LAST week I was, after 16 years in the European Parliament, invited to appear on the BBC’s Question Time programme from Liverpool. Obviously they waited until I demitted office as an MEP because only MEPs called Nigel ever get on the programme!

I was expecting a five-against-me pile on from the other panellists and chair in the week that Boris Johnson had made the absurd decision to refuse a further independence referendum – but none came. In fact, independence was not mentioned once. England is in an entirely different place, having an entirely different conversation.

I had not realised that the audience submit questions in writing beforehand, and it is from these submissions that the questions are drawn. The audience was drawn from across the north-west of England, and not one of them had a single question on Scotland. Not one. Nor Northern Ireland, in the week the Stormont assembly finally began functioning again.

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Perhaps that’s not a bad thing. It allowed me to be, I hope, a sensible voice from a friendly neighbour on their issues, and I suppose they can’t accuse us of being a one-trick pony obsessed by independence. Instead we spent the time talking about climate change, NHS A&E targets in England, the possible bailout of Flybe and what seemed an eternity talking about Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. The audience reaction was really quite remarkable over the royal chat. The hands were all up, the enthusiasm to hold forth palpable. Everybody had a view, usually as ill-informed as the next. I felt I was transported to a pub chat down the Dog and Duck. I was, I’ll confess, a bit scrappy, saying that this is just a massive distraction when there are so many other things going on in the world and indeed closer to home. The faces of the audience said it all – this was what they wanted to talk about, this is the stuff that matters.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t dismiss it lightly. It seems pretty clear to me that Meghan Markle has indeed had an awful time from England’s institutionally awful press. If they want to go and be private citizens I wish them well, on the proviso they are to receive no more public funds. But it doesn’t matter. Whatever happens and whatever they do it will not actually make a difference to the lives of anyone in the show or watching it. I joked that they might as well be talking about Celebrity Love Island for all the difference it makes in their lives. The joke didn’t land.

The National:

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But I was really struck that even given the opportunity to quiz, debate or even have a pop at an SNP politician, they didn’t want to and weren’t interested. I’ve found this a lot from various conversations I’ve had since I got to Westminster. The overwhelming reaction to Scotland from most Labour and Tory MPs is complete indifference and a barely disguised desire that we just shut up and remember our place. The better informed ones (and after her comments last week we can certainly take Lisa Nandy off that list) know they have a problem. They recognise the gross injustice that Scotland is facing after all the recent votes we have had, yet we are being removed from the EU anyway. Against our will. The reason for the braying and shouting down is because they dare not enter into an actual argument. Their position is indefensible and the smarter ones know it.

But we’re in a frustrating place. I know that better than most. The emails I’m receiving are heartbreaking, and I still feel awful that having tried to stop Brexit – indeed taking on Westminster to try to do so – I’ve failed in that task. The next few weeks will be tough and I’ll be supporting our European team as much as I can as we go through that awful process. But we then go on to the what-comes-next. Under Boris Johnson’s shabby deal, the UK enters a transition period where, in effect, other than the tearful or triumphant MEPs leaving Brussels, nothing will change. The rules stay the same and the UK becomes a rule-taker with no influence. That itself will be utterly unsustainable, not least as they try to work out what future relationship they actually want.

The document you may want to have a read at is the Political Declaration, annexed to the Withdrawal Agreement. It is not worthless, but it is so vague as to be meaningless in the real world. There are going to be real choices in the real world and the Tories are entirely unprepared for them.

I’m delighted to be working with the excellent Dr Philippa Whitford as our Scotland in Europe spokesperson. There will be plenty of opportunities to bring home to people just what is being lost, for nothing.

I’ve said long since in this column that trying to stop brexit for the whole of the UK was in Scotland’s best interests, too. We failed in that because England wants to have a different discussion. Well they can’t stop us for long.