Overheard on the bus in Durham, two ladies chatting: ‘I like Scotland. I’d live there if I could. I hope they don’t split.’
‘We should go with them. They’re more like us.’
‘More like us’, I suppose she meant, in that we’re all a long way from London, and feel forgotten by successive Westminster governments, especially since Margaret Thatcher’s day.
I haven’t got a vote in the Scottish referendum, but if I lived in Scotland I suspect I would be greatly tempted to vote ‘yes’ to leaving the United Kingdom. The current Westminster government is a considerable argument on that side of the question.
But I hope, passionately, that the vote goes the other way. It’s not for economic reasons, nor so that the UK can punch above its weight in the world (in my opinion it’s high time it stopped trying to do that).
My reasons are almost purely emotional. If Scotland leaves us, it will take with it, brutally severed, a vital part of my essential self.
I’m part Scots. I love Scotland. We have had many wonderful holidays there. And, yes, I love France too and have spent many holidays there as well, but it’s not the same. It isn’t in my blood in the same way.
If Scotland goes, then I will no longer have that direct connection with my dear cousin Ailie, who taught me so much at a particularly impressionable time of my life, and whose memorial garden in Stirling I haven’t yet seen. I will no longer have the link with my dear long-dead Uncle Alec, Highlander, merchant seaman, adventurer. I will no longer feel that sense of homecoming – albeit of a different sort – when I travel a few miles north into Scotland. There will be a barrier between us, a border restored that takes us back four hundred years, to a time when the two countries were more often at war than united in any sense. It will all feel very different. And I, like many others, will suffer a real sense of loss.
What’s more, we in the north of England will feel even more cut off from our compatriots in the south, for Scotland would take with her into independence many of the important figures of the Left who have done so much to keep a socialist conscience alive, along with many of those who voted for them. We will, I fear, find ourselves doomed to endure a permanent Right-wing slant in our politics.
I so much want that fierce Presbyterian conscience to continue to inform our way of life. I want to feel that we are all part of the same country, Britain, sharing our values, learning from one another, giving and taking constructively, for the common good.
So I’ve got all my fingers and toes crossed that in September Scotland votes to remain part of this land, with all its faults (on both sides). I believe most passionately that we belong together.