SOME of us, I suspect, are tempted to include Rory Stewart in our fantasy lists of reasonable Tory aristocrats. In a first sweep of his credentials there’s much to commend him. He actually has a hinterland of achievement beyond politics. He was a soldier, diplomat, explorer and best-selling author before embarking on a political career, where he rose to prominence in the Conservative administrations of David Cameron and Theresa May.

He seems to be a rare beast in the modern Conservative Party by possessing principles that won’t be shaken by political advancement. When Theresa May resigned as prime minister in 2019, Stewart stood for the leadership of his party against Boris Johnson, having stated that he could not serve in any government led by his opponent.

When Johnson won that contest, Stewart stuck to his promise and duly resigned his cabinet position before quitting politics entirely to pursue an academic career at Yale University. He opposed the extreme Brexit favoured by Johnson and seemed genuinely alarmed at his party’s lurch towards extreme right-wing populism.

While at Oxford, he attended a single meeting of the Bullingdon Club, but couldn’t stomach the entitled oafishness of England’s high-born delinquents and refused to have anything further to do with them.

And yet, like many others of his ilk whose political careers

have been characterised by fair-mindedness and a sense of moral purpose, he is gripped by fits of extravagant intemperance when confronted by the prospect of Scottish independence. In a podcast interview with the former Labour spin doctor, Alastair Campbell, Stewart espoused a suite of Unionist fantasies that seemed to have been dredged from Better Together’s 2014 almanac of falsehoods – now roundly discredited.

His considered rationale for opposing independence was predicated on little more than an emotional journey back into his privileged childhood – as scion of an 18th-century Scottish aristocratic family. We all look the same and speak the same so, by jove, what’s the big problem? It was truly juvenile stuff.

“I felt, obviously, in Cumbria that there was so much in common between Cumbria and the Scottish Borders. It was ridiculous to suggest that somehow these were different countries,” he said.

“I’ve been in countries which are different countries. Basically, we spoke the same language, we shopped in the same supermarkets, watched the same television and we listen to the same music. It’s insane!

“Problem with nationalisms of any sort, whether it is Brexit nationalism or Scottish nationalism, it’s always reductive. Always separating yourself from someone else. It’s always blaming someone else for your problems and fantasising that if you just get rid of another bunch of people everything’s going to be fine if you just draw up a border. I think it’s psychologically dangerous.”

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Now, I’ve heard and read many reasons cooked up by the Unionist fiction factory to deter people from voting to leave the UK. We’ve had a nuclear-free Scotland being added to the Axis of Evil and Scottish OAPs spending their final years in pensionless penury.

We had the broad shoulders of the UK guaranteeing the NHS and Scotland as a backward country forced to beg England to let us back in after the oil runs out. This is the first time, though, I’ve heard that Scottish independence could threaten your mental health.

Stewart chose not to tell us whether the psychological problems arising from Scottish independence would mainly afflict Scots or English. In failing to furnish us with that little detail he’s provided the most colourful, post-independence sick note ever. “Tam’s been laid up with a right doze of that independiatis and won’t be coming to work for the next two weeks.”

Is there a remedy for Stewart’s independiatis? What might the symptoms be: a fever and high blood pressure when exposed to Saltires or the new Scottish national anthem? Perhaps Oxford or Cambridge could commission some research into the condition.

In his new academic posting, Stewart teaches politics and international relations. He can’t seriously believe that a nation’s claim to self-determination is invalid unless you speak a different language and buy your comestibles in different supermarkets.

If this were so, then the US, Canada and most of Latin America are all friar-tucked. Not to mention large swathes of Africa and the Middle East. Switzerland would simply cease to be. Has he discussed this with any citizens of the Irish Republic?

And what’s with all them negative rays, man? Perhaps Rory needs to chill and seek solace in some of the herbal elixirs he would surely have found in his two-year sojourn across Afghanistan and Iran which provided the material for his book.

Why does nationalism always have to be reductive and about separating yourself from other people? Can it not also be uplifting and life-affirming?

Does he really think that Scottish nationalism bears the same characteristics as Brexit nationalism? Brexit, as he knows only too well, proceeded on a wave of Little Englander xenophobia with calls to revive the spirit of Agincourt and Trafalgar.

If Stewart had elected to spend just a year or so – even a few months – living and working in Scotland’s most populous regions he could observe for himself why Scottish nationalism is actually the antithesis of everything that the far-right Brexiteers held to be sacred.

The Scottish Government has been agitating for years to be allowed control of its own immigration policy. We want more people to settle here and to provide sanctuary to the people of those lands in which Rory Stewart travelled widely.

In the nine years that have elapsed since the beginning of the Scottish independence referendum campaign, only one public figure on the Unionist side has ever spoken honestly about what an independent Scotland might look like.

This is what Stewart’s old boss, David Cameron, has said about an independent Scotland: “It would be wrong to suggest that Scotland could not be another such successful, independent country.”

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Cameron, like many other English Unionists simply felt that there wasn’t sufficient reason for Scotland to separate from the UK and was happy to debate this. Unlike the Scottish leaders of Better Together, who knowingly indulged in fiction to advance their cause, Cameron had more respect for Scotland and what it might achieve if left to make its own devices.

Rory Stewart’s sparkling academic resume and granular knowledge of international affairs probably earned him his appointment at Yale. Sadly, this doesn’t seem to apply in his analysis and understanding of the politics and culture of his own country.

Perhaps his academic masters at Yale might grant him paid leave to spend time in Scotland addressing those knowledge gaps. Purely in the pursuit of academic rectitude, you understand.