SCOTLAND was always going to say No. That, at least, was the prediction from pro-Kremlin Russian pundits in the run-up to our big 2014 vote.

Supporters of one of the world’s most muscular “unionist” governments – that of Vladimir Putin – lined up to sneer about the prospects of independence.

They were not alone. A decade ago a lot of international stakeholders were sceptical – some openly hostile – about a sovereign Scottish state.

But what was especially eye-catching about Russian commentators – not least those on state TV – was why they thought Scots would reject independence.

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It was because, more than a few of them said, we speak English.

Their theory: national identity is deeply tied to language and therefore so too is a desire for self-government.

This take might go some (but far from all the) way to explain independence movements in, say, Catalonia or Quebec.

But for Scotland? Not so much.

Most Yessers, after all, speak English and nothing but. And, of course, plenty of Scots and Gaelic speakers back the union. Indeed, the rural Doric-speaking lands of the north-east form an electoral bulwark for the British state.

I keep thinking back to some of the old Kremlin TV commentary about English-speaking Scots wanting to stay part of Britain, of what many Russians still call “England”.

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Why? Well, because right now we are seeing the same kind of assumptions repeated about another nation, Ukraine. And not just from Kremlin pundits, but from “western” ones too.

The big idea? That Russian-speaking Ukrainians will be sympathetic to their country – or more of it – coming back under the direct control of the Kremlin.

Or even – and this really is nonsense – that another invasion of Ukraine would be some kind of rescue mission for oppressed Russians or Russian-speakers.

Right now Mr Putin has massed more soldiers on Ukraine’s borders than the entire British army has at its disposal.

Back in 2014, he annexed one entire Ukrainian region, Crimea, and, through proxies, took control of chunks of two others, Luhansk and Donetsk, the coal-rich Russian-speaking “Donbas”.

These moves in to eastern and southern Ukraine sparked a war, one which is far from over. Thousands have died, hundreds of thousands more have fled their homes.

As things stand, an uneasy truce barely holds across the trenches of the Donbas. Breaches – usually with small arms – are common.

Nobody knows what comes next.

Even without a full-scale invasion Mr Putin has escalated the crisis just by marching his army up to the border.

His gambit is terrifying people in Ukraine – and in Russia too, of course.

People across both countries are already being bombarded – by endless online amateur videos of trains loaded with everything from tanks to pontoon bridges.

These images – sometimes set to patriotic music – act as psychological weapons.

Ukraine is one of the world’s greatest information battlefields. It is the target of an unrelenting propaganda war. And not just with pictures of troop convoys. One of the main talking points: language.

Kremlin sources are very eager to portray “Russians" as oppressed in Ukraine.

Their view: that efforts to champion the Ukrainian language discriminate against Russian speakers. This month, for example, there are new laws under which national newspapers published in Russian must also produce a Ukrainian edition.

There is a fair bit of internal debate about these kinds of initiatives in Ukraine.

But is it really oppressive to make Ukrainian versions of periodicals available? According to the Kremlin, this is an effort to squeeze out Russian. Moscow media outlets talk of “forced Ukrainianisation”.

The US State Department this week rubbished such claims, but said there were “credible reports” of Ukrainian speakers being suppressed in those parts of their country already occupied by Mr Putin.

Officially, something like a quarter of Ukrainians say Russian is their first language. Scholars argue about how accurate this is. But clearly large numbers of Ukrainians have both Russian and Ukrainian, languages which are closely related. Indeed, some speak them both at the same time, producing a rich, blended tongue that can be heard on either side of the border. There is a name for this often very varied way of talking: surzhyk.

However, a lot of overseas commentary tries to explain Ukraine in terms of a binary language divide, between its partially Russian-speaking east and south (where, by the way, local media are not covered by new newspaper laws) and its largely Ukrainian-speaking west and north.

There are plenty of voices, however, in the country itself who cast doubt on this crude kind of thinking, who talk of an ever-stronger support for independence and sovereignty.

This resoluteness, they say, crosses supposed linguistic and cultural divides.

Kremlin propagandists might parody, as a fascistic statelet where Russian speakers are downtrodden. But the country’s president, comic turned politician Volodymyr Zelensky, is a Russian-speaking Jew.

There are, I think, important principles at stake here. People who speak Russian do not belong to Russia any more than those who speak English do to England. Equally, speaking, say, Scots or Ukrainian does not make you a prickly nationalist any more than talking English or Russian does.

Russia itself is linguistically diverse. Some of the young men in its army heading towards Ukraine are not native Russian speakers. Many of Ukraine’s defenders, however, are.

Language, it is complicated.

Russian pundits had no reason to assume English-speaking Scots would oppose independence.

They could have – should have – reflected on what happened in Ukraine’s independence referendum of 1991. Even in the most Russian-speaking areas of the country, including now occupied Crimea and Donbas, most people backed leaving the USSR.