This is a serious article with respectful suggestions for people in Scotland and England about engaging with people in England on Scottish independence issues. I am writing as an English person with Scottish roots who has himself been persuaded by the case for independence by getting informed. I am not suggesting that debating with people in England is a priority right now for Scots, so close to the referendum itself. But the English are getting more interested. Some are sympathetic. Some are open. Some are worried. Some are hostile. And some want to wade into the debate in Scotland to try and save the union.
Scots have generally always had a keener interest in and consciousness of national identity issues than the English, being ever conscious of dominance by England. With the referendum, the debate on national identity and independence has advanced much further and it’s great to see so much political interest generated. Naturally, we in England have not given the issues the same attention. Many Scots will have developed a well worked out narrative of their opinions but circumstances may not permit them to explain them openly to people they deal with in England. Even if they can, it will be hard at first for many people in England to respond meaningfully as most of us are just not up to speed. But it doesn’t mean that we will be convinced.
My own experience of talking about Scottish independence with people in England is that some are interested but don’t have strong feelings either way. Some just don’t want to talk about it. Some are already sympathetic on political grounds and it is easy to talk at length. I haven’t yet had the opportunity to talk to people who are worried or clearly against but who are willing to have a sensible discussion. If I do, my strategy will be not to try to persuade. I will see if I can first ask a few questions for the other person to ponder. Hopefully this will then lead to a more constructive conversation.
Here are some possible questions :
- How well-informed do you feel about the independence debate?
- What more would you like to know?
- How do you feel about Scottish independence?
- How do you feel about being British?
- Would Scottish independence affect your sense of being British and if so, how?
- Why do you think many Scots want independence?
- What is your response to those reasons?
- How do you feel independence might affect your relationships with Scottish people?
- What can we do in England to maintain good relations with people in an independent Scotland?
Obviously, these are just examples. If any readers want to share their own experiences of engaging with people in England about the debate, it would be great if you would comment. I for one would like to learn from others’ experiences. Thank you for reading.