When I was growing up in London, I didn’t really understand why my Scottish relatives got upset at the English media making silly comments mixing up England and Britain and generally over-emphasising the English perspective on British affairs. I thought they were being over-sensitive.
I’ve thought about it more again recently and I think that there is a sensitivity among Scots, but with good reason. The issue is political and historical. The UK was formed as a result of English dominance over Scotland and Wales. There has never been any national reckoning in England of our role, with a corresponding dialogue with Scotland (and Wales), followed by a mutually-agreed adjustment of the relations between our countries.
It’s a bit like a couple in which the husband forced his wife to marry him and used to beat her. Over time, he stopped doing this but then wondered why his wife would still get upset at his crass comments about their relationship and her habits.
Sorting out abusive relationships means having lots of time and space apart. More often than not, it means divorce, especially if the abuser shows no sign of facing up to their actions. Once a relationship is over, healing can begin. Until then, the wounds of the past can easily be picked again.
In Ireland, they’ll never forget what the English did to their nation, but they can move on from their past because they are getting on just fine without us. Over time, we in England have come to respect them more as a sovereign nation and relations are now better than ever. For Scotland, the familiarity of being together in the UK still breeds contempt, whether we care to admit it or not.
Scotland needs loads of time and space apart from England to heal the wounds of the past and build up national emotional boundaries. You can call this separation, independence, self-determination or whatever you like – I don’t mind. I just don’t want us to prolong the pain of enforced togetherness. It doesn’t mean we can’t still get on in areas of mutual interest.
I wish the pasts of our countries had been different but we have to live with reality. Our pasts live on in our feelings and our identities, whether we like it or not.
And if you’re a pro-union Scot in Scotland and reading this, I am sorry but I just don’t get you. I really don’t.