EUROPEAN and English neighbours are coming to Scotland’s rescue. Who’d have expected it?

With generosity of spirit and a keen sense of fair play, leading cultural figures from across the border and the North Sea have created a citizens’ initiative to try and resolve Scotland’s current democratic deficit – exhibiting a care and protectiveness that contrasts marvellously with the hostility of Westminster and indifference of Brussels.

The Europe for Scotland campaign, launching today, sees our progressive neighbours encourage Scots towards indyref2 and a bid for EU membership in our own right as an independent state. There’s regret, but also unsentimental clear-sightedness. As the 150-plus signatories to the EU Commissioners’ letter make clear, Brexited Britain is unlikely to change anytime soon, Scotland’s path evidently leads elsewhere and English progressives may even benefit from the shock of our departure to the deeply sclerotic Westminster system.

According to English musician and Bowie collaborator Brian Eno: “We English have now left the European Union, dragging the Scots out with us. Those of us who think the project of a united Europe is critically important want to see it grow, not shrink, so I applaud Scottish desire to be reunited with Europe.”

According to novelist and screenwriter Ian McEwan: “It was England and Wales that voted to leave the EU, and a small, driven faction of mostly English MPs and their donors who chose the precise and narrow terms of our departure. At that point, the union of these islands was damaged and it falls to Scotland to take responsibility for its own future. Should it decide on independence, it will thrive within the EU as other small nations do. Leading figures in Brussels have promised ‘the door will remain open’. Now is the time for them to hang out the welcome sign.”

According to British historian and Kings College professor, David Edgerton: “Scotland should have the right to choose between the English Union and the European Union – between dictat and democracy.”

Scots may feel estranged from English progressives and a million miles from mainland Europe after a year of closed borders, so it’s uplifting and a bit emotional to realise we have not been forgotten.

READ MORE: Open Minds on Independence #22: The truth about borders after independence

According to Italian professor Alberto Alemanno: “The EU must stand by the Scots who, like any other people of Europe, should be entitled to choose their future in the European Union. If it’s no longer an option to be part of both the UK and the EU, it is not Scotland’s fault”.

And German professor Ulrike Guerot says: “Scotland historically and culturally belongs to Europe, independently of the state formation it currently belongs to. This is why I signed this European solidarity appeal for Scotland.”

These leading members of European civic society get it. They get Scotland. They instinctively see a wider context and spot the international connections Scots hardly have the confidence to make any more. These good neighbours have bypassed the cautious, neutral, bureaucratic figures running European institutions to remind Scots of the solidarity that still flickers at Europe’s heart – and to remind their own leaders of the need to come off the fence and act.

It’s not just that these prominent European figures harbour a secret sympathy for Scotland. It’s that they’ve spoken out, put their heids o’er the parapet, risked pelters from their ain folk, and taken a stand for us. Not a stand directly on the question of independence but on the promise that most quickly went south after the indyref – continuing EU membership within the UK.

OF course, none of these signatories is daft. Clearly there’s no way for Scots to rejoin the EU except as an independent country. But folk from other countries don’t want to tell us what to do.

What they can do is clear a path – if we choose to take it – by urging EU officials to make sure there’s a public welcome for Scotland before indyref2 so there’s none of the confusion, mixed messages and blatant lies that surrounded the vote in 2014. And whether you’re a big fan of the EU or not, that’s progress.

For one thing, it helps clarify Scotland’s options and could spark an alternative bid by Europe’s alternative trading bloc Efta whose “halfway house” offers access to the EU single market without the Common Agriculture or Fisheries Policies or membership of the Customs Union – useful since Scotland will have an immediate non-EU neighbour.

But full EU membership is also attractive. Why pay almost a full membership fee to have no say in decision-making? Scotland’s Remain majority was convincing, but our final destination would still be better decided by debate, not default. And for that reason, we need both European trade bodies to put their cards on the table now.

READ MORE: We Europeans would welcome Scotland back into the EU fold

According to the pollster Lord Ashcroft: “Those who would like an independent Scotland to rejoin the EU are far from certain this could easily happen; they are unlikely to have their doubts assuaged before any new vote.”

Well, that could change if EU officials heed the heartfelt appeal from their most celebrated citizens and reach out to five million citizens actively considering a route back into the European project. It would help them, and it would help us.

Overtures from the EU and EFTA would boost confidence before the next indyref by convincing Scots we have international options, not just the baggage of a 300-year-old Union.

Such attention would do the bruised ego of Scotland no harm after long decades pressed against Westminster’s cold shoulder. Some Scots may feel a little uncomfortable to be held aloft, admired and praised by high-profile strangers. They see a plucky, single-minded, gallus little nation but all we see is bickering, division, stuck polls and uncertainty. C’mon now. Let’s not get a bad case of imposter syndrome. All countries have off days, disappointments and moments of disorientation. That doesn’t define them any more than electoral guddles define us. Despite everything chucked our way by Westminster, we have a parliament helping Scotland evolve into the social democracy England will never be and political parties who didn’t ditch the losing argument in 2014 as British parties ditched the Remain minority in England.

We have hope. So please read the full letter and quotes from our European supporters, and consider signing the letter they kickstarted into life at In the struggle, snubs and Covid misery that have followed we may have forgotten that moment, but many Europeans have not.

Like the young European couple who helped Oxford-based writer and Open Democracy founder Anthony Barnett put the Europe for Scotland campaign together. Working behind the scenes with German Nina Jetter and Italian Andre Pisaro, I’ve been humbled by their energy, optimism and commitment.

Nina says “I want to see the streets of Scotland (and England) erupt in joy, just as we saw in America after Trump’s defeat. And I hope that when this happens, Andre and I will be there in Scotland to celebrate with our friends.”

Spot on lass. It’ll be some party.

McSmörgåsbord, co-edited by Lesley Riddoch, is available via