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People on both sides of the Border care how vote goes

ABOUT now they will be trimming the last few blades of grass with manicure scissors, polishing the champagne flutes and taking delivery of those precious strawberries (surely, by the price of them, studded with diamonds).

And somewhere near Wimbledon, the reigning men's singles champion will be getting ready to play another game of mixed double identities, a sporting endeavour in which he is sometimes wholly British (usually, if not exclusively, when he is winning) and other times belongs lock, stock and lack of a double-barrel name, to Scotland.

Andy Murray must be as weary of the mixed double identities game as he once was of being asked if he was ever going to win a Grand Slam. He has long passed that particular milestone in his career, but the debate about dual identity still thunders on behind him.

This year, given a certain vote in September, that debate will have an added significance. While Scotland has been living with the referendum for so long we can now debate the likes of currency union and EU membership in our sleep, England is only now waking up to the fact that this "thing", this thing that was once item eight on the UK news and has now made it all the way to the giddy heights of, oh, item four, is really happening.

Seeing Murray play, and hearing him speak, will be another, sharper reminder of the differences within the Union, and what those contrasts might lead to in September.

Whether he wins or not, England is not about to lose Murray himself. Though a proud Scot with family and now a business in Scotland, Murray, by dint of his vast wealth and profession, could be considered one of the stateless super-rich, folk who cross the globe the way ordinary bods cross the floor to the shower in the morning. It is the rest of us who could be out of the Union door after September.

Thus far, the polls say that England, given a choice, would rather we stayed. Which is all very nice. But if we are to be Scottish and blunt about this for a moment, do we give a punnet of strawberries what the neighbours think?

John Major would like to think we do, hence his visit to Scotland this week to make the case for the Union. Mr Major has form in this area. In 1992 he famously urged his fellow countrymen to "wake up" to the dangers of devolution before it was too late.

One could be churlish here and ask him, to borrow a phrase from Sarah Palin, "How's that hopey-changey 'let's make sure devolution never happens' thing working out for ya?" But we are all friends and neighbours here, so let us move on to the new matters Mr Major wanted to address.

He was dismayed, for instance, at the timing of the vote to coincide with the 700th anniversary of Bannockburn. This, he said, was "presumably to maximise the opportunity for any anti-English sentiment that may exist".

If that was the plan, however, it looks like being a copper-bottomed, period-costumed failure. When contemplating ticket sales for Bannockburn Live, the special event on June 28 to 29 to mark the battle, the words "tickets" and "hot cakes" do not come to mind. The duration of the bash has already been cut from three days to two, and the ticket tally cut from 45,000 to 20,000. There might of course have been a last-minute rush for briefs, but at this rate it will be one man and a rather embarrassed dug attending. Any anti-English sentiment that may exist, to use Mr Major's words, is clearly not bursting to run free in Stirling in June.

A good reason for that, other than the fact that the prospect of watching a battle re-enactment and touring a clan village has "haud me back" written all over it, is that anti-English sentiment does not exist to the extent some would have you believe, and that where there are feelings on this matter, they are far more complex and subtle than is usually acknowledged.

It is possible, as pro-Union Scottish politicians are ever keen to stress, to be "for" Scotland without being anti the rest of the UK.

Within the two extremes of black and white - being totally for or against England - there are an endless number of shades of grey. Not those kinds of shades of grey, but sometimes, yes, there is a fair bit of masochism involved when Scots take the time to consider how they feel, truly feel, about England, and the extent to which that will influence their vote come September.

When considering why the independence debate stirs such feeling in Scotland, it is not because we are all political anoraks at heart, never happier than when debating devo-max versus devo versus independence, or that we jump at any chance to start a fight in an empty hoose. When people do become het up it is because which way one votes is such an intensely personal decision. It says so much about where one is in life, where one comes from, and where one hopes to be going.

To express a firm Yes or No is to ask to be judged on that past, those choices. It comes as no surprise that many are reluctant to show their hand.

Feelings about England make up but a strand in the DNA of today's Scottish voters, and even then the term is used amorphously. For "England" in a negative sense read "Westminster", "London", "Thatcher legacy", "Tory rule" or any combination thereof.

Do English folk surveyed about Scottish independence know or care about this complexity? Or are they, as is far more likely, deriving their feelings about Scotland from a fantastic holiday they once had here, or their Scottish friends and relatives? Of such cloudy, indistinct, notions are national identities made.

There is one thing we can say for certain, though. Just as England cares, to some extent, what happens to Scotland, so the feeling goes both ways.

There are Scots who will think twice about voting for independence if it condemns those south of the border to perennial Tory rule. And there are those who, as JK Rowling wrote in her blog post last week, see voting Yes as a chance to take a pop at the current Westminster Government. And sure, there will be a few whose feelings cannot be explained as anything other than prejudice, though their numbers are surely dwindling.

Here is one pledge we can make to the neighbours: whatever happens in September, this apparently simple Yes/No decision process has been long, difficult, and complex, a five-set game for sure. No wonder Andy Murray prefers to stick to tennis.

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