Response to Dan Snow et al from Lets Stay Together

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?

Yours faithfully

 

James Campbell

Birmingham, England

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34 thoughts on “Response to Dan Snow et al from Lets Stay Together

  1. I suspect their attachment to Britishness is unthinking. The British state has brainwashed them over the years into thinking Britishness is the natural order of things, and all there is or should be. Don’t expect Dan Snow to change. A quick bit of research revealed that his family tree includes a WWI general and former PM Lloyd George, so he has the Establishment running through his veins like writing in a stick of rock. His mother was boss of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s London bureau, so he has Canadian as well as British citizenship, meaning he can always take himself across the Pond if things go pear-shaped for him over here, an option that very few of us have. It’s all just another case of ‘I’m all right, Jack’ from the Brits.

    • Thanks Robert. It’s generous of you to say that the attachment to Britishness is unthinking. No, I don’t expect anyone in England to really change their mind by reading my piece, especially if they have become public activists like Dan Snow. If people even start to question the idea of Britishness, then I’d be happy.

      • I am English and still regard myself proudly as British, although having lived in Ireland for over half of my life. I can now see more clearly how repeated UK governments have tripped themselves up in Europe and in their dealing with Northern Ireland because they still think that they know better than everyone else and live their lives as ‘rule Britannia’. Quite frankly they don’t know better than anyone else and would be better to look and listen before making costly fools of themselves around the world.

      • Thanks Chris. I lived in Scotland for a few years and it was a good experience for me as an Englishman to understand how others see us, and even just to feel a different national atmosphere. I’ll be putting up a new article on this blog soon on the imperialistic language that the UK Govt still use when talking about their international influence. I found it in one of their detailed analysis papers in the Scotland Analysis series.

  2. That is so well said. I will vote Yes on 18th September . I am voting so Scotland can have self determination. It is not an anti English thing. I am happy and proud to be Scots and I also have a deep admiration for the English as a nation. You have produced wonderful people and contributed so much to the world. I hope if we become independent that will lead to a stronger English identity and a closer bond between us as equal nations sharing an island.

      • I think, in fact i know you will find most scots do not have anything against engish people, having said that, being ruled by an out of touch London government that we do not vote for , has, and indeed will do more damage to relationships between us than anything else . We need to be free to live our own lives and mold our own futures. Being independent from each other will probably actually mske our relationship stronger.

      • Thanks for this. I agree with you. Politics is only one part of life – the foundation of relationships is more social and personal. I’d like to see unionists come up with some practical ideas for making the relationships between our countries stronger – all the more important for them if they really believe in unionism i.e. “put up or shut up”.

  3. Thank you. It’s good to know we have friends in England that really get it. This is about rectifying a social and democratic deficit. We will still be friends.
    In fact, until an independent Scotland votes to become a republic, we will still, de facto, remain a United kingdom. Two nations, one monarch. As it was between 1603 and 1707. A point which seems to have been elided from Mr Snow’s historical memory.

  4. I’m voting a definite NO. I hold a British Passport, I’m keeping my British Passport. In the unfortunate circumstances that the 16-18 year olds sway the vote to bring us to an uncertain independance, then, I am out of here along with the other 700,000. If I was part of a UK company, I certainly wouldn’t invest in an uncertain future. I have other personal and patriotic reasons for being British. I chatted with Katie Clarke and let her know my reasons and she was more than pleased. An independant Scotland Won’t be part of the EU, won’t have the pound. No plan B prepared. I believe Alex Salmond should resign and hang his head in shame as soon as the No decision is announced.

    • Well done, Lindsey, and brave of you to say so on here. All of my immediate family members are voting No, they represent a wide range of occupations, from Council workers, self employed, nurses and Doctors, located in areas across Scotland, from the South West, East, central and North, and a range of age groups. The main reason is an absolute lack of a future vision which is any different from just creating a mini-Britain in Scotland.

      The accusation that the No Campaign is just negative is interesting, because the Yes campaign is just selling the same that we already have, Same Bank, Same currency, same NATO, same EU etc etc. yet if this is challenged you don’t get a rational debate, you’re just accused of scaremongering, In the final analysis it’s up to the Yes campaign to explain why the change is good for us, so far they’ve failed to do that.

      • It’s inaccurate to say there is no future vision from the Yes campaign. Have you read the White Paper, or the Common Weal, or the Scottish Greens manifesto, or Blossom, or Caledonia Dreaming, or countless other publications from Yes campaigners? All of them present a progressive vision for Scotland which is radically different from what is on offer at Westminster. You have the right to reject this vision, of course, but you cannot claim it does not exist.

      • Thank you Celts, my wife is a definite no and I have chatted with retired firefighters who have no wish to enter an independant country.

    • Thank-you for your comment Lindsey. Can I plug my latest blog article? In it, I make a case to all those in the UK, who are in favour of the union, to take active steps to improve the relationships between the ordinary people in the different nations of the UK. From what I know, it’s not only Yes voters who feel let down by a lack of interest in Scotland by the English. I personally disagree with the unionist arguments but I would respect pro-unionists (Scots and English) more if worked harder to make the union a happy one.

      • I agree with you. The news and papers posted cartoons of Scotland as a friend turning her back on England. Why do you not love me anymore? A Scottish woman was assaulted in England only because she had a Scottish accent. Can only cause ill feeling.

      • Thanks Lindsey. As you know, I want Scotland to vote “Yes” but we would all still have to get on, especially if there was a “No” vote. If there is a “No” vote, why don’t you get together with some other “No” voters and write an open letter to the English telling them how you feel about us? It would be good to express your disappointment as well as your desire to remain united with us politically – which you will have expressed in the ballot box. You could challenge us to face our national “demons” and suggest some ideas to improve the bonds between our nations. I would like to think that people in England would respect you for this. I don’t know that we would actually do anything about it but I would like to be proved wrong. Improving relations between the current UK peoples can only be for the good, whatever our political differences.

