IN 1992, when Bill Clinton was in deep, deserved trouble thanks to another round of sexual incontinence, Hillary went on American TV.

She was not standing by her man, but she was fighting for his honour. As Groucho's joke went, this was more than Bill ever did.

You can doubt Mrs Clinton's sincerity until her husband comes home, but her appearance on the 60 Minutes show said something important about politics. She said she loved and respected Bill, despite everything. She believed in what he was doing. Then: "And you know, if that's not enough for people, then heck, don't vote for him."

Strangely enough, I've been having much the same thoughts, with slightly altered expletives, each time I'm told that an argument over a referendum in Scotland has tipped the country to the edge of an uncivil war. I must be picking the wrong fights.

Despatches from the south say that friend has been turned against friend, that families have been torn asunder, that we are all choking on rancorous passions. I should get out more. I can't see it, hear it, feel it, or otherwise sense it. The only outrage I can detect involves a glut of polite folk agreeing to differ. Thus: heck, don't/do vote for it.

Have voices been raised? Obviously. But those talking about profound historical change for a nation, for or against, haven't shouted much louder thus far than those arguing over the Hibs manager, the Rangers board, or Michael Moore's chances of re-election. If anything, we have been too polite, too tepid.

But that's OK. A year yet remains. It would be a pity to peak too soon in the finger-pointing stakes. If you must lose a colleague, friend, or sibling over the referendum, wait until the last minute, preferably after he or she has bought a round. First, attend to those who seem to be aching for a fight.

The paid operatives of the respective campaigns are predictable. They are, by their lights, doing their jobs. Part of their brief is to provide a tale, true or truish, to fill each of the long days and months before September 2014. Then they shout at one another. They are admirably professional, yet irrelevant.

Around their skirts come a variety of the media semi-employed, wearing out their twittered thumbs in the hope of preferment, come the day. It's dreary work. You must keep track of "did-she, didn't-he" on an hourly basis. If you manage to make enough noise over the daily fluff, you might end as a junior media under-spokesperson. Laying down a career for a campaign and a pie supper is nothing to be ashamed of. Probably.

In these arguments, nevertheless, some bits of wheat can be found amid the chaff. The superior, mandarin text says that Scotland is engulfed in internecine warfare over the referendum. No less than Sir John Elvidge, formerly Scotland's senior civil servant, says that it's hell out there. But where, exactly?

More to the point, why do I hear, from Sir John or Andrew Marr or the London papers all in a row, that a conversation has become "polarised and divisive", "toxic", "bitter"? Not where I live. People disagree, a bit. They mock one another. They take many things beginning with P from one another. But some with careers elsewhere believe, and would have us believe, that hatred is involved.

They run the same line, time and again, over "anti-English bigotry". The crime statistics fail to support the case. The anecdotal evidence fails to come up to snuff. But my old friend and colleague Marr comes to Edinburgh and says that "everyone knows" about something called Anglophobia. So here's a quibble: I don't.

Personally, I'd like adjudication. I would like someone to tell me, personally, why I would support such a thing. I was on a couple of streets against the BNP, once upon a time. Is it suggested seriously that I would tolerate mere querulous bigotry now? Answers on a postcard. I'll wait.

Sir John proceeds from assumptions. Most of those are British. To choose otherwise, in his terms, is divisive. "I'm not sure what legacy we should be left with in Scottish society at the end of this process," he says, "particularly if it becomes more polarised and aggressive as we move towards the referendum."

What's questionable is what's interesting. It is almost as though we are being invited to become "aggressive", or as though that attitude is, must be, inevitable when Scots pause to think about nationhood. We are being treated as parodies of ourselves. But I'm still not biting.

"A Scotland in which everyone was defined by which side they were on a particular day... is not, I think, anyone's definition of a healthy, modern society." The misunder­standing is profound. Yes or No, we are all on the same side. That's what animates the amiable shouting matches I come across. Yet the London narrative says my regiment leaves at dawn.

I don't hate often, certainly not to order. If people decide to vote No, that's their silly fault. My inclination to vote otherwise is enforced daily, though, by people who don't live here who want to force me into a parody of atavistic squalor. It feels like a theme devised south of this country and it fails to resemble the truth.

Sir John and others besides paint the idea of self-determination as divisive by definition. I don't trust a depiction I don't recognise. Most of the arguments I have are with people whose hopes and fears are puzzling to me, nothing more. There is argy and some bargy. Hatred? Polarisation? Someone needs us to be divided in this way, and conquered in this manner.

Hillary's "heck" might be good enough, for now. It comes closer to the idea of free and informed choice. There's plenty of time, after all. I invite anyone troubled by the idea of independence to exercise their heck and vote, next September, just for what matters to them. I also ask them to remember the voices calling me a hateful bigot because I disagree. Who does that?

It is worth bearing in mind, meanwhile, that senior retired voices from the home civil service belong to a constituency. The peerage, the BBC, the great universities: those so blessed have affinities, and speak with a common voice. My commonality is elsewhere. Out there, no-one is hating anyone just because it fits with some grandee's referendum campaign schedule.

The idea that Scotland has become divided against itself because of an argument Scotland has been having for decades is a falsehood. Come on and keep up. We are not so childish. We are not "phobic". We are not naive. In this game, an old country knows a few tricks. One is to count your change.

The people with whom I have referendum rows are not people I hate. "Irritable" would cover it. The No voters are good folk, mostly, though their numbers seem to be diminishing. The others who insist that there must be rancour and hatred in a small country bother me greatly, however. They assure my vote.

That might be something to think on at the next strategy session for the Union. But why give away clues? Heck, I'll just vote.