The last time I wrote anything about the referendum, some took it as sympathy for the Nationalists, so let's now redress the balance.
First, the good stuff about the Nats. Their recent fortunes aren't well understood outside Scotland, but let's start by noting that the SNP has profited in a big way from the New Labour government's mis-steps, successfuly riding a wave of resentment against Tony's mob and squeaking the narrowest of wins in the 2007 election.
They then followed that by pulling off one of the toughest tasks in government, running the country quietly and effectively with no grand plans, a couple of populist moves, and only the one major controversy that I can recall.
And the sky didn't fall; the crops did not wither on the vine and the lion did not lie down with the lamb. The electorate noticed that things pretty much just ticked over inoffensively, broadly approved of it, and thus the Nats duly hoovered up a lot of votes that would otherwise have gone to Labour, the Lib Dems or the diddy parties, landing an astounding, thumping victory.
But the key to understanding the upcoming referendum is that despite that triumph, most Scots aren't Nationalists or, indeed, even nationalists. The SNP's current success was born of New Labour's many failures and while they've seized their opportunity with admirable skill and precision, their 2011 win won't automatically translate into an Indy Ref rout.
(And indeed, the referendum almost never happened, as it was a very late addition to their 2007 manifesto. They even pushed it back past the 2011 election, hoping that they'd be able to change the lie of the land in the intervening period and unexpectedly, they've pulled it off).
In 2007, the idea of Scottish independence was still really only properly popular with the Nats themselves. Their tireless plugging and continued success has now pushed what was a fringe idea into the mainstream, mainly by repeatedly asking the question -
Well, why shouldn't Scotland be independent?
And indeed, that's resonated with a lot of people who wouldn't otherwise have been much bothered either way. Scotland's a country much like any other, so why couldn't it govern itself?
The Nats deserve a lot of credit for their success here, from a purely political standpoint. Bringing a once-lunatic idea into common consideration isn't easy, and it's a huge achievement for their movement.
That's their good points. Now, for the bad stuff.
More so than most other major political forces in the UK, Scottish nationalism is an almost entirely faith-based operation. Sure, the movement's leaders make the odd economic-sounding noise here and there but at heart, it's pure Caledonian Lysenkoism. Like Don Rumsfeld casting about for weapons intelligence, they're only interested in the data that tells them exactly what they want to hear.
If you showed Alex Salmond some kind of Piketty-esque report that categorically proved beyond dispute that an independent Scotland would be a lot worse off than it is now, he'd still favour independence. Because that's just how he is - that's how they all are. The policy comes first, and the supporting evidence will be found thereafter, although it's only needed to help rope the rest of us in.
Because Scottish nationalism may be less malignant than other nationalisms, but it still holds only a passing acquaintance with empiricism. If an independent Scotland will be poorer, then surely the natural zest and industry of self-rule will spur us to make up the deficit and leap forward to a bright, new dawn.
And sure, you can throw that allegation at the unionist parties as well -
God knows, their hysterical, trouser-browning displays of fake terror have been a sight to behold, this last
year, and they all have similar glaring ideological flaws - but the bottom line is this...
Will Scotland be better or worse off, on its own? Alex Salmond doesn't know, and he doesn't much care*. He believes it will be better, and thus it must be, and so it is with almost all of the SNP's supporters.
Ultimately, it's really a question of faith. I think it'd be fine for the Nats to say well, we can't predict what's going to happen post-independence, but self-rule is its own reward, so why not just go for it?
That is the question people are going be voting on, come September. I think a majority of Scots have the savvy to spot that this is so, and will take that assessment with them into the polling station and que sera, sera.
But it's hardly a surprise that a movement that's so strongly rooted in heart and spirit rather than rationality goes absolutely fucking bananas when, for example, the writer JK Rowling chucks a few quid at the No campaign and announces that she's all for the union.
All Scottish politics is parochial**, and the Nats are more petty and suspicious than most, more even than our cranky local Labourites. For a movement with almost eight years of government behind it, they're still incredibly paranoid, with an unshakeable conviction that the nation's institutions and its movers-and-shakers are all instinctively against them and their cause. Thus, they habitually perceive slight and bias in every issue and article.
And sometimes they're right, but more often, they're embarrassingly wrong.
Scottish nationalism generally seems to be far more benign than most of its European equivalents - more tolerant, more welcoming of immigration and difference, more positive. The SNP mean it when they say that they're multiculturalists, welcoming anyone who wants to help contribute to oor rich tapestry... But it's still nationalism, with all of nationalism's manias and quirks, and when you cut nationalism in any form, it bleeds defiance and resentment.
Which is why we so often wind up with, for example, lots of otherwise sensible people hurling insults at a children's author... Because dissent from the great project can't be rational or well-meant, and must instead be something else, be it bad faith, or malice, or - whisper it - treason.
And that sucks from a Nationalist perspective because, when you find that you've been reduced to hurling insults at Harry Potter... Well, you've probably already lost the argument.
(For more on this topic, also see Shuggy on what happens when left wing movements yoke themselves to nationalist causes).
A note here, to fend off some of the more obvious complaints - I'm neither a nationalist nor a unionist. I'm mainly a smartarse, one who concocted a nice, touchy feely global Benetton advert We Are The World mentality, which means that I'm pretty much required to dish out scorn to all nationalism everywhere, insofar as it manifests itself beyond putting on a Scotland strip during our many fruitless qualifying campaigns.
*Neither does e.g. Alasdair Darling or any other No campaigner, for that matter, but they at least have a functioning example to point to.
**Most British politics usually is too, but that's a post for another day.