THE SCOTLAND VOTE

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.

Comments

THE SCOTLAND VOTE — 8 Comments

    • I think the creation of Northern Ireland was more of a mistake than the creation of Pakistan/Bangladesh. Either the whole of Ireland should be one independent nation or all of it should be part of the UK. The choice being there’s. England invaded Ireland and forced our rule on them and filled their land with Protestant Scots. The Scottish situation is different. They chose to join the UK. Therefore, they should at least take into account how the rest of the UK feels about their possible leaving of the UK.

  1. Um, Culloden? I always understood that the Scottish loss there essentially ended any real chance of their independence. At least that the way Scots in America after a whisky or 3 tell it!

    • I would have been cheering on the Scots at Culloden but the fact remains that the history of Scots/English warfare has been one of the Scots invading or raiding England, the English retaliating and winning (eventually) and then the Scots complaining about how awful the English are.

  2. I am a product of the US education system circa the 1980s, so, while I managed to learn quite a bit, recent world history from the 1600s onward (outside of its relevance to the US) wasn’t overly emphasized. That’s not a complaint, as it may well be worse now, but an admission of ignorance. I am vaguely familiar with older British history given my choice of researching Aurthurian legends back then and how different settlers/invaders changed the culture and hence such stories, and then there is the occasional web search for a saint from the isles and movies like Braveheart, but generally the stuff prior to the 20th century for Britain is a confusing fog.

    I figure that even reading a history book will still leave out the feel of the times, the actual daily life and attitudes of the people. I’ve been hearing a lot about the Scottish independence vote over the past year or more, and I gather that the UK Parliament is gambling that if it fails, it will justify putting such rhetoric in the past. Not sure what the plan is if it succeeds. On the other side, it seems like something is driving a kind of hyper-nationalism, which, outside from historical grievances, could also be caused by some sense of insecurity or sense or losing something outside of one’s control.

    Whatever the political history, do you think it’s more of an excuse than an actual motive? History does shape the present, but like scripture, people tend to pick and choose what to emphasize and how to interpret it.

    • Oh, I’m sure the past was complicated. It’s the oversimplification of the past into black and white and then the oversimplification of the present into us and them that worries me. A nation born out of a hatred of another nation is not starting off on the right foot especially if the hatred is mostly built on myth and a failure to learn exactly what did happen. Being English, and feeling guilty as most of us have been taught to feel, about empire, I am extremely suspicious of anything that smells of nationalism. Also WWII makes us wary of it (you would think it would make the Scots wary too).

    • Are their economic problems? Rapid social change? Those tend to exacerbate anxiety and make us/them jingoism more attractive as a simplistic solution.

    • Not particularly. In fact, the Scottish Nationalists admit themselves that Scotland is the most prosperous part of the UK at present. Perhaps it’s plain greed, but I doubt it. My money’s on tribalism.