I am English and live in England. I have Scottish family and once lived for several years in Scotland. When I first realised that support for independence in Scotland was getting really big, I was indignant with the Scots. I felt a sense of betrayal and that they were being ungrateful after so many years of being united. So I got up to speed with the issues. Over time, my feelings subsided and I started to see where the pro-independence Scots were coming from. It’s not personal against the English. They just want to have political independence like most countries in the world.
Also, most Scots don’t see eye to eye with recent governments on major issues affecting the whole of the UK or on the UK’s foreign and defence policies. The “Yes” campaign has done its sums. It believes that Scotland can stand on their own two feet, and support their own vulnerable and poor people. As a nation in their own right, they have every right to go their own way if it wants, even if we in England don’t think it’s a good idea.
Our own government and Labour are doing their best to persuade Scots to stay in the UK. But I don’t believe they are going about this honourably or in England’s best interests. David Cameron has tried to get foreign leaders to support the union. Politicians suggest that Scottish independence could put a stop to all sorts of joint enterprises and result in negative consequences for Scotland. They talk unhelpfully of “separation”.
None of us can deny that sorting out independence will be a long and complicated process. Sometimes democracy costs a lot of effort. But it is in the interests of all of us in England to retain friendly and co-operative relations with Scotland, whatever our private feelings about independence may be. Many jobs in England depend on Scotland and vice versa. There is no reason why current cross-border projects such as medical research, transport infrastructure and institutions like the BBC can’t continue in a new form. We work successfully with other countries all the time – look at the Channel Tunnel. Yes, we will all have to look at the funding and the practical issues. But where there is a will, there is a way.
We can’t afford to have our politicians getting upset with Scotland and taking a tough line if they vote for independence. If they do, we can expect the same treatment back and our own businesses and people will suffer, not the politicians. So if the Scots vote for independence, let’s not be bitter about it or look to get our own back. Our 307-year shared history should count for something. Rather, let us English give the Scots our blessing. They don’t need it but they might appreciate it and it would stand us in good stead in the years ahead.
With this in mind, I have drafted what I have called the “Reigate Declaration” (below), which sets out the terms of a positive relationship between the peoples of England and Scotland. Readers can comment on it and agree to it (or disagree) in a poll at the bottom of my blog page:
The Reigate Declaration
WE THE PEOPLE OF ENGLAND
wish to show our friendship and respect for the people of Scotland as they prepare to decide whether or not Scotland will become an independent country.
With this in mind, we DECLARE the following:
- We affirm the right of every people or nation, including the people of Scotland, to self-determination, and if they so choose, to govern themselves as an independent state.
- We do not wish to be united to any nation where the majority of its people oppose or resent this union. We do not wish to be in a union with Scotland if the relationship between our nations is characterised by long-term tensions, mistrust and deadlocked views on major policies.
- We will respect a decision of the people of Scotland in favour of their own independence, without bitterness or anger.
- We object to any efforts by our political leaders to use their position to campaign for a “no” vote. In particular, we object to :
a. Using taxpayer’s money to fund advertising
b. Efforts to enlist the support of political figures from other countries
c. Emotional blackmail
d. Veiled threats of negative consequences for Scotland if there is a “yes” vote.
- In the event of a “yes” vote, we urge our political leaders to work with the leaders of Scotland in a spirit of co-operation and goodwill to ensure a smooth transition to independence.
- We are grateful to the people of Scotland for their membership of the United Kingdom for the last 307 years. In particular:
a. We will be forever grateful to the servicemen and women of Scotland who have served the United Kingdom in war and peace, and especially to those who have lost their lives as a result; may they never be forgotten;
b. We are grateful for the contribution of the people of Scotland to our prosperity;
c. We are grateful for their contributions to the arts, sciences, academic life, and political life of our nation;
d. We are grateful for the families and personal friendships that have formed as a result of the union and links between our nations.
- We will not treat Scottish people living in England any differently whatever the outcome of the referendum may be. We call upon the people of Scotland to do the same in respect of English people living in Scotland.
- In the event of a “yes” vote, we look forward to the friendship between our nations continuing in a spirit of freedom, equality, mutual respect and collaboration, in every area of life – personal, social, cultural, economic, and political.