After the great unifying success of the Opening Ceremony and the Olympic Games, I have read at least 3 articles in the press (Hugo Rifkind, Richard Morrison, and some shrill woman whose name I don’t recall) opining with greater or lesser degrees of rejoicing that Scottish Independence and Alex Salmond were dead in the water.    Whether this is true or not we must all hope to live and witness, but personally I think to hold this view is to miss the point.

I reflected how as the ceremony unfolded I was at first concerned, and then reassured as the designer recognised our four different nations and to highlight those common factors which we all value.   Never the less, I was puzzled by the order of the playing of the nations’ anthems – first the English, well, you would expect that – and then Northern Ireland’s?   But then I realised they were being played in alphabetical order – England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales – and who could disagree with that?

I agree wholeheartedly that the Olympic Games were a great success and it was wonderful to be received in London with warmth and welcome, and to watch Andy Murray draped in the Union flag thank the ‘home crowd’ for its support.   So far did our joy and goodwill extend that we converged on London in our hundreds of thousands, (my husband amongst them) to cheer on runners in the Marathon  and to recognise their effort and achievement, when this was an event where there was no hope of a British runner winning.

So  – of course we’re stronger together than apart.   Yes, the Union is worth saving.   But I don’t think the dissolution of the union has ceased to be a danger.

We’ve been watching an excellent series by that wonderful wizard of  a presenter Michael Woods, on the history of the British.   It is striking how none of the would be invaders – Rome, the Edwards I and II, William the Conqueror, were  able to conquer Scotland, partly due to the resistance of the natives, and partly also to geographical good fortune.   It is moving for Scots to see that the borders of the Roman empire are stopped at Hadrian’s Wall and to read that Septimus Severus advanced further into Scotland, but did not succeed in holding the territory, and his incursion cost him 50,000 men.    Yet Scotland was betrayed by the greed and perfidy of its king, and by its poverty at that time, into an inferior position within the union.

The Scots are long of memory.   I recall discussing these issues with a friend, who complained that they had all happened centuries ago, and when would that slate be wiped clean?   I in my turn was astonished by her attitude.   Things once done or said stand forever and can never be nullified.   They can be forgiven, but the Scots are not good at that.

The union of the crowns, and later of the parliaments, was like an arranged marriage with the people of  Scotland (but not its king or aristocracy) an unwilling and coerced participant.   The marriage has endured – to mutual benefit it has to be agreed – but Scotland’s dissatisfaction has not diminished.   The present position seems to be that at least some Scots (about half as we stand at present, I would estimate, but rising) are dissatisfied with the marriage and wish to change, if not to end it.   England on the other hand, declares itself quite happy with the present arrangement.   In national unions, as in marriages, this state of affairs could not be described as either welcome or stable.

I believe that the people of Scotland would wish to preserve the union if England were also to accept that it too was part of a federation comprising 4 nations of equal status.   The English would have to recognise that English and British were not the same thing.   They would have to accept that the Union flag belonged to us all, and sport their own flag, St George’s on all occasions that weren’t British.    They would have to choose a national anthem for themselves;  and I think Britain needs to get a new one too, for no Scot is going to feel entirely comfortable with the present national anthem, God Save the  Queen, not from any disaffection with the Lady, but because it contains a prayer for the crushing of rebellious Scots.   England would also need to accept that it must have a government for itself, and the ignoble post of Secretary of State for any part of our islands must be abolished.   Then we would need to define what were properly British matters to be dealt with in a British place of government, and what would be handled by the federated states.   Of course I cannot speak for opinion in Wales or Northern Ireland, but it is my belief that they too would accept these terms |(and Scotland would help them negotiate if necessary.)

But will England accept this view?   I see little evidence that it has even spotted the approaching clouds.   These issues are not going to go away.   The rising (not yet voting) generation has been brought up on Scottish history and is more pre-disposed to view Scottish independence as a ‘done deal’.   Even if the question is put, and we do not meet the criteria at this precise moment;  the question will not vanish.     The question will just stand there, like the elephant, and wait for Fate to overtake it.   It can always be asked again.

Our enjoyment of our British identity together over the last few weeks shows us what we could achieve.   We can rejoice in our own nationhood, and be British as well;  and we can gather in under our British  flag all our diverse and valued populations.

I’m for the Union.   But it is England who can save it.   If England can extend that warmth, tolerance, fair play and generosity of spirit that it has displayed along with the rest of us British – for the last few weeks, to its own brothers and sisters, there is no limit to what we could achieve together.    Saving the Union will be difficult and costly, but I think the prize is worth the price.