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Question of identity is hard to answer

If Scotland votes Yes, and we become independent, will we still be British?

We'd obviously no longer be in the UK, but we'd still be in the British Isles. The White Paper on Scotland's Future states categorically: "Scotland's social union with the other nations of the UK will continue through our shared language, culture and history." And again: "The values and interests of such close neighbours will often be aligned."

That indicates that we'd still be British, in terms of our social, historical and cultural values, whatever these may be. But what are Scottish, as opposed to British, values?

David Cameron has been banging on about "not being bashful" in asserting British values. This is obviously in the context of the Birmingham schools imbroglio, but I suspect he also has an eye on the independence debate.

Mr Cameron champions British values, but is less good at defining them. Usually it comes down to something like motherhood and great big dollops of apple pie. Gordon Brown, on the other hand, has been valiantly trying to define British values for as long as I can remember - that is, right back to when he was the (very young and very earnest) Lord Rector of Edinburgh University in the early 1970s.

But even Mr Brown, with his deep knowledge of history and his strong intellect, usually only comes up with platitudes such as liberty, tolerance and fair play. This has annoyed another political Scot who, like Mr Brown, cherishes the Union: Michael Gove.

Mr Gove has claimed that Mr Brown's efforts to define Britishness were in fact "unBritish". Mr Gove's own attempts to define British values have bordered on the comic, or perhaps I mean tragic; he has even cited the TV programme Big Brother.

The British state was established 307 years ago, and almost immediately it was mired in corruption and grievous incompetence. Actual pledges in the Treaty of Union were broken. The man who politically dominated the early years of the new state, Robert Walpole, was one of the most perfidious figures imaginable; he was actually imprisoned for corruption. The loss of our American colonies, a couple of generations later, was a masterclass in military and political incompetence.

The phrase Perfidious Albion comes to mind. (Albion is not just England, it refers to all Britain. I have this on the authority of a senior member of the SNP London branch, which meets in a splendid pub called The Albion at Ludgate Circus.)

Our nebulous British values are not necessarily respected beyond Britain. The French, and many others, have despaired of British conceit and hypocrisy.

And as for Scottish values, well, my wife and I recently discussed these. Here motherhood, if not apple pie, comes into play again, for we both referred back to our mothers. My wife's mother thought that Scottishness was partly about not being obligated (splendid word) to anyone. I think that's as good a brief definition of a core Scottish value as I can find.

As for my mother, she used to tell the tale of a Scottish mariner who was shipwrecked and washed up on a faraway island. As he was dragged ashore he asked: "Is there a government here?" When told there was, he said: "I'm agin it."

This suggests a judicious truculence which I reckon is very Scottish. But is it a characteristic rather than a value? There are great documents in our history, notably the Declaration of Arbroath and the National Covenant of 1638, which are really about conditional loyalty. We'll be loyal to you, king, but only if you do what we want you to do - that just about sums them up, even if the language is more lofty.

The Covenant was signed in a huge national orgy of endorsement by tens of thousands of Scots, but just two generations later the few remaining Covenanters were a small and ragged - if incredibly courageous - band who were hunted down and butchered mercilessly by the satraps of the British state.

We Scots may have our chippy tendency, but we can be servile, too

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