THIS week, the Scottish Conservatives got very exercised about a flag. The Scottish Conservatives care deeply about the Union flag, so deeply that it took them eight years to notice that the Scottish Government had changed its policy about flying the Union flag on royal occasions. But when they did notice, after the guidance to Scottish civil servants was updated to reflect the practice and policy of the past decade, they got extremely upset about it.

Those vile nationalists should be getting on with the day job and not obsessing about a flag, some nationalists screamed as they obsessed about a flag and didn’t get on with the day job of ensuring that the EU Withdrawal Bill complies with the devolution settlement.

Those vile Nats want to destroy our flag, screeched the right-wing press! If Thatniclasturgeon and Thatessempee get their way there won’t be any Union flags left in Scotland at all. Except those that are stamped on your new driving licence, fly at military parades, from Tory and Labour controlled council buildings, from Edinburgh Castle, beamed 200ft high on to the side of Castle Rock at the Tattoo, on Scottish produce in supermarkets, in the title sequence of every telly show called Great British something, at Rangers matches, Orange parades, fascist rallies, and on the social media avatars of all those people whose nationalism is better than other forms of nationalism by virtue of not being nationalist at all. But apart from that, totally eradicated.

The Conservatives, and their supporters in the right-wing press, are very quick to accuse supporters of independence of manufacturing grievances, and there they were blatantly manufacturing a grievance of their own.

It provided a convenient distraction for the anti-independence press, allowing them to give space to Murdo Fraser to vent his fury instead of having to concentrate on the abject failure of the British Government to respect the results of the 1997 and 2014 referendums and defend and protect the devolution settlement.

The stories in the right-wing press were followed by scores of racist comments directed at Scottish people. If the same comments were made by supporters of Scottish independence and directed at English people, there would be anguished articles all over the papers for weeks and special programmes on BBC Scotland about the cancer lurking at the heart of the independence movement.

But when racism is directed at Scottish people, it’s just a bit of banter and you’re a humourless Nat if you take it seriously. Anyway, it’s only vile cybernats who poison debate and lower the tone. The outrageous and offensive comments of a single independence supporter on social media are used by the anti-independence media to characterise the independence movement as a whole, but don’t you dare suggest that offensive comments from those opposed to independence should in any way be taken as characteristic of opponents of independence as a whole.

Absolutely nothing had changed between last week – indeed last year – and this week, and yet there they were banging on about how the Scottish Government wants to extinguish a symbol of the British state, while the Conservative-run British state is seeking to undermine and traduce the devolution settlement and destroy Scottish political distinctiveness. That’s a whole lot more important than a flag.

In the very same week that the Conservatives got themselves all lathered up into an outrage over an entirely invented story, they say that they’re bringing in measures to tackle the proliferation of fake news in the media. I’m shocked and surprised that the Conservatives are hypocrites, said absolutely no one ever.

The harrumphing this week about the Union flag also exposes many of the hypocrisies lurking at the heart of the anti-independence project, not the least of which is the lie that it’s not nationalist. Getting angry about a perceived slight to a nationalist symbol is one of the definitions of nationalism. This week the Conservatives stand exposed – the campaign to defeat Scottish independence is at its core a nationalist project.

It’s one of the defining myths of British nationalism that somehow it’s not really nationalist at all. It’s not just the Tories who propagate this myth, Labour are pretty keen on it too. If Labour were not a nationalist party, their solidarity with working class people would extend further than the borders of the UK.

Their definition of solidarity includes workers in Dundee and Durham, but not those in Dublin. A Labour party which defends Brexit, like that of Jeremy Corbyn, is as British nationalist as the Conservatives.

So let’s stop pandering to them. As independence supporters we pander to the delusions of British nationalists by describing opponents of independence as Unionists, while describing supporters of independence as Scottish nationalists.

The Scottish constitutional debate is not a debate between nationalists and non-nationalists, it’s a debate between two different visions of what the nation of Scotland can be. So let’s not call opponents of independence Unionists any more. Let’s call them what they really are – British nationalists.