I AM writing this watching a Caribbean sunset at Needham’s Point, Barbados. Before you get jealous, it is a working trip, and I haven’t seen much besides the inside of a conference room.

But getting here was an ­interesting experience. The Business section of a flight from Heathrow to ­Bridgetown is – how can I put this? – a long way, in ­sociological terms, from The Raploch. We don’t normally see them around, but there’s a thin and ­permanently tanned section of English ­society for whom 13 years of Tory government have worked out just fine.

At first sight, Barbados reminds me of other places where my constitutional work has taken me, like Fiji and Belize. The same combination of tropical heat and British Imperial legacies. There is a particular look about these places, a look that is far too easy for nostalgic ­imperialists to romanticise.

The reality is quite different. Belize has been independent since 1981. Fiji since 1970. Barbados since 1966. The British Empire is over. Even its relics are being removed. Barbados is now a republic. Fiji has been a republic for some time. Belize looks set to follow suit. With those last symbolic links removed, the British Empire has passed the way of the Roman – into history.

The real end of the Empire was not 1947, when India, Pakistan and Burma became independent, nor even 1956, when the Suez Crisis revealed that Britain was second string to the United States. Throughout the 1950s, 60s and 70s, although rapidly diminishing, British power was still to be reckoned with.

When the UK joined the European ­Economic Community, as it then was, the Royal Navy was still the third largest Navy in the world. Navies are incredibly complex, expensive and ­technologically sophisticated organisations, which allow control of trade and the exertion of geo-strategic power. So having the third ­largest navy is a reasonable proxy for being the world’s third power – then after the USA and the Soviet Union.

The British Hydrographic Office recently announced it is to cease printing Admiralty Charts by 2030. The Admiralty Chart, which proclaimed British ownership of the oceans and British scientific prowess, has been superseded by digital technology, probably made in China.

The National: HMS Prince of Wales (left) and HMS Queen ElizabethHMS Prince of Wales (left) and HMS Queen Elizabeth

The handover of Hong Kong to China in 1997 marked the point at which British power was revealed for what it was – a spent force. It should have been clear to all, then, that if the United Kingdom was to have a future at all, it had to be as a mid-ranking European state.

The Brexiters’ nonsense about ­“Global ­Britain” reveals the unreality of their ­worldview. Like the kilted soldiers at the State Opening of Parliament in Fiji, still performing drills instantly recognisable to a 1950s Sergeant ­Major, it’s a chimaera of the past.

Chris Patten, the last British governor of Hong Kong, and one of the few Tories who seem not to have lost their minds to the Brexit cult, has been very candid about the situation we are now in. The UK, outside the EU, doesn’t ­become a global power again. It becomes a “third ­country”, an outsider, last in the queue for ­Spanish tomatoes. The humiliation is complete.

The decline and fall of the British Empire is of vital concern to the people of Scotland today. Some push back against the idea that Scotland was ever a colony. In strict terms, it was not – “colony” was one of the many statuses that a territory could possess in the British ­Empire. Many other parts of the Empire were not ­technically colonies either. Aden and Malaya were protectorates. Sudan was a condominium.

BY the early 20th century, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa were no longer colonies but dominions. Ireland was not a ­colony (from 1801 onwards, it was part of the UK), but few dispute that British rule in Ireland was colonial in nature.

In the same way, Scotland was never a colony, but its experience of British rule was colonial. Was there slavery? No. But neither was there lawful slavery anywhere in the British Empire from 1833 onwards, and in 1833, the Empire was just warming up.

Other aspects of colonial rule did hit ­Scotland hard – co-option of elites into the ­imperial ­project through privileged access to ­education, the maintenance of local institutions so long as they played a tame subordinate role, ­land-grabbing and the displacement of populations, the ­erasure or marginalisation of national culture, stirring-up of sectarian and ethnic rivalries to divide and rule, the colonisation of the tongue and the mind. We are still living with the ­consequences.

How long before we follow in the footsteps of Barbados, Fiji, Belize, and many others?

How long before the sun finally sets on this cold rainy corner of the British Empire?

What is the environment within the LibDems? We reveal this and more on the next TNT show. Join us at 7pm on Wednesday with guest Emma Walker