It was a slightly peculiar experience watching the discussion on Scottish independence on Wednesday night's Dinner With Portillo, with the only person I really had to cheer on being a decidedly right-of-centre historian. I must admit, though, that although I may not have agreed with Michael Fry on every point, he is a very effective and passionate debater, and given the circumstances thank heavens he was there. The most bizarre segment of the programme offered us yet another unwelcome opportunity to take a wander around the frightening terrain that is Rod Liddle's psyche. "Scotland is NOT a nation," he thundered repeatedly. You might assume such a startling claim would be backed up with a sophisticated and considered argument, but instead what we got was - "on the east coast of Scotland they speak like Northumbrians, on the west coast they speak Gay-lick". Yes, I must admit every time I visit Dundee I really have to pinch myself to remember I'm nowhere near Lindisfarne, and come the weekend I enjoy nothing more than a trip to Troon to sample the very best the Gàidhealtachd has to offer. Seriously, though, is Liddle really offering up the continued survival of one of Scotland's indigenous languages as evidence that Scotland is less of a nation than it would otherwise be?
Vernon Bogdanor is of course a much weightier figure than Liddle, but even he seems to be stuck in the nineteenth century, talking of his "regret" that Ireland left the United Kingdom. You'd think he might have got over it by now. Underlying this of course is the stubborn idea amongst some traditionalist unionist thinkers that it would have been a more desirable outcome had Home Rule for Ireland headed off calls for full independence. That seems an utterly incredible worldview to hold in 2010 - does Bogdanor also think devolution for India within the UK would have been a more rational, progressive outcome in 1947?