Dear Dan Snow and other celebrity supporters of “Let’s Stay Together”,
I would like to share my views with you on the letter signed by you which asks the people of Scotland to vote “No” in the referendum next month.
I am English and England is my home. I grew up in England with Scottish relatives but always felt English. I lived in Glasgow for 3 years in my mid-20s in the 1990s. This experience confirmed to me that I am most definitely English. I like Scotland but I support England in every sport. I know where my heart lies.
When I first became aware that Scotland might vote for independence, I felt indignant and hurt. Like you, I respected their democratic decision in my head but my feelings were different. I followed the “Yes” and “No” campaigns online and got up to speed with the issues. Pretty soon, I became disenchanted with the negativity of the “No” campaign. I was expecting some sort of positive case for the union but it never came. It was all about economic risk and I felt that there had to be more to it than that. I began to see the intellectual and emotional case for independence. I felt drawn, as I am sure we all are, to the idea of a people governing themselves and pursuing their own national destiny. Why should the Scots be any different?
So an inner conflict went on inside me but I wasn’t willing to let it lie. I wanted to get to the bottom of these unusually strong feelings I had that Scotland should be with us in the UK, even if it was quite normal for them to want to be independent. This went on over several weeks. I came to realise that the problem was my attachment to the British political identity. I say political because this is different to the geographical identity we will always share with the Scots by sharing the same island. What I mean is that I wanted Scotland to stay part of Britain so that I could carry on feeling British in the same way that I always had done. Independence was going to damage this. Being honest with myself, I couldn’t really say that my feeling of being British was much to do with the interests of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. It wasn’t. I was proud to be British. But why?
I felt proud to be British because of our international prestige. Britain tries to command influence in the world through being a permanent member of the UN Security Council. We have extensive trading links. We get involved in international crises and other nations seem to take us seriously. We like to think we “punch above our weight” on the international stage. I had never really thought if these feelings of pride were consistent with my political views. Like many English people, I wish we had never gone to war in Iraq. I wish we could get rid of our nuclear weapons. So what has all this influence in the world done for us?
Anyway, this is not about specific policies. It’s about identity. I had been sold out on the British political identity but over time I came to realise that it wasn’t all it had been cracked up to be. I realised that I didn’t really need it – being English is enough for me. And if Scotland withdraws from the UK, exactly how can we justify holding on to a second layer of nationality which adds only Wales and Northern Ireland? (I mean no disrespect to those countries) Even if we still want to be British with Wales and Northern Ireland, do they really feel the same way about being British that we English do?
For me, being English without the extra layer of also being British is now a relief. Being English is not about our football hooligans when they are abroad. There are a whole host of traditions, and qualities which we English can respect and develop on our own, just like other countries do. Perhaps we need to spend more time nourishing our Englishness, in all its forms across our land, rather than holding on to Britishness? We can get along with other countries too, especially close neighbours like Scotland, but we don’t need to hang on to each other in a political union which more and more Scots have come to resent.
So when it comes to making an emotional case, I want to make one to you. Please, please examine your deeper motivations for why you want Scotland to be with us in the UK. Is it because you have analysed the pros and cons, like Scottish voters are doing, and you passionately believe in the case for “No”? Or is it because Scottish independence presents a very real challenge to your emotional attachment to Britishness which you are not really prepared to look at?