GORDON Brown is in exasperated mode. The former prime minister and redoubtable defender of the Union, has been pointing out a few home truths about everything we Scots have in common with English people.

We may think we’re fundamentally different, but we’re not: that’s the thrust of it.

Mr Brown’s think tank, Our Scottish Future, has done polling underlining the common values shared by Scots, English and Welsh folk.

It shows very high levels of support across all three nations for the idea that equality, tolerance, liberty and ethnic diversity are important in making people feel proud of their nation – whichever nation that happens to be.

The polling also shows similar views on other revealing issues, such as wealth redistribution, immigration and the extent of racism in society. On all these things, Scots are a shade more progressive than English voters, but not nearly as much as some Scots assume.

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It’s Mr Brown’s hope that as well as injecting some much-overlooked facts into the debate, promoting awareness of the values we share will make Scots less likely to vote for independence.

When he made the argument on the Today programme, it took about 30 seconds for Nick Robinson to make the obvious rejoinder: won’t many Scots just look at the politics the English vote for, like Thatcher, the poll tax, austerity, Brexit and Boris Johnson, and think we’re better off out of it?

(It’s possible that one or two people in Scotland were shouting the same thing at the radio.)

But Mr Brown wasn’t having it. Scotland, England and Wales are changing, he responded, suggesting that we are coming together, not moving further apart. With such closely aligned values and with voters wanting more cooperation between politicians, the Tories’ muscular unionism and the SNP’s relentless pursuit of independence “doesn’t fit in with the mood of the people”, he asserted.

He’s right about what unites us. Comparing Scotland and England, there is a grating dissonance between divergent politics and convergent values. We Scots have long been painted by nationalist politicians as open-minded egalitarians tragically shackled to a bunch of inward-looking conservatives, but this is a caricature that misrepresents both sides. Repeated studies have shown that people in Scotland are only marginally more left than English people on issues like immigration, equality and taxation.

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But if we’re so similar, then why the increasing feeling here in Scotland that England is a foreign country? Why the enthusiasm in England for Brexit while most Scots look on in horror? Why the appetite for voting Tory, even when that Tory is Boris Johnson?

It’s explained by two things: differing political traditions and the influence of politicians.

Brexit was partly a vote about immigration, but was also about a long-standing version of English nationalism that holds the sovereignty of the British parliament dear. After Britain’s humiliating exit from the European Exchange Rate Mechanism, 29 years ago this week, the EU started to be seen by Eurosceptic Tories and the right wing press as an intolerable drag on British progress, a view they hammered into English voters.

The striking similarity between the campaign by Brexiteer Tories against the EU and that of Scottish nationalists against the Union, is hard to miss. Both played on a sense of grievance and a feeling of being constrained from achieving one’s true national destiny.

Looked at that way, the 53 per cent of English people who voted for Brexit don’t seem so very different after all (not forgetting that 38 per cent of Scots backed Brexit too).

OK, you might respond, we might share a desire for self-determination. But surely the critical difference is this: that the politicians we elect here in Scotland are dramatically different in their aims and values to those they vote for in England. We choose lefty progressives, English voters go for right-wing conservatives.

This is true. There is a stronger tradition of left-wing adherence in Scotland, stemming historically from Scotland’s industrial heritage. Disillusioned Labour voters in Scotland now vote SNP rather than Tory as in England.

But it’s getting increasingly difficult to work out where Scotland truly sits on the left-right divide because in recent elections, the picture has been distorted by the all-consuming constitutional question. People vote primarily on that issue. As Prof Sir John Curtice noted after May’s election, pro-UK voters showed a “remarkable willingness” to back whichever party locally would stop the SNP, including switching from Labour to the Tories or vice versa.

Meanwhile, some SNP voters are highly enthused by Nicola Sturgeon’s progressive vision but others just want out of the UK.

Brexit similarly distorted the 2019 general election, dividing Labour as well as the Tories. Many Scots are still incredulous at English voters for backing Johnson, but it’s worth remembering that English voters didn’t have a separate national parliament with a popular leader like Ms Sturgeon to contrast with Mr Johnson. They had to choose between Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn. Had it not been for Brexit, it’s highly doubtful whether Boris Johnson would be Prime Minister.

Independence and Brexit are binary choices that force voters into camps that do not adequately represent their views.

Even so, Boris Johnson is Prime Minister and has seemed chaotic, as well as dangerously willing to game the cultural divide. He has just installed a new cabinet that seems set to wage war on the “woke”, which may put it on a collision course with the Scottish Government.

His strategy of unrepentant muscular unionism, spending money in Scotland in devolved areas over the heads of MSPs, plays into the SNP’s hands, as Mr Brown says. The SNP has spent decades schooling voters in the idea that Westminster disrespects Scotland and devolution. The Tories often make it seem true.

The sad thing about all this? None of it is helping voters judge the independence question. There are sound arguments for independence and sound arguments for staying in the UK, but neither are being heard. If Scotland stays in the UK, we must accommodate a tendency in England to vote Tory; if we leave, we will be extracting ourselves from a bigger, more powerful country with which we share almost identical values. It’s frustratingly complex but that’s the reality.

A few more facts and a bit less shouting would make for a much more meaningful debate.

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