IT’S not difficult to understand why more than one SNP figure has expressed a degree of regret that their party is saddled with the word “nationalist”.

History will not be kind to those movements whose principal focus seemed to be an inward-looking one and whose name alone seemed to suggest subjugating all other matters to those considered patriotic. In times of stress it left them vulnerable to the predations of political “ultras” who immediately set about looking for “an enemy within” to blame for a nation’s distress.

As such it helps to deploy a single and very simple litmus test when seeking to discern what kind of nationalism represents something decent and outward-looking and what does not. It comes down to this: be wary of any national party that gains momentum in countries that are already independent.

Jo Swinson certainly knows the difference and this makes her insistence in conflating Scottish nationalism with English nationalism something nasty and not a little sinister.

The new leader of the Liberal Democrats needed to find some kind of fig leaf to cover the hypocrisy of her policy in demanding a second referendum in Europe while refusing to countenance one on Scottish independence, and opted to scrape the bottom of the barrel.

I’ll grant her a measure of kindness here and state that she can’t honestly believe that the political beliefs and values of Nicola Sturgeon and Joanna Cherry can be grouped together with those of far-right gargoyles like Tommy Robinson and Nigel Farage. Thus, I’ll put this down to the desperation of a newly minted leader who has been swept along in the Brexit whirlpool and has lost some of her bearings.

It’s difficult to extend the same indulgence to Gordon Brown. Five years after the first Scottish independence referendum, Labour’s King Lear is still advancing some old falsehoods long after we were entitled to think that the sun had finally set on a political career that choked on an obsessive lust for power. Brown these days likes to surround himself with Labour fanboys whose own political careers have stalled. At other times these political mediocrities wouldn’t have been permitted to share a stage with Brown in his pomp. But desperate times call for desperate measures and Brown has certainly become desperate as he seeks to locate the elusive fountain of eternal relevance.

Swinson’s ill-judged attempts to smear the entire Yes movement coupled with Brown’s sad posturing at least provide early indications of the type of political terrain on which they hope to fight the second independence referendum. It’s also an admission that most of their other weapons have been rendered obsolete in the chaos of Brexit. Last week The National provided an eight-page takedown of the falsehoods and deceptions that peppered the Better Together campaign in 2014. It means that the Yes movement will approach the second campaign armed with the data and the tactics to confront these when they are floated once more. Once you remove the fear of losing EU membership and the wretched attempts to scare Scotland’s elderly about their pensions, there isn’t much left. This is why Swinson, Brown and poor Richard Leonard, a man who would look out of his depth in a paddling pool, are peddling the myth of extreme nationalism.

This will form the entire philosophical treatise for the next Better Together campaign. The football commentator Archie Macpherson, who let himself down in 2014 with his own wretched scaremongering about pensions, is already angling for another cameo role this time around. Macpherson wants Brown to lead the next Better Together campaign and most Yes supporters will hope that his wish is granted.

Yesterday’s decision by the Supreme Court to render Boris Johnson’s attempt to prorogue Parliament null and void will resonate for many generations. But when Brexit is settled one way or another it will not come to be regarded as very significant for the cause of Scottish independence. Lady Hale’s elegant and unprecedented act of defenestrating a sitting British Prime Minister was great fun to watch and means that we will have a General Election sooner rather than later. Few, though, would bet against the Tories winning this, while Brexit will simply be delayed.

And let’s not get too carried away about the saintliness and wisdom of 11 law lords and ladies. After all, they took three days to say (in admittedly refined and perjink prose) what everyone in the country already knew: that Johnson and his personal Richelieu Dominic Cummings were telling porkies in their reasons for suspending Parliament. And I wonder, too, how many of their lordships and ladyships were also moved by a need to rid the traditional party of the English elites of an oaf who was in danger of subjecting it to eternal ridicule. “The man’s a cad and he’s beginning to startle the horses and the servants. Let’s chuck him overboard.”

FROM a Scottish perspective, the most significant aspect of the 2019 War of the British Constitution has been the role played in it by Joanna Cherry and, to a lesser extent, Ian Blackford. This pair, along with the indefatigable Gina Miller, have driven this movement to maintain the pillars of British parliamentary democracy. In this, they were informed by universal ideas of speaking truth to power and holding governments to full and transparent account.

Cherry is admired on all sides of the House of Commons and not the least because she obviously retains a great deal of respect – admiration even – for old and cherished English institutions that pre-date 1707 and the Act of Union. She is a future leader of the SNP and may well be the one to maintain bridges and dialogue to the rest of the UK in the thorny and turbulent early years of an independent Scotland. Cherry and Blackford represent the universal nationalism of their party, one that in seeking merely to determine Scotland’s own future also desires it to be characterised by universal values of common humanity and democratic accountability.

I wish Jo Swinson well in her new job but if she is to make her mark on British politics she would be advised to look at Cherry and Nicola Sturgeon and learn from the way they conduct themselves. To insist these women represent something narrow and exclusive damages Swinson and invites early questions about her leadership abilities.

The English nationalism that fuels hard Brexit is a medieval witch-finder credo that seeks to marginalise and intimidate minorities while proclaiming racial superiority. The desire to defeat this wickedness lay at the heart of Joanna Cherry’s fight to protect the values of the UK Parliament and epitomises the Yes movement’s political and moral philosophy.