When I appeared on an episode ofbroadcast from Musselburgh, near Edinburgh, the issue of Scottish independence came up. One of my fellow panellists, the SNP deputy leader, Nicola Sturgeon, was at pains to make clear that her party had nothing against England and were admirers of that country.
What I didn't say in response, what I've kicked myself for not expressing ever since, was: "Yes but you've got it in for Britain. You may be happily in cahoots with the morris-dancing English and the Eisteddfod-organising Welsh, but my country, the Britain of London where I now live, of Swansea, my mother's home town where I spent a lot of time as a child, and of Galloway, where my paternal grandparents lived, is something you want to destroy. I'm British, I care about this and I've a hunch I'm not the only one."
I'm slightly embarrassed to admit to this British patriotism. The Scottish equivalent feels more politically correct, focused as it is on cultural distinctiveness and national self-determination. No Scottish state has existed for hundreds of years so, unlike Britain, its image is untainted by actions, by realpolitik and compromise, by the slave trade and colonialism. But a desire for Scottish independence is no more rational than a desire to preserve the union, so either both desires should be ignored or both taken into account.
I don't think I should get a vote in a referendum on Scottish independence – I understand why that's a decision that would have to be taken by those living in Scotland. Otherwise, it would be like calling a Europe-wide vote on whether the UK should adopt the euro.
Scotland's fate mustn't be decided by people who consider themselves to be primarily English, Welsh or Northern Irish. But I'm sad that, as a result, most of those whose emotional investment is in the union, we children of this potential divorce, won't have a say.It's not an unprecedented state of mind to which Mitchell refers. Many citizens of the former Yugoslavia, for instance, mourn their multi-national state and their multinational identity. Let's hope that there is no opportunity for a similar sense of loss in the United Kingdom. The Scots, Welsh, English and Irish nations can be accommodated within the UK in a way that is simply not possible the other way about.
If Scotland ever goes it alone, those buoyed up as their sense of nationality gains accompanying sovereignty might take note of, and even fleetingly mourn, the fact that there are losers in that arrangement, too, and I'm not talking about oil revenues. The British will have lost their country.