This is more of an observation than an essay. But the tone of recent No Campaign propaganda has reminded me that when I was growing up in a fairy conventionally loyal and unequivocally Unionist Scottish middle class milieu in Glasgow and Perthshire, I often heard pretty insulting things about the character, morality, and general masculinity of Englishmen which would count as being pretty shocking nowadays. Even now, I'd argue, there is something deeply anti-English about Scottish Unionism.
Like lots of things about this whole campaign, this seems innately counter intuitive. Surely Scottish Nationalism is anti English? Actually, no...it's the opposite, Empire Loyalism is anti English. Always was.
Habitual denigration of the English, in my childhood, came from our deep dyed Unionist/Scottish pride in running the Empire in our wearily superior Scottish way, on behalf of what seemed to be, if military and business anecdote could be trusted, effete snobs who would clearly have been quite incapable of painting the globe pink without our manly, practical, down to earth - and of course, modest - assistance. We may have only been the Sergeant's mess, but heaven help the Colonel without us, we seemed to say.
Ignoring all the Taffs, Paddys , Scousers, Geordies and Cockneys (inter alia) that we must have come across from time to time in the Punjab, It was almost as though the only Englishmen we were conscious of were the high Tory grandees who used to enrich our grouse moors once upon a time - and the only kind of Scotland we could imagine being was primarily to be reliably on hand to load the guns for them. With a doff of the cap and surly mockery in the bar afterwards.
All the markers we think of as being "Scottish" from tartan to the work ethic, from pragmatism to insane bravery in the trenches, from inventing everything useful to the skirl of the kilt and the swing of the bagpipes were tied to our seeing ourselves as the other ranks without whom the entire affair would have gone repeatedly tits up from Waterloo onwards. Our self image as well as our surface badges as Scots were all pretty self-evidently Unionist in history and practice. We marked ourselves out as being "better" Britons because we were Scottish. Scottishness was Unionist and it was better than being English.
This kind of thinking permeates the least attractive side of us from Guy Mannering to James Bond. It is also the a reason why to some genuine Scottish patriots, especially of the old fashioned patrician variety, self government somehow seems intrinsically un-Scottish, independence seems abnormal, a superfluous aberration from our good senses. Below stairs, meanwhile, too, it is the source of our comfortable irresponsibility, and what is probably our very irritating moaning about everything while never taking any chance of changing it.
It is also why, to a Scot of my generation, "Scottishness" retains faint whiffs of embarrassment, of the second rate; of shit TV and anodyne kitsch folk culture, of rotten comedians and cringing deference to anyone with the right kind of accent. It is also why, later, on the left, I moved in an atmosphere where all things nationalist (or Scottish Nationalist anyway) were thought of as childish and regressive, as symbols of Tartan Toryism. The British Road to Socialism was our received route planning back then.
This has all changed of course. Within the useful correctives offered by Gerry Hassan among others, there is now a kind of civic consensus in Scotland around a numinous set of vaguely left/liberal values which are thought of as an alternative civic set of markers of "Scottishness" On the surface, this Civic Identity" is carelessly shared largely, by both the Yes and No camps, at least in Scotland. And to me it has an unpleasantly familiar whiff of Caledonian superiority in a new and more caring guise, as if Richard Hannay were opening the best damned crèche in the colonies.
What is not shared, I don't think, and not just in my childhood experience of Scots Empire Loyalists going on about English Nancy Boys, is the deep seated mistrust and maybe even dislike of the neighbours at the heart of the No campaign.
The very core of the fear in "Project Fear" is fear of English vengeance. All the stuff about trade barriers and borders and passports and no one ever buying whisky again are predicated on the same thing: on the apparently inevitable consequence that they will hurt us if we dare. This expectation which informs all the dire prognostications of economic boycotts and general administrative bloody mindedness, even of proper fisticuffs over the assets - is based on an image of the English as petty, spiteful, nasty and vengeful. The No campaign seem certain that the majority stakeholders in the "greatest multinational family" in history will react like vindictive children and deny us access to any of the joint assets in terms of property and currency and EU membership at the very least.
What must Scottish Unionists think of English people that they really expect so petty a reaction? On the one hand they talk about partnership and family and community, and in the next breath they seem to picture our neighbours as a bunch of people who will want to hurt us so badly that they will hurt themselves in order to punish us. They are arguing for fellowship on the grounds that the "other fellows" are dangerous. They are arguing for family solidarity on the basis that Daddy is a psychopath.
The British value of tolerance (copyright M. Gove) will not be extended to us. The English have never been proper Britons, apparently.
Like I say, this is more of an observation than an essay, but I do think in the meanwhile that it is strangely telling that those who are most keen to maintain our "family of nations" are the same people who expect nothing but economic and political violence from one of its members if we dare to disagree with them.
How happy a family they are expecting after a No vote is anybody's guess.