This summer, as I sat in Ibrox with my family watching the Commonwealth Games Rugby Sevens, my three-year-old son screamed “come on Scotland” with as much passion as he screamed “come on England”. He did this because he is British and, like the rest of his family, was equally pleased to see a Scottish try as he was an English one.
The nationalists have framed this debate as being Edinburgh versus Westminster. Yet so much of Scotland, England, Wales, and Northern Ireland lie in between and beyond. There is more to this independence referendum than the trivial arguments of “here today, gone tomorrow” politicians and their policies that can be and are changed on a regular basis. At the heart of this referendum campaign are people. People like you and people like me. As a people we have lived together, worked together, fought and died together, for over three centuries. As a people we have achieved far more together than we ever could have apart.
As the Royal Air Force fought the Battle of Britain did our grandparents look to the skies and wonder whether the pilots were English, Scottish, Welsh or Northern Irish? As the soldiers climbed out of the trenches in the First World War did they question the nationality of their comrades? No, they did not, and neither do we today. The aid worker held hostage in Syria is described as British, and when Andy Murray was victorious at Wimbledon we celebrated a British sporting triumph. Only Alex Salmond sought to make it an exclusively Scottish affair and it was notable that his flag waving was criticised by people across the whole of the United Kingdom.
The truth is that on a day-to-day basis we do not question each others nationalities; we take it for granted perhaps that we are all British, as well as being equally proud of our constituent nations. Why? Because we are united not just by our shared history, but by our bonds of friendship and family.
I was born in Cumbria to a Scottish mother and an English father. My parents met when they were both students at St Andrew’s University, got married in Edinburgh, and then moved to Cumbria. My sister went from school in Carlisle to university in Edinburgh, I commuted from Carlisle to work in Dumfries, and my wife, though born in London, can trace her family back to Wick. It is these ties of family and friendship that will be divided by a physical border if the arguments of separatism and division win the day.
By focusing on power not people, Alex Salmond may be able to brush aside the important issues of currency and EU membership, but in doing so he is asking the people of Scotland to take a massive one way leap into the dark with their fingers crossed.
At stake next Thursday is our United Kingdom, a country that we have built together. Why throw all that away on the basis of a White Paper that raises more questions than it answers? As the referendum draws near, I cannot believe that a united people may soon be divided. But if we do not tell the Scots we want them to stay, we cannot blame them if they vote to leave. With this in mind I have drafted the following short letter that I hope as many people from England, Wales, and Northern Ireland will sign. It is planned to have this letter published in the Scottish press next week.
Dear People of Scotland,
There is more to this independence referendum than the trivial arguments of “here today, gone tomorrow” politicians and their policies that can be and are changed on a regular basis. It is about our United Kingdom and the people who have lived together, worked together, fought and died together, for over three centuries.
At stake is our United Kingdom, a country that we have built together. We have achieved so much more together than we ever could have achieved as separate nations, why throw all that away on the basis of a White Paper that raises more questions than it answers?
As people from England, Wales, and Northern Ireland we urge our friends in Scotland not to let the arguments of separatism and division win the day. We can have a bright future together as a United Kingdom.
If you support this letter please send your name and the name of the town, village or county where you live to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Let us together send a clear message to the people of Scotland – do not go; we would miss you more than words can say if you did.