IT was good to see the First Minister back in fighting form last week, pushing forward the case for independence with renewed vigour. The overall approach – to contrast the risk and dangers of staying in the UK with the opportunities of independence – is a sound one. Independence will not make everything better overnight, but it offers a lifeline we must take, because if we don’t become independent, we know for a fact that things will only get worse.

Crucially, the Scottish Government now seems to appreciate, as they did not in 2014, that people are voting not for a new government, with a detailed policy manifesto (which was what the 2014 White Paper amounted to), but for a new state – a normal democratic European country, where different parties will put forward different policies. We cannot once and for all determine the policy of an independent Scotland. What we can determine is the structure, institutions and principles of the state, through which policy will be made. That is why the most eagerly awaited, and arguably most important, of these policy papers will be the one dealing with the Scottish constitution.

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The focus of my comments, however, are not on what Nicola Sturgeon or Patrick Harvie said on the day, but what David Lammy MP said afterwards. Lammy – a person whose contributions are generally admirable – declared that Labour was a Unionist party and would never consent to Scotland holding a referendum on independence.

If “never” really means never, that really is an outrage against democracy. What right has he, or Sir Keir Starmer, or the Labour Party, or anyone else, to stand against the Claim of Right and deny Scotland’s freedom to choose her own future?

He is even going against the Prime Minister, who – addressing Falklands war veterans on the 40th anniversary of the Liberation of Port Stanley – declared the principle that all people everywhere have the right to self-determination.

Yet this “no, nay, never” intransigence adds to my worrying perception that there has been an unpleasant change in the tenor of the Scottish independence debate. From the English side, there seems to be a greater degree of animosity, a firmer desire to hold on to Scotland at all costs.

In 2014, it felt as if the prevailing sense in England – at a popular, rather than official level – was indifference. Those in Westminster made a lot of noise about the precious Union and how we were all going to be “Better Together” (how’s that working out for you?). The man on the Clapham omnibus was just as likely to exclaim, “Good luck to ’em, I say!”.

They didn’t care about “losing” (the language of possession is deliberate) Scotland. It wouldn’t make the slightest scrap of difference, in practical terms, to their lives. But that seems to have changed.

Brexiteers seem particularly eager to hold on to Scotland. – not because of traditional Unionism, which was understood to be a consensual arrangement for mutual benefit, but simply because any expression of resistance or insubordination must be crushed.

I used to see English nationalism as the natural ally of the Scottish independence movement, helping to spring the Union apart from both ends. Now, I am not so sure. The civic, democratic, English nationalism with which we could ally is still marginal. Meanwhile, Brexit seems to have incubated a new strain of English nationalist (or to be more accurate let’s call them Anglo-British nationalists): revanchist and irredentist Edward Longshanks fanboys.

It is all so unnecessary. The end of the Union need not be a cause of English sadness, loss or fear. For the English it is a great opportunity – a chance for England to move on, be at home in itself; make peace with its past, and become a stable, prosperous, decently governed, free and democratic country.

The National:

Lammy (above) could have said: “Nicola Sturgeon has set out an agenda for a Scottish state that is very different, in terms of its orientation towards the public good, from the British state. We support that and shall go and do likewise. The Union has served its purpose. Just as Nicola Sturgeon wants the best for Scotland and realises that the institutional obsolescence of the United Kingdom stands in the way of that, so we want the best for England, and therefore will support an independence referendum and prepare for a cooperative post-British future.”

It is almost impossible to imagine any Labour MP saying that. Labour is a product of the Union and thoroughly steeped in British nationalism. Yet, if Labour wants not only to win, but to have a chance of achieving their policy aims – which will require the transformation of the state – that is exactly what they will have to do.

There is a radical, authentic, English left tradition, far older than the Labour party, which has been desperate to overthrow the Norman Yoke for centuries. First one to come out for England wins.