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The English, as so often, feign blase indifference. 'God, just let them go.' Their hands mimic brushing off a troublesome fly

Reared, if you like, in old school journalism, it is still slightly disturbing to write sentences with "I" or "me" in the text.

It was always rightly drummed into us that "we" were not the story - merely the recorders.

Facts were always sacred in news stories and to this day I still hold that to be true; hope it to be true.

No, still know it is true overall. I (ah, I) hear your hollow laughter now - used as we are to a new online diet of mixed messages and seemingly partisan stance in all we read. Used to pundits and "celebs" insinuating themselves into the strands of fact and weaving opinion and truth into a witch's brew of confusion.

It's not that long ago that opinion in newspapers existed only in the leader column. Only there, if you hadn't realised it before, was laid bare the political affiliation of your paper.

Columnists as such didn't really exist, barring a couple of greats who wrote under noms de plume.

Now we, non-greats, are dotted all over the pages/web, apparently in hope of "hits" and controversy.

Some of us have websites or, like me, Twitter and Hotmail accounts, and there is an instant response to one's writing.

And, if, released from the self-imposed, professional restraints of neutrality, it mutates into a heady, narcissistic melange in some, then, that is the price.

At this point I hear you saying: "What the hell has this to do with France?"

Quite right. Nothing.

Except, except, there are many Scots around here and many conversations about what is happening back "home".

And having spent the vast bulk of my professional life in Scotland I can now only view it from TV or online, as can they.

But it is a distorted view. For unless one lives in a country and is part of the daily life, conversations in shop or bar, arguments with friends, nightly news, local papers ... it is impossible to grasp the shifting threads.

I view the coming referendum through the far end of a telescope. I watch it unfold on social media and in the comments under political stories.

Increasingly, disturbingly, I feel like a foreign commentator as I read the thoughts so lucidly given and the knee-jerk spewings of hatred.

Increasingly I'm asked whether am I a Yes or a No and there is a nudging push for my answer as if it would have any importance.

Reading the passionate outpourings as, now, yes, a foreigner, is to tilt one's head from side to side in a canine incomprehension of what the words really mean.

Were I a true foreigner writing about Scotland and searching such comments to give me copy, I would write of chips on shoulders, swaggering paybacks, vicious personal attacks and childish taunts from the Yes people.

And then I would balance it with the seemingly blind, listless ignorance of the No lemmings, confidently heading towards the cliff, unstoppable in their march to potential destruction.

I would write of arrogance, stupidity and choice of messengers so devalued as to be almost suicidally deliberate.

And then I'd go back to the blind faith of independents who seek no answers to serious economic questions and head for their own cliff.

It would make great copy, and hopefully it would be an attempt at a truth; a glimpse of the turbulent waters. But it would only be an attempt.

Trying to pull such thoughts together in this strange little expat world of English and Scots when asked what I think is like having one's feet pared by fish who nibble at hard skin in certain spas.

There is little room for genuine debate. All of the Scots I know here are Unionist to the core but one wonders if it is the perceived stability of all that has been left behind that is the main draw.

The English, as so often, feign blase indifference unless roused, when they sigh and say: "God, just let them go." Their hands unconsciously mimic the action of brushing off a troublesome fly.

He will not wish to hear it, but all join in ruthless evisceration of Alec Salmond, giving grudging respect to his intelligence but fearing him as a rebel of old using soft words instead of broadsword.

Every so often there is a burst of activity in the French newspapers and magazines, usually when a London-based correspondent has spent 24 hours "investigating".

Sadly, the images accompanying the articles are wearisomely predictable: flags, red buses, Big Ben, Highland cows and forbidding keeps.

Few look beyond the archives, and even the occasional TV broadcast falls flat when faced with vox pops from an embarrassingly inarticulate populace; views rendered even more uninformed when given subtitles.

And all outlets inevitably turn nervously to Basque and Catalan questions should Scotland achieve independence.

Never before have ordinary people had such a platform to express their beliefs, their hopes and their fears.

Never before, far away, have we had the ability to tap into their words.

Sadly though, through this end of the telescope, it seems we see only the meanness, the spite, the empty rage and the supercilious insults.

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