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It's Project Flattery, as envisaged by Shakespeare

So Project Flattery is under way.

The year 1707, we are told, marked the start of the most successful political union the world has even seen. It's Scots apparently who put the Great in Britain.

I can't believe though that the dark forces behind the Fear campaign have packed up and gone home. I can imagine they are now dishing out the sort of advice Lady Macbeth gave her husband: "Look like the innocent flower, but be the serpent under't."

Some of the No campaigners are carrying this off better than others. George Osborne in particular seems to have trouble hiding his forked tongue.

Quotes from Shakespeare don't readily trip off my lips. He's only on my mind because I've been to the cinema. Last week, I took in a live broadcast from Stratford of the RSC's production of "Henry IV Part 1" (with the superb Anthony Sher as Falstaff.)

It was a great night out. Right from the start, my spirits soared when I discovered my local multiplex had reinstated dedicated ticket sellers. No need to stand in a long queue behind customers ordering feasts of coke, popcorn and nachos as well as tickets. I felt a queer Victor Meldrew sense of joy!

As I watched the drama unfold, I was especially interested in how Shakespeare depicts the Scottish noble Douglas. (The only downer in the production was that the wardrobe department fitted out this leading light of the Scottish court as a shaggy, woad-splattered extra from Braveheart.)

In the play, Douglas is on the side of the baddies, kills the good Sir Walter Blunt and almost does for King Henry himself.

Yet Shakespeare shows him as constantly brave - "that ever valiant and approved Scot" - and has King Henry describe him in the most glowing terms:

"His valour shown upon our crests today

Hath taught us how to cherish such high deeds

Even in the bosom of our adversaries."

The explanation is that by 1597-98, when Shakespeare wrote the play, it was taken for granted that James VI would succeed Elizabeth to the English throne. Suddenly, it paid to love-bomb Scotland.

A year later, in Henry V, that quintessentially English play, somehow there's a British army at Agincourt with Captain Jamy representing Scotland.

Never mind the Auld Alliance. Within a few years of the real Agincourt, there were 15,000 Scots in France fighting the English. Never let facts get in the way of a good political spin.

When James actually came to the English throne in 1603, all restraints were thrown off. Desperate for the royal Scottish patronage, Shakespeare's company even changed its name to the King's Men.

He may have written Macbeth in response to a request from James. In the play, Banquo, the supposed ancestor of the Stewarts, is depicted as the noblest of the noble.

Right from the start of his English reign - no doubt it was the London effect - James proposed a union of Scotland and England. Right on cue, one of the themes of King Lear (1605-6) is the danger of a divided kingdom. The names, Albany and Cornwall, the sons-in-law in the play, were also titles held by James's sons, Charles and Henry respectively.

Move forward through history and it's the same story. Whenever the London government needs Scotland, we are love-bombed. Crisis over, we're forgotten about.

Will it be the same again if there's a No vote in September? Will the No campaign honour all the promises now being so extravagantly, but vaguely, made?

I doubt it. I suspect their concept of honour is very much that defined by Falstaff: "What is honour? A word. What is that word honour? Air."

Hot air, no doubt.

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