During the referendum campaign, I often described myself as a nationalist with regrets. Support for independence first came to me as a cherished family hand me down. But reappraising this inheritance with new, more adult eyes, I came to see and understand these ambitions differently. In some moods, my cynicism about Westminster and Whitehall is bottomless. I contemplate self-determination unflinchingly, without heartache and without bitterness. And think, unfairly, in the language of the old communist manifestos, that we have nothing to lose but our chains. Democracy, responsibility, a little hope. It seems like a fair exchange.
But in other moments, the idea of breaking up Britain fills me with a sort of remorse. This long campaign has been conducted without violence -- but if ever it is successful, independence represents a violent break in our shared history. Tumult. Possibility. Refashioned tries. Redefined relationships. It will be a creative destruction -- but somehow a destruction nevertheless. In these moods, this long family and national project can seem, not like a noble emancipation, but an evil made necessary by disappointment and frustration, by lack of ambition and want of statecraft. For all of the Yes campaign's vaunted enthusiasm and positivity, it was also positive case informed by a counsel of pessimism and despair.
This doubleness might help explain why so many of you believed this year's April Fool. With a little imagination, I find that the language of unionism comes fairly naturally to me. Despite the organised dismalism of the Better Together campaign, and the weeks and months of alienations and reversals, the old story still holds some of its magic. It was probably psychologically revealing that my first impulse, listening to Alistair Darling's faltering defence of the Union in the dying days of the #indyref campaign, was to write an alternative script he might have read. For all of my cold-hearted lawyering, I'm basically sentimental at heart. And I'm sometimes an emotionally disloyal separatist.
There is a positive case for the union. It may you leave you unmoved. It may shrink in significance alongside the failures and injustices and missed opportunities of British government. But I now realise: part of me isn't entirely immune to this British poetry. That part of me felt - and feels - bereft, angry and frustrated to be disappointed again and again by the union the majority voted to preserve on the 18th of September. This is strange. People often think of Scottish nationalists as a cynical lot, always willing to believe the worst of UK institutions, always unwilling to give any British proposal the benefit of the doubt. I realise I am not one of these people. I suspect many other folk feel the same way; conflicted, ambivalent and disheartened.
As a cynical and calculating Nat, I suppose I ought to chortle at Westminster's visionless missteps and squandered opportunities, confirmed in my pessimism, biding my time. But watching the Scotland Bill dribble through Westminster last night, the Tory majority flexing its muscles to knock back perfectly sound amendments, I found myself gripped by an irrational fury and overwhelming, acidic, sense of disappointment. The bottom has finally fallen out of the bucket. I felt flat as a pancake.
This union could be saved and remade, but this bunch of clowns don't have the heads, hearts or guts to do it. In the intellectually slight, havering, verbally stumbling figure of Secretary of State Mundell -- the ambition and vision of this government is embodied. There is nothing there. As Kenny Farquharson tweeted last night, "Smith was the Whitehall response to the indyref. So what is the Whitehall response to Scottish general election result? There isn't one." Zero. Ziltch. Nada. Zip.
A better union is not possible, and Scottish unionists are fast becoming an abandoned tribe. And I find myself becoming, less and less, a nationalist with regrets.