Catching up on the news today I noticed that yesterday marked exactly one year to go before the Scots vote on whether or not they want to leave the United Kingdom and become a completely independent country. Only the Scots will be voting which, in these times when self-determination is valued highly by liberals at least, seems only proper and I certainly started off believing it to be so. However, the more I think about it the less convinced I am that, on its own, it is a satisfactory way to decide the issue.
Scotland, unlike Ireland and Wales, is not part of the United Kingdom because of English conquest. Scotland asked to join the United Kingdom for financial reasons of their own making. The Scottish Parliament voted for this and the English (including Wales) Parliament voted to accept their request. The United Kingdom is "ruled" by a monarch directly descended from the first king of Scotland and England who was initially a Scottish king. There has never been any disagreement that Scotland is a nation in its own right, unlike Wales and Northern Ireland. Circumstance may have pressured the Scots into being part of the United Kingdom but no coercion was involved. Furthermore, although some Scots go on about being ruled by the English, they have always been as fairly (or unfairly) represented in the British Parliament as anywhere else in the UK mainland. Living in the north east of England I have as much right (probably more if you were to look at the figures) to complain about the north/south divide as any Scotsman or Scotswoman. Basically, what I am saying is that England and Scotland are in a marriage. Maybe it was a marriage of convenience rather than love but, even so, it is not a forced marriage. In a marriage both parties should gain something. In a good marriage the gains would be equal. Over the years both England and Scotland have gained something of value, at different times, from each other at the national level. But we have also gained something as individual citizens of the United Kingdom. Sadly, it appears that many Scots are too proud and selfish to acknowledge receiving anything good from their alliance with England. Happily, the English are not in the slightest bit embarrassed about being hitched to the Scots. Quite the opposite, in fact.
I am a citizen of the United Kingdom. I do not need a passport to go to Scotland. I do not go through customs or pass a border patrol if I do. This is because I am as much a citizen of Scotland as I am a citizen of England. I may not be Scottish, but neither am I Cornish or a Londoner. My regional ethnicity has no bearing on my national birthright. Furthermore, I love Scotland. I am as delighted to be from a country that contains the Highlands as I am to be from a country that contains the Lake District. I rejoice that the music of the Shetland Isles is my music as much as the music from the West Country or Northumbria is my music. I hate the fact that Alex Salmond is the prime minister of the Holyrood Parliament as much as I hate the fact that David Cameron is the prime minister of the Westminster Parliament. I'm sure you get my drift.
The fact of the matter is that should the people presently living within the borders of the geographical area known as Scotland vote for independence in a year's time I shall be extremely saddened. I will feel that I have lost something wonderful. I will no longer be the same person. My world will be smaller. I will "own" less. I will have lost a substantial part of my birthright.
I feel even more anxious about this possibility because I have no say in the matter. Some may think it sweet revenge or poetic irony, but I guess, if Scotland goes it own way and I lose my citizenship of Scotland, I will feel like the Celts must have felt when the Saxons formed a new country within their borders, or as the Saxons felt when the Danes pushed them into just the South East of England.
So, should everyone in the United Kingdom get to vote on this issue. Much as this would reflect the deliberations in both Parliaments at the time of the unification, I believe it would be less fair and would leave those in Scotland who want independence with a grievance that will fester for years (the Scots have the historical memory of the Balkan peoples and its about as accurate). The thing is I have no idea what would be fair. I would suggest that the English and Welsh get to vote in a poll, for information purposes only, before the Scots vote. But the Scots would probably take the overwhelming yes to a United Kingdom as proof that we want to own them, not that we love them and their beautiful part of the country. I guess all that us English and Welsh can do is hope that the Scots will vote to stay in the marriage and work on it rather than run off to get into bed with those foreign lotharios across the Channel. The English may be boring to be in bed with but at least we are faithful. We are never going to desert Scotland for the French, that is for certain and we have been good providers over the years.
And, another thing. It is, because we are one nation, not racist at this present time for the Scots to call the English a bunch of Sassenach bastards. It will be should they vote for independence. Do the Scots really want to lose what has been for them a uniting and enjoyable pastime for so many centuries? If they have no one to blame anymore they may well end up like the English, feeling guilty for everything that's wrong with the world all the time.
This has been a purely personal and selfish post about the possibility of Scottish independence. It has been about how I will feel. Other people will argue about the economic and political reasons why Scotland should or should not be independent, no doubt until the Aberdeen Angus come home. I won't be because I truly believe that we are all screwed by the rich and powerful and not by the ordinary citizens of a country. If the Scots gain their independence (if gain is the right word) they will still be screwed by the rich and powerful and the English will still be screwed by the rich and powerful And you know what? They will be exactly the same rich and powerful screwing us both. They always have been and they always will be. The ordinary people of England have known this fact of life for a long, long time, at least since the Norman Conquest. I pray that all the Scots will realise it to be the truth before they pack their bags and leave because they simply haven't taken the trouble to open their eyes to the reality of the situation, preferring mythology to the truth.
I worry that rather than being partners in a marriage we may be more like the squabbling offspring of a marital alliance who are about to split up their toys and go off into separate corners of the room to play on their own rather than having more fun, and twice as many toys, by playing together.