THERE is an unassuming house in Kirriemuir that many readers will no doubt be familiar with. When you pass it, it is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it sort of building, but it is one whose place in the history books is sealed, and which people come from all over the world to see.

It is, of course, the birthplace of Peter Pan creator JM Barrie. Scotland has a rich literary heritage but few stories, Scottish or otherwise, have ever been quite so well loved by quite so many people as that of the boy who never grew up.

Is it any surprise that a story as fantastical as that of Peter Pan would have emerged from a man whose childhood was spent in Angus? Scotland is a land steeped in fantasy, imagination, superstition and magic. It is the land of Callanish and Maeshowe, the Mirrie Dancers and the kelpies.

Our largest body of fresh water has a dinosaur living in it, and we are the only country in the world whose national animal is the unicorn. Maybe it is the dark winters or the long summer days, the spooky castles or our collective penchant for a drink, but Scotland is a place where the boundaries between reality and myth often blur, and where the sense of something beyond normality as we know it can be palpable.

We are a nation with imagination, and much as that helps us tell a great tale, it is also a tool to help drive us forward. It gives us the ability to picture a future that is better than our present and to think of ways of achieving it.

Obviously, that trait is not unique to the Scots, but that does not make it any less noteworthy. Imagination can, should and does drive our politics. The important thing is that we channel it and keep the plans that emerge from it grounded in reality. Because, while imagination is useful in politics, fantasy is not.

Unionists have for decades dismissed the vision of an independent Scotland as fantasy. How many times have you heard it said that independence is “a lovely idea but it’s just not realistic”? All that Braveheart nonsense has no place in the mind of a sensible adult, does it? It is a naïve, childish idea.

The problem with that outlook, however, is that almost every other nation on Earth demonstrates daily that ambitions of independence are not fantasy and that the idea of a country governing itself is not childish. From Canada to Cameroon, Norway to Nauru, independence is very much a reality. Sixty-six countries have gained independence from Westminster alone since 1939.

The UK literally holds the world record for losing colonies. Just about every scrap of the empire is gone, but Scotland remains in the Union because, apparently, Scotland is different. Scotland cannot have a currency. Scotland cannot have successful foreign relations. Scotland cannot trade with anyone other than England. Scotland, like Peter Pan, can never grow up.

The argument that Scotland, uniquely, cannot aspire to the reality that 200-odd other nations around the world now consider normal is fantastical. Independence is not. In an interview with Channel 4 News this summer, Jamaican-born Scot Professor Sir Geoff Palmer compared his homeland to the land of his birth noting that “one of the natural progressions of all nations … [is that] one day they will start to think … ‘we want to manage our own affairs’,”.

Jamaica secured its independence in 1962, two years after Cyprus and two years before Malta. Belize became independent in 1981, Latvia in 1991, Montenegro in 2006. The circumstances are unique for each country, but each one demonstrates that independence is normal.

It is Scotland’s current situation that is not. Day after day, more people are seeing that, and as they do, panic pushes the Unionist argument, and the Unionist vision of Scotland, further and further into the realm of fantasy.

From the claims of Scotland being a “one-party state”, to the feigned fear of nationalist ‘mobs’ driving Boris Johnson out of Applecross; from the accusations of SNP anti-Englishness to the clumsy efforts to equate Scottish independence with all the worst aspects of Brexit, the way in which some Unionists are now choosing to portray Scotland increasingly lacks any basis in reality.

IT is a fantasy world; a Neverland in which more than a few individuals appear to have lost their marbles, or at least their happy thoughts. Voters are noticing, and more and more they are beginning to wonder if Unionists’ warnings and scare stories about tomorrow’s Scotland are as fantastical as their portrayal of today’s.

The pro-independence side of the debate looks quite different. It sees Westminster for what it is and Scotland for what it really could be, offering not a land of milk and honey where the streets are paved with gold, but simply a positive vision of a country free to make its own decisions.

The First Minister runs a highly competent government but has consistently acknowledged its potential to make mistakes. Nicola Sturgeon does not pretend that she never puts a foot wrong and she rarely promises anything unachievable. A government and movement that is seen as competent, grounded and honest in the present will have its vision for the future taken seriously, however imaginative or ambitious it may be.

So how imaginative and ambitious can we be? Potentially very, but we need to normalise such traits in the political realm. Whether we like to admit it or not, three centuries of Union with England has got us into the habit of looking south for guidance, re-assurance, and permission to the point that anything done without it seems all but impossible.

How often do we hear on the news how this initiative or that policy compares with an equivalent in England, and only England? Perhaps France, or Greece, or Japan might occasionally provide useful comparisons from which we could learn, but we don’t know, because we hardly ever look.

Our point of reference is narrow, and it confines us.

Creativity is a collaborative affair and the development of an independent Scotland will both require and foster positive engagement with other countries around the world.

England can remain a strong partner for Scotland on any matters of mutual interest that might arise, but let’s start diversifying our sources of inspiration and thinking a bit bigger. We could pursue

Dutch-style transport strategies, promoting cycling on a massive scale to improve the health of ourselves and the planet.

An Estonia-inspired bureaucracy-busting ID card system might save us all time and stress. Bold moves last month by the Mexican states of Oaxaca and Tabasco to ban sales of junk food and fizzy drinks to children were controversial, but in a country with even worse obesity rates than Scotland, could prove lifesaving.

Is there a place for these sorts of policies in an independent Scotland? Yes? No? Maybe? Who knows? The point is that it is all possible. The world is our oyster … within reason. If independence is to be a success, we need ditch the fantasies but feed the imagination.

Barrie once wrote that “the moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease for ever to be able to do it”. Scotland is beginning to shake its doubts. It is time to grow up.