Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Don't leave us, Scotland!

No one in the UK – or, for all I know, elsewhere in the world, can avoid knowing that the Scots appear to be (if the polls be believed) seriously thinking of leaving the United Kingdom. What seemed to me, and I think to the Better Together team too, a remote possibility when the referendum was first mooted, looks now to be what Wellington might have called “a damned close run thing”. God grant that we can look back at it as Wellington did at the Battle of Waterloo, and not with the chagrin of his opponent Napoleon Bonaparte.The very thought of having border controls between us makes me feel quite upset. I remember a few years ago travelling up that wonderful high road that takes you through the Cheviots into Lothian, where you come up to the sign that says ‘Scotland’ and the whole landscape changes as you pass over the geological join between England and its neighbour that was tacked on millions of years ago. Will we have to show our passports next time we go?

I count myself as English, when I think about it at all – and born and brought up in England, too, though there’s very little Anglo-Saxon English in me, when all’s said and done: I’m a nice amalgam of Celt, Viking and Scot – more Celt than anything else, probably, on my father’s side (his family came from Devon originally though our most famous member is renowned as the Bard of Bath); my mother’s family came from the north-east, where there are more Norse descendants than Saxon ones, and her grandmother was a lowland Scot. I don’t know of any Welsh ancestors, but the West Country celts are closely related, historically. And this mixture is very typical of those of us who are ‘English’. We don’t say much about our Englishness, for fear of offending the Scots, Welsh and Ulster folk, and we are a polyglot crew, it has to be said. So the idea of Scotland becoming independent ought not to worry us too much. If they do decide to vote that way, they will be bringing themselves all kinds of problems, economic and otherwise, I suspect – as Better Together keep telling them and Yes Scotland keep denying. Perhaps the only way to know for certain is to try it out; but what a gamble. However, we non-Scots don’t have a vote, so why worry? In a sense it isn’t our problem.

But in another sense it is. Not only will the loss of Scotland as a piece of national heritage be a terrible one – so many of our British heroes and heroines originated there (not least modern ones such as Andy Murray), but there will be a terrible rending politically, socially and economically if a piece of this integral structure we call the United Kingdom is torn off.  It will be an open wound for decades, and very slow to heal. There will be grief, trauma and economic struggle for both sides. And for what? Scottish pride, which they could have anyway – and always have had? The ability to make their own decisions, and be free of Westminster? They already have considerable powers, and the British government seem willing to concede more, if they decide to stay. Do they really want complete responsibility for everything, including defence? We have already seen how complex disentangling governance institutions will be if independence comes, not to mention the pound (one of the largest economic reasons to stay). Can this really be in the best interests of the Scots themselves, never mind the rest of us?

I have to admit I really can’t understand how Salmond has persuaded even 40 per cent of the Scots that it might be a good, or even viable option to leave the United Kingdom – and I must say I resent the suggestion that they might evict the Queen. Salmond is a clever politician, and a personable one, as well – I met him once, on a train travelling between London and Edinburgh, in the early 1990s, and liked him, though at the time I hadn’t a clue who he was, as he identified himself only as a nationalist politician; I only recognised him later from a newspaper photograph. But he was very persuasive, even then.

However, it doesn’t matter what I think (as any readers of this blog will no doubt themselves be saying at this point). We in the rest of the UK don’t have any say in the matter, although the outcome will affect us almost as much as it will the Scots themselves. So I can only say, sincerely: Scotland, please don’t leave us! We need you. We love you and your people because YOU ARE PART OF US.www.janeanstey.co.uk

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