near an envelope.

The stamps join a distinguished line of philatelic near-misses over the past 60 years, including an issue celebrating the coronation of Edward VIII and another marking Anglo-French stability on the eve of France's defeat by Germany in the Second World War.

Post Office managers, who have loaned the Scottish collection to coincide with a conference attended by philatelists from around the world, said it showed the amount of care lavished on British stamps.

Christine Jones, collections manager for the Post Office's heritage services department, said: "For every issue of stamps, several artists are approached and work is produced for various scenarios.

"In the case of the 1978 World Cup, there was a plan for an issue within a month if Scotland won, rather like England in 1966. An illustrator produced a design, but after the Holland game the idea was dropped."

But many players would have been unrecognisable:conventions in British stamp design dictate that only members of the Royal Family may be shown in their true likeness, leaving the likes of Archie Gemmill and Kenny Dalglish to be represented by some highly stylised artistic impressions.

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