THE year was 2008 and I was a few weeks away from completing the final year of my undergraduate degree. My lecturers and tutors all predicted a very good final result. I had been invited to apply for a few postgrads, an option I was balancing against others, such as pursuing a career in journalism. Everything, at least on the surface, looked great – but I was exhausted.

Years spent battling through a job I hated, combined with the rigours of my studies (and the occasional alcoholic beverage), had left me burned out and profoundly hesitant about the future. Deep down I really didn’t know what I wanted to do next, so I went for the only logical option – I finished uni, quit my job, strapped a bag to the back of my motorbike and headed off, alone, into Europe for a month.

I embarked not from Calais, or Portsmouth, or even Newcastle, but Rosyth, taking the ferry down the Forth, out into the North Sea and over to Zeebrugge. Doing so meant that I wouldn’t have to trudge all the way through England, enduring crowded motorways and A-roads, just to get started; instead, I could leave my house and, within a few hours, have begun my “escape” to the continent.

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Even then, however, I was aware that my choice of departure point went beyond mere convenience – in fact, it was discovering the existence of the Rosyth ferry that had convinced me to push on and make the trip a reality. Looking back, there was something about that direct link, that ability to roll on to a boat on the Fife coast and roll off in a Belgian port, that made a month-long solo trip seem much less daunting.

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It paid off, too. During the overnight sailing I got talking to other bikers from all over Europe, with whom I ended up having a few too many drinks before snatching some sleep on a surprisingly comfortable patch of carpet. On hearing that I hadn’t booked any accommodation, one of my new friends, a Frenchman named Paul, even suggested I stay with him in Strasbourg for my first night. Of course I accepted. That initial meeting changed the course of my entire journey – my first big adventure on my own, and an experience that did much to shape the person I am today – and it would never have happened on a 90-minute hop across the English Channel.

So when I read last April that the Rosyth ferry had finally been axed, having been reduced to a freight-only service many years earlier, I felt a pang of regret.

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In part this was just a personal response, the flicker of a memory of youthful adventure when all things seemed possible, but it also seemed to me that there was more to it, even if I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. I can now.

As things stand, Scotland is about to be forced out of the EU against its will, dragged along for the dystopian ride of England’s post-imperialist identity crisis. It matters not, apparently, that we voted overwhelming to reject this awful, regressive rupture not just with our European neighbours, but also with the real world. It is irrelevant, we are told, that Remain secured the country’s clearest political mandate since the 1997 devolution referendum. Scotland gets what England wants.

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That’s why the campaign to revive the direct ferry link to Europe, now being championed by SNP MSP Douglas Chapman, is so uplifting. It’s more than just a way to get to Europe for a holiday, or a means of securing food and medical supplies for the nation while the south of England is turned into a sprawling, suffocating lorry park. It is a glimmer of light, the hint of a breathing ember, amidst the darkness.

Clearly it won’t be easy but success, especially if achieved with the support of the Scottish Government, would send an important message. It would be a sign of our country looking forward into the future, even as Britain continues its inexorable decline. It would show our friends beyond our shores that we are committed to protecting the bonds we have built together.

Most of all, it would say, loud and clear, that Scotland is a European nation and that, no matter what happens, we will not allow that to be taken from us.