This is our Scotland. Scotland does not belong to the SNP. It does not to the Yes campaign. It does not belong to any politician, Mr Salmond, Mr Swinney, or me – it belongs to all of us
Thanks to my paternal grandfather, I have some Scottish blood running through my veins so I’ve been taking some interest in the outcome of the Yes or No vote coming up on Thursday.
As journalist, you can be pretty sure that you will upset someone, somewhere with what you write. Just as you can be sure that someone, somewhere will probably agree with you. So, with absolutely no business whatsoever to do so, being a southerner, I’m sticking my nose into this referendum business.
I live in the south-east so, for me, getting to Scotland is not that easy. It requires a great deal of journey planning, usually involving my shoes off and my lippy in a clear plastic bag or risking DVT from eight hours wedged into a Virgin Pendolino carriage. It’s far easier for me to get to France or Belgium, so, to all intents and purposes, Scotland might as well be a foreign country.
In any case, it’s only recently that pubs and taxi-drivers down here have stopped peering suspiciously at tenners bearing the Bank of Scotland logo and asking : “Are you sure that’s real money?”. My Scottish mother-in-law – who has lived in England since she was a teenager – says her head would vote No, but her heart is saying Yes, as she quite fancies having a Scottish passport. Although, if an independent Scotland becomes part of the EU, then Scottish passports will be the same hideous pink as the rest of ours.
The way the two campaigns have been handled has interested me. The No – or Better Together to be more positive about it – does seems to have taken on a rather dour, grim, Private Fraser-like ‘you’ll all be doomed if you do’ attitude. The Yes campaign, on the other hand, seems a lot more, well, fun.
In fact, the No campaign has been rather like a sullen teenager, dragged out on a family walk, muttering and grumbling that he’s cold and tired and wants to go home. Whereas Alec Salmond has been skipping ahead, all smiles and joy, saying “Oh it’ll all be fine. It’ll all work out. We’ll just wing it” – an attitude to life I have some sympathy with, if I’m honest.
Personally – and I’m aware that this really does have very little to do with me – I’m in the ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t bugger it up trying to make it better’ camp. The Union of England and Scotland was a political act brought about by an accident of birth – or rather non-birth – when the English Queen declined to give her country an heir, leaving the crown to her cousin’s son in 1603. In fact, Scotland could have been said to have taken over England then.
The argument that decisions taken in Westminster have far-reaching effects on people hundreds of miles away does hold water until you think that actually, it doesn’t matter how far you live from Westminster, most of those decisions seem like they’ve been made on another planet anyway.
Many of you have branches on both sides of the border. Should the yes campaign win, how will you deal with the fact that a chunk of your business, your customers and your workforce will be in a different country? Will the huge tax office in Glasgow scale down or shut altogether and move all the English and Welsh tax affairs to Nottingham and Bootle? Will suppliers’ reps out on the road have to get a new insurance green card if they cross the border to see customers on the “wrong” side?
Ireland, of course, broke away from the rest of the UK back in 1922 and it all seems to work reasonably smoothly, although it does have to be said that life was rather less complicated back then; neither side had quite so much economic baggage tied up together.
Mind you, most Germans will tell you that reunification was way, way more complicated and complex than they were led to believe it would be; there’s no guarantee that things wouldn’t be as difficult going the other way.
And to end on a sporting note, TeamGB is doing pretty well out there on the international sporting stage – would we do so well apart? No.
Of course, in all this, the question that really bothers me is this: Will the bottle of Glenfiddich in my local Waitrose be more expensive or less expensive next week?