IT'S hardly a surprise that Neil Oliver would team up with British nationalism's favourite purveyor of pretty multicoloured graphs, Kevin Hague as a member of the advisory board of Kevin's supsiciously well connected "think tank" These Islands. It's a body which sprung up out of nowhere, and immediately managed to get publicity in the media which genuine grassroots independence initiatives could only dream of. These Islands tells us that it wants to bring the people of this northern Atlantic archipelago together. Well, except for independent Ireland, which might be a part of these islands but since it's a highly successful independent nation which is doing very well for itself despite not being ruled from Westminster is an embarrassing exception to the narrative that the organisation seeks to punt.

Like every organisation which purports to put forward a positive case for the UK and to "unite not divide" These Islands predictably spends most of its time and energy telling Scottish people how the Scottish Government is rubbish. One of the most recent articles on its infrequently updated website is a piece which claims to show why it's misleading to compare Scotland's efforts to contain the pandemic to England's.

READ MORE: Neil Oliver teams up with Kevin Hague's pro-Union These Islands think tank

The thrust of the piece appears to be that a) Scotland is doing crap at dealing with the coronavirus, and b) you should really compare Scotland to any parts of England which you can find which happen to be doing better than Scotland. What is notably missing is any reference at all to the fact that Scotland doesn't have the full powers of an independent nation to deal with the pandemic, and is dependent upon financial and economic measures controlled by Westminster. Neither is there any recognition of the fact that if and when the Scottish Government does diverge from Westminster's policies for dealing with the virus, it's immediately going to be attacked for sowing division by the likes of These Islands and its supporters. But hey, SNPbad, ammirite?

Kev and Neil both hate nationalism. Except British nationalism of course, which doesn't count as nationalism because someone stuck a union flag on it. The Union flag is the Cillit Bang of nationalism. Bang! And the nationalism is gone! Only while Cillit Bang is extremely effective at removing dirt, Union flags merely operate as a species of self-delusion for British nationalists. Nationalism is for other people, not proud Brits. And most certainly not for Neil.

Neil infamously described the 2014 referendum as a "hate fest". By this he presumably meant that after generations of British nationalism in Scotland operating unchallenged because it called itself unionism, you could no longer prop up the bar in a douce golf club and pontificate about how Scotland was too wee, too poor, or too generally crappy to be able to look after itself without someone popping up to challenge you.

Hundreds of thousands of others of us in Scotland managed to get all the way through 2014 without hating on anyone, without violence, without falling out with loved ones, friends, or families. The only violence that the referendum produced came from British nationalists in George Square who attacked peaceful independence supporters after the result was announced. But presumably that's not the hatefest that Neil was referring to. After all, they were waving union flags as they kicked and beat up people, so they can't have been nationalists.

What British nationalists always fail to do is to present a convincing case of how Scotland can thrive better within a UK which is not run primarily in Scottish interests than in an independent Scotland which would always have Scotland's interests as its primary concern. Even less do they choose to tackle the democratic arguments for independence, preferring to concentrate on the supposed fiscal transfer produced by the self-fulfilling prophecy of GERS figures which do little more than to tell us where power lies within the UK.

It's always Scotland which has to make a democratic compromise for the greater good of the UK, never the UK's largest constituent nation. A UK which ceased to operate in England's interests would be a UK with a very short shelf life indeed. What British nationalists never do, because Neil and his friends have no answer, is to explain to us how within the structures of the UK the people of Scotland can hold a government to account when it acts against the interests of Scotland or against the wishes of the majority in Scotland. They can't answer because there is no answer. Scotland can vote against Boris Johnson and his Brextremist Conservatives, but it's English votes which determine the British Goverment because England is larger than all the other nations of the UK combined.

Within the UK, Scotland gets what England votes for. That might have worked fine for a large part of the 20th century when Scottish voting patterns and English voting patterns were broadly similar. But they're not any more and haven't been for a long time. Scotland is not about to become reconciled to the Brexit project any time soon. It's not anti-English to point this out, but Neil and his friends want us to believe it is. That's as deluded as the belief that slapping a Union flag on your nationalism magically prevents you from being nationalist.