If, as seems likely, Scotland does become independent through a process of attrition, Donald Forbes argues it will be due to three factors; the single-minded ruthlessness of the SNP, the lack of a unified pro-union movement and a visceral Anglophobia which is shared across all social classes.

The SNP is driven by passion and momentum. Its dislike of England's domination of the UK is probably shared even by some pro-unionists whose loyalty is pragmatic rather than emotional.

The key question now is not the timing of another referendum but whether the Scots have drifted so far apart from England since the mid-20th century that reconciliation is no longer possible. The aftermath of independence might be fraught but does its emotional pull take precedence whatever the cost?

Critics of nationalism deride the SNP's intention to join the EU but the policy is not contradictory. Scotland would exchange an unwanted union with England for one with Europe which was chosen. No country can survive in total isolation and the EU is the only alternative to Westminster.

Analogies with Brexit are still fresh in mind. Although the 2016 referendum vote was close – and delivered by English votes – once the deed was done it was readily accepted by a majority of the electorate. Many who voted against did not do so out of love for the EU but because they feared the economic consequences of leaving. If the SNP prevail against Project Fear 2.0 at the next referendum, most unionists who feared the break with England would accept its irrevocability and join in making independence work.

It is easy to argue that independence is a rabbit hole which, logically, Scotland should not go down. Brexit showed, however, that voters are motivated by reasons which go beyond economics into spheres of history, culture, and self-identification. In the matter of Scottish independence, what looks irrational to outsiders is not the chief concern of nationalists. It is their zeal and commitment which makes it likely that the union is doomed sooner or later.

Separatism arises when a part of a multi-national state no longer feels a sense of belonging. It currently exists in several European countries and was successful in dividing Czechia and Yugoslavia. It is still relevant today that the union between England and Scotland in 1707 was resented as a hostile takeover by many Scots.

There is no doubt that backward 18th century Scotland did well out the union and the British empire. It has done less well since the dissolution of the empire and the emergence of globalised markets which killed the heavy industries – steel, coal, and shipbuilding – that were the bedrock of the Scottish economy.

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Predominantly left-leaning Scots blamed England and its majority Tory electorate – not always fairly – for Scotland's inability to re-invent itself for the modern world. It has regularly been a source of frustration that Scots often get a Conservative government despite voting mainly Labour, or now SNP which has been in government in Edinburgh since 2007 and dominates Scottish representation at Westminster.

Although the Scots were England's collaborators in and beneficiaries of the empire era, there is no denying that Scotland is as distinctive from England as Ireland. Throughout the union, it has kept its own legal and education systems and its presbyterian church which are all powerful denominators of a specific culture.

This difference is an unignorable factor in the way Scots regard England which, it should be admitted, has always tried to keep a damper on English nationalism in the interests of the union. But Big England always dominates its three smaller partners and this reality is becoming harder to hide, especially since Brexit which both Scotland and Northern Ireland voted against.

It is in this context that the increasingly explicit Anglophobia of many Scots should be regarded. The target is not English people as individuals but the idea of an Englishness which smothers everyone else by its sheer size. The same forces drive anti-American feeling around the world which does not prevent it from continuing to devour American culture.

Sturgeon is riding high after drubbing her unionist opponents again at the recent elections to the Scottish parliament which she claims has provided an irrefutable right to another referendum next year despite Boris Johnson's veto. There is even talk of an advisory referendum to get round Johnson and test the level of support for independence.

There are many problems with this proposal which would require examination separately. The well-followed, pro-unionist blogger Effie Deans (Lily of Saint Leonards) asked if there might be a Gina 'McMiller' to challenge Sturgeon in the same way that the original Gina Miller led the judicial fight against Brexit.

But as Deans admits, Scottish unionists have nothing to compare with what she calls the skill, the tenacity and determination of the SNP. They want independence more fervently than unionists want the UK and organisation is everything.


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