Twenty-one years ago, aged 19, I took the decision to up sticks and leave home. Up to that point, I had lived all my life in Falkirk, and had never been abroad. Not that I was moving 'abroad' in the strict sense of the word, but I was moving "down to England", Plymouth to be precise.
The choice of Plymouth had to do with the fact that my Grandmother's youngest sibling, and her husband, who was Plymouth born and bred, lived there. So whilst I was moving 500 miles from home, I wasn't leaving the family bosom altogether.
I lived there, quite content, though conflicted for very personal reasons- not relevant here, for two years. It certainly helped that it was a warmer, if no less wet climate. I made some wonderful friends and acquaintances, one in particular, who's friendship endures to this day, and I very much enjoyed the company of my Aunt, Uncle, and cousins.
There is every likelihood I would have stayed for longer- might still be there, had the university offered a course that was more suited to my strengths. In the end, I returned to Scotland and to Stirling to study History and Politics (Plymouth offered Politics and Economics, the mathematical element of which is simply beyond me).
This is to illustrate that to suggest simply because I strongly believe in Scottish independence, I somehow, therefore, hate England and all things English, is as stupid as it is offensive. It is interesting, that the charge of anti-Englishness, as often as not, comes from the self-loathing Scots, who it seems to me, hate Scotland and all things Scottish.
I must confess, I used to be, and am still to some degree, slightly embarrassed by excessive patriotism. For example, I am inclined to cringe every time I hear Flower of Scotland, though not quite so much as when I hear God Save the Queen or The Star-Spangled Banner. But then, I am uncomfortable with any sort of tribalism, be it in football, sport in general- just about any walk of life you care to name. For reasons I can't adequately explain, I've always found it exclusive, intimidating and occasionally threatening.
That being said, whilst I full of admiration for Chris Froome’s achievements in cycling, I am full of pride for those of Chris Hoy. Whilst I may have gotten behind Tim Henman’s efforts at Wimbledon, I was never willing him on in quite the same way as with Andy Murray. I confess, I was rooting for Rosberg, rather than Hamilton, though that had to do with personalities, not nationalities. Whilst we can acknowledge English achievements, sporting or otherwise, we can't share them- they are not ours, nor ours theirs.
To come back to my university days in Stirling, most of my friends, by accident and certainly not design, were English, a few Irish, one or two Americans, French, Finnish, German, Greek and others besides. The Scots were in the minority. Though there were undoubtedly distinctive national characteristics and idiosyncrasies, they were often subtle, rarely an issue, and far outweighed by our common humanity.
Interestingly, despite the fact that we share the same island, I found the differences in national character between we Scots and the English, every bit as apparent as between any of the other nationalities. None of this had any impact, nor influenced in any way, the strength and depth of our friendships.
Despite subtle and sustained efforts over centuries, to have Scottishness subsumed by Englishness- under the veil of Britishness, the unique Scottish character remains alive and well. And it is the very fact that we Scots and our English cousins are not quite the same, that in this modern, global community, we are growing further apart, not closer together.
The English, or British, are a medium sized country, who have never gotten over that by way of empire, they were, for a time, a "big country"- the preeminent global power, in fact. As such, they are still under the illusion that they are "one of the big boys" and this heavily influences their attitudes and behavior.
Scotland, on the other hand, is a small country, like Denmark and Ireland and Finland and Norway and Sweden. And, I would suggest, are quite comfortable with that. It is a virtue we don't, and can't make enough off whilst shackled to a dead empire that is still desperately trying to rekindle her glory days.
The Tories are arguably the natural party of power in England, and as such, the United Kingdom. They are not the party of Scotland, indeed, all the evidence is that they despise us. England, under the Tories, seems determined to move ever further to the right, encouraged by Brexit and all that entails, in search of status and standing, long since gone, and never coming back. Britain, I feel, is going backward.
Scotland, in contrast, is naturally to the left. If not socialist, then social democratic- we are more egalitarian and believe in social justice. We want to move forward. To achieve this, we would stand a far better chance, unencumbered by England and her perpetual post-imperial hangover.
So, I am not for independence because I hate England and all things English. I am for independence, because for all that we share, we are, crucially, that bit different. We have a different outlook from one another.
Whilst we may both want a bright and prosperous future, Scotland and England have very different ideas about how best to achieve this. It is only right then, that we accept that the Union has run its course, and is doing more to hinder than to help us. It is high time we parted company and made our own ways in the world. The days of master and servant are over, it is time to be friends and neighbours.