Given the centuries of economic exploitation, political domination and depopulation, I perfectly understand why many Scots support any team at the World Cup which is playing England. But, with an English mother and two English grandparents who largely brought me up, I do not feel that way and I raised a glass at Harry Kane’s late winner. Let me tell you why.
My grandfather Henry was a lifelong socialist who had no illusions about the British Empire and its role in the World. Yet he was also a patriotic Englishman whose life, like so many of his generation, was largely defined by the struggle against Nazism, in which his only son had been killed. That focus on the Second World War partly explained his fondness for the Soviet Union, in discussing the abuses of which he would always remark “But you have to consider what came before. Given where they started, they are making progress”. He would recite “A man’s a man for a’that” to me as a small child and explain its meaning. Yet Henry would fly his St George’s flag proudly when occasion warranted it. I do not therefore automatically associate that flag with UKIP or with Essex man.
Because there is another England, that from which Henry sprang, the England documented lovingly by E P Thomson and vividly recorded by Robert Tressell, the England of William Hazlitt, Mary Wollstonecraft, the Putney debates and Thomas Paine. Michael Foot embodied the inherited wisdom of that tradition and it has re-emerged with unexpected vigour in the shape of Jeremy Corbyn, a man whose attraction lies in the very fact he encapsulates notions of basic decency that the English political elite had attempted to cast off.
I regard Scottish Independence as part of the continuing process of decolonisation. Ireland’s population will in the next decade overtake Scotland’s for the first time in centuries, and as of today Ireland’s GDP per capita stands 25% higher. Scotland can never achieve its potential without first achieving its Independence. But we can do that without wishing ill to our neighbours; some of them are quite nice.