There is a joke in our house that if my wife and I were to retire and we had the choice where to live, my wife would choose a flat along Southend sea front and I would chose a remote cottage in the Scottish Highlands, next to a loch. Of the several visits I have made to Scotland, I can’t think of any I have not enjoyed and there are parts of the country and aspects of the culture I find particularly appealing. I believe Scottish people have made a full and fair contribution to the affairs of the United Kingdom.
As a boy growing up, I recall part of my indoctrination was I should be proud to be British, and despite the subtle tendency that has crept up on us, that we are English first and British second, I have tried to resist this and have believed the union between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to be a great strength. I would normally prefer to fly the Union flag ahead of the flag of St. George, and have generally advocated British teams entering sporting and other competitions rather than individual national teams. While not fully able to reconcile this fact, I see on one hand a trend toward devolution and on the other hand a trend toward federalization and, in the British case, a United States of Europe.
When I read today’s edition of my local newspaper, one page had the title “Should Scotland be Independent?” and two well known local personalities, who are both Scottish who have lived in Southend for many a year (it is surprising how many do live in my town, and Welsh, and Irish too), gave their views on how they would like to see the vote go when Scottish people vote in the referendum whether or not Scotland should leave the Union, on 18th September 2014 (less than a month away). One, Cora Adcock, said Scotland should be independent and the other, Teddy Taylor, said it shouldn’t.
As an Englishman, it is not my place to tell people of another country how to vote. I also confess that I do not fully understand all the economic and other arguments (sadly, often not aired well enough) and the concerns over Scottish identity and Scottish people having more say in Scottish affairs. I also recognize the world is fast changing and the United Kingdom that now exists is a lot different to when I was growing up. But my instinct is that it will be a mistake if Scotland were to withdraw from the union and I will be sad, even if resigned, if that were to happen, although I would still like to see more real power at local level to more effectively deal with local issues, and this is where I feel the debate should be.
If Scotland were to become independent, it will weaken both England and Scotland, who have been united both by Act of Union and in real terms, since 1707. It would play into the hands of those who want to see further European integration (which I argue elsewhere is a bad thing), who will feed on the notion of divide and rule to further their ends. I also think there is something insidious going on with this rise in nationalist sentiment, which on the surface appears more democratic but, if history is anything to go by, often leads to division and could eventually lead to more tyranny.
To any who are interested, my view is that Scotland should NOT be independent and hope that will be the outcome of the referendum.