Renowned historian Mary Beard has said she hopes Scots "don't leave" the UK as "England needs Scotland" to help it out.

Speaking exclusively in The Herald today, Beard has revealed her position on Scottish independence has not changed since she signed a 2014 open letter urging Scotland to vote ‘No’.

In an interview with writer at large Neil Mackay, the Cambridge Classics professor said she wants the union to continue because England "is a basket case" and needs Scottish support.

READ MORE: Mary Beard on trans rights, the Romans and independence

She said: "Now, could I stand up to my Scottish friends and say that? I’m not sure. I had to say to myself after Brexit that although I still wanted [the union to continue] I could see why an awful lot of people didn’t.

“I think ‘please don’t go, Scotland, don’t leave us for God’s sake, we need you, think of us as a bit of a basket case you can help out’.

"But after Brexit, and some of the politics of the years since Brexit, I have to say, if someone in Scotland said they wanted to leave, I’d say, ‘I can see why. I still don’t want you to go but I see why’."

The prolific author and television presenter is about to publish her new book Emperor of Rome, which pieces together what it meant to be the world’s most powerful ruler.

Beard also talks of the current debate about trans rights and women's rights, saying she cannot understand how the issue has become so divisive.

She revealed she would like to make a TV programme about the subject but called herself "too cowardly" to take it forward, given the likely criticism she would face.

Beard complains that nuance and complexity have been abandoned in the discussion and does not believe that "most people" are transphobic, they merely have justified questions.

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She said: "There may be, and I’m sure there are, some transphobes, trans-haters, out there, but most people I think aren’t in that category.

"Many of them are puzzled, worried, about where this leaves cis women.

“Those are utterly reasonable questions that we ought to be able to raise, but that’s proved impossible, and I’m not clear why … I want to explore what’s preventing us managing to have a conversation about this.”

In a wide-ranging interview delving into the past and examining current social hot topics, Beard also dismisses cancel culture as overblown.

Students, she says, "can be irritating" but, she adds, "They’re supposed to be. Bits of their soundbites get eagerly taken up by conservative papers who treat this as if it’s somehow typical.”

Beard tells Neil Mackay she did not use trigger warnings on her courses despite Roman literature being packed with sexual violence.

She feels “it’s convenient for some sections of the media” to inflame tensions, rather than “engage constructively”.

She said she is “not in favour of cancel culture. Anybody who’s within the law - not inciting racial hatred or whatever - deserves a platform. You don’t have to go, you can demonstrate”.

Cancel culture exists, she points out, “both on the left and right, perhaps more on the right. There’s a ‘banning-the-books’ tendency’.

"It’s not restricted to one side”.

To read the full interview click here.