During my four years in Glasgow, I had to tolerate my fair share of anti-English “banter”. And I completely understand why. If we English lived next to a country with a population ten times the size of ours, whose government had, over hundreds of years, used its strength in numbers to slowly erode our native culture and language, was largely ignorant of our needs, yet still made most of our decisions, was dominant, yet indifferent, over our affairs, was so socio-economically imbalanced that our liberal beliefs became defined against it – then we’d probably have a gentle jest with its citizens every once in a while. Especially when they had the cheek to cross over our border.
It’s not personal, it’s just banter, I was told. Which meant that I didn’t deserve it as an individual, but England, my country of birth, probably did – like it or not. From the Battle of Culloden, to the Poll Tax, England hasn’t been the friendliest of neighbours to Scotland over the centuries – and while that stuff’s got nothing to do with you or I, it’s all happened, and the collective memory remains pretty strong on the other side.
It’s where our countries find themselves as Scotland approaches its independence referendum.
On September 18, in what is no doubt a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, Scotland will vote to go it alone and become the country it has always seen itself as – or show its faith in an embittered union of more than three hundred years.
The Yes and No campaigns’ economic arguments involving North Sea oil and Sterling are far from conclusive. On a political level, though, there isn’t much debate to be had. In England, we pretty much always get the governments we vote for. But there are more giant pandas in Edinburgh Zoo (two) than Conservative MPs in the whole of Scotland (one), and somehow its parliament is still under the authority of a Tory-led UK Government. How is that fair?
An independent Scotland would improve Anglo-Scottish relations. Greater respect would exist between our separate countries, cooperating as international allies, not haggling and rutting as unequal cousins. (See, for example, our contrastingly fruitful diplomacy with Ireland, the US, or any of the 60 or so other countries that have declared independence from the United Kingdom, and the British Empire, over the course of history.)
An independent Scotland would also give the north of England greater bargaining power in Westminster. If Scotland can do it, why can’t we? There are political parties who want to win our regions more autonomy (and I might have voted for Yorkshire First in the European elections, had they not had vague links to UKIP). Imagine if the north of England went independent. Yorkshire, the Lakes, Manchester, the Pennines, Blackpool Tower, the Chuckle Brothers, chip spice… we’d have it all to ourselves, and it would be awesome.
Anyway, the crux of the debate in Scotland rests on emotion. It’s mostly indifference down here in England, typically, but north of the border, the pro-independence lobby cares more passionately about independence than the unionists do about the United Kingdom. Essentially everyone’s a ‘why?’ or a ‘why not?’ kind of person. Some people go out and take risks, others stay indoors. I’m not sure which type of person is going to win this referendum, but it’s going to be close.
If you ask me, the idea of a country is fundamentally ridiculous. But given these circumstances, and to ensure the best outcome for generations to come, Scotland has to vote Yes to independence on September 18.
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