‘STOP the world, Scotland wants to get on!”. So said Winnie Ewing, when she arrived at Westminster having won the 1967 Hamilton by-election for the SNP.

Scottish independence has never been about withdrawing from the world, pulling up the drawbridge, cutting ourselves off, whether politically, economically or culturally. It has always been about the ability of Scotland, as an open, outward looking nation, to play our own part in European, Commonwealth and global affairs – as a useful, constructive and dependable member of the international community.

This is a necessity, as well as a virtue. We live in an interconnected world. States have to cooperate for reasons of trade and economic opportunity, for defence and security, and for environmental and social protection. They do so largely through membership of those organisations, like the European Union, Nato, the Commonwealth, and the Nordic Council, which enable them to find collective responses to common challenges.

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These international organisations impose duties and obligations on their members, but also confer status, rights, protection, and opportunities to shape policy. For any country that is not a global superpower, membership of such blocs, unions and alliances expands rather than inhibits their international influence. Failure to engage with those international organisations, as the Brexiters are finding out, does not result in undiluted sovereignty, but in isolation and impotence.

Scotland recognised this brute fact centuries ago, in the age when great power status was dependent on ranks of massed musketry. Lacking the means to play in the big leagues on our own, Scotland threw its lot in with England. The Union was not an irrational calculation. Scotland got access to global markets for exploitation. England secured its northern flank against possible enemy invasion. Together both could focus on gobbling up India, without having to worry about being gobbled up by France.

Now the Empire is gone. The market access we need to survive and thrive is – as it was before the Union and the Empire – in continental Europe: France, the Low Countries, Scandinavia and the Baltic. The same rational calculation would lead sensible Scots to drop the British Union and embrace the European Union. The binary choice is almost that stark.

Nevertheless, an independent Scotland would still need a good relationship with whatever is left of the UK. Three centuries of Union are not easily unpicked. England and Scotland share a land border. Their economies are closely entwined. Culturally, they are distinct, but close. Most of us have families and friends on both sides of the border. A good independence is a “gentle independence” that recognises and accommodates that reality.

If I were a Scottish Unionist, looking at the opinion polls shifting inexorably towards the break-up of the precious Union, this is where I focus my attention; not on trying to stop the inevitable, but on ensuring that independence, when it comes, is going to cause as little disruption as possible. I would want dual citizenship, a common travel area similar to that enjoyed with Ireland and reciprocal rights of residence – as well as military cooperation.

Likewise, if I were a member of the UK Government, my priority would be to manage the transition in such a way that England’s strategic interests are protected. I would be eyeing the naval bases, the military training grounds, the water and renewable energy resources, the economic opportunities for Northern England in having direct land access to an EU state, and I would want to ensure the future relationship with Scotland is a constructive and co-operative one.

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All this points to the need for a new treaty regulating Anglo-Scottish relations after independence – not a severing of ties, but a renewal of ties on an equal, mutually agreed basis.

Such treaties were a common feature of 20th century decolonisation. When Ceylon became independent, a Defence Agreement and an External Affairs Agreement sought to ensure continued co-operation between the newly independent Dominion and the United Kingdom on terms that accommodated both British strategic interests and the interests of Ceylonese independence leaders. When Malta achieved independence, similar agreements were made.

There are examples closer to home, too. The Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement established a North-South Ministerial Council, which oversees cooperation between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland on agriculture, education, environment, health, tourism and transport. If they can do with, with a much more troubled history, so can we.

This requires, however, a degree of pragmatism. Those against independence cannot continue to bury their heads like ostriches but must engage in a practical way with a process they might not like, and cannot avoid, but can mitigate. Supporters of independence cannot be purists: difficult compromises will have to be made, both to mollify Unionists at home and to reassure the powers that be in Westminster and Whitehall. It is by means of such pragmatic compromises that a broadly acceptable solution might be found.

Next week’s guest on the TNT show is Joao Kay. Join us at 7pm on Wednesday