      • Thank you. I hope to get on with everyone after the vote for independance. I can’t see me sitting down in groups talking about getting on together. I know independance is important to you as remaining part of the union is to me. I live in Scotland now but haven’t always lived here. There are questions which were never answered. The pound, border controls. Would England and Wales consider Scotland an easier route for Ebola sufferers or illegal refugees? I honestly don’t know. Illegal dog breeds into the UK through Scotland. At one stage it was suggested that if Scotland was independant it would offer asylum to Edward Snowden because there wouldn’t be extradiction from Scotland. Might or might not happen but if that did happen, Scotland would become a haven for the world’s worst Peadophiles and terrorists escaping justice from the UK and beyond. The English/Scottish border would have to be protected if Scotland wasn’t under the unbrella of EU law. Just chatting here, I’m happy with the way things are. Too many unanswered questions, no going back if there is a Yes vote. I don’t know what my neighbours round my area are voting. I haven’t asked them. I’m not putting a NO sign in my front window. Each to their own. If someone stops me in the street or comes to my door and asks me, I will say I’m voting No. I do respect everyone their choice and their reasons. This appears to be the most important vote I have ever taken. I love Scotland.

      • Thanks Lindsey. It’s interesting that the referendum has got people in Scotland more interested in lots of practical political issues like Ebola and immigration and not just the idea of independence in itself. I guess I should be flattered that you want to stay in the UK because independence would mean that Scots will have to make decisions on these issues without the help of us English!

        I accept that sitting around talking about national relations isn’t for everyone. It’s not good even for me to focus too much on it. Sometimes I need to eat or sleep, or talk to my fiancee! I just think though that people who want the union should do something little to try to strengthen it. It will be different for everyone.

        You could choose independence but you are actively choosing not to. I think this gives you (and other Scottish people who vote “No”) the right to gives us in England a kick up the back-side about our attitudes to Scotland and the rest of the UK.

  5. The British state come from duplicity and expedience the Darian project failure accerbating by the blockade of ports forced the gentry to come to a deal that secured England’s northern border from ant invasion. Everything else has been for the convenience and advantage of the landed gentry.

    We have all been fed a lie for political advantage lots of resistence against the 1707 Union of parliaments occurred. Scotland has kept a figment of Walter Scott’s misappropriation to woo George IV and we haven;t really recovered in a cultural sense. Then English culture has been so suppressed I feel that would or could be a great time for England to rediscover their cultural self.

    I would like to think that changes will create positive and confident nations who will be neighbours on a small island. Good luck.

  6. This is all well and good, except the the people in the rest of the Union aren’t getting a say or vote in the matter, in fact first generation Scots who live in the countries in the rest of the Union aren’t getting a vote.

    I suspect that there would be great interest and support for a more federalist Britain, but the vast majority isn’t going to get a say in the matter.

    So in short 10% of the UK population is going to determine this for the rest of us, this isn’t a recipe for good relationships in the future.

    • Thank-you for your comment. From what I understand, the legal basis for the referendum in UK law is an order in council (the weakest form of legislation) which was not debated by Parliament. (Thank-you to a certain commenter who informed me of this) David Cameron vetoed Alex Salmond’s suggested third option of greater devolution. This was the path chosen by the Westminster Govt. As far as I know, there was no great protest by MPs. I don’t think anyone in Westminster predicted such strong support for Yes. Whatever their predictions, they should have at least debated the issue and the fact that this did not happen shows a poor attitude to democracy. The apathy in England about the referendum is partly down to this. Even if there had been a debate, I don’t think we in England could reasonably have objected to the vote in Scotland on its current terms. We could however have asked for a referendum in England on English independence. If we in England have a beef about the democratic process (and we should), we need to take it up with our MPs and the UK Government. We need to be careful not to take it out on Scotland as their government shares no blame for this situation.

  7. HI-
    I don’t believe that I suggested that England should veto the vote in Scotland, this is in the first instance about Scots living and working in the rest of the UK getting a vote on the future of their own country.

    We’re told that many Scots have had to move from Scotland to find work, if this was entirely true then you’d expect that most would vote for independence having moved under such duress. When people moved, many believed that they we’re simply moving to another country or region in their own state, the complexity in providing the facility to vote is also a non-sense as the French managed to open a voting booth in London for ex-pats to vote in the French presidential election.

    Finally, the Scottish government have already decide who would receive a passport for the new Scottish state, if you’re entitled to a passport you’re entitled to vote.

    In terms of the 3rd. question on the ballot paper, this is a non-sense. Alex Salmond is the leader of the only Scottish independence party, the thought that he would allow a question on the paper that a reported 70% of Scots supported beggars belief. Alex Salmond and his band of cohorts launched the YES campaign BEFORE the question (which he composed) was decided. So I ask, how could there be a YES campaign for an unknown question?

    Finally, this vote hasn’t taken place yet, so so as we’re still all part of the UK, then the MP’s in Scotland, Wales, N.Ireland and England are all Our MP’s, I’m not even clear as to why you believe the “English” have any sort of beef with the Scots

      • Devomax suits Salmond , it splits the Union vote , and he divides and rules .

        There was A Scottish Govt consultation on the subject in 2012 , with I think 55000 contributions

        the conclusion was a simple yes or no , in or out , would sort the issue .

        Amidst all the flimm flammery about the EU ,and the curreency , it comes down to nothing , you either want Scotland to rule itself , come hell or high water , or you prefer the current arrangement , and remaing British .

        I vote for Britain , for one reason ,, whatever hardships we have now like “austerity ” etc , they are as nothing to what we have endured , If there is injustice just now , we have dealt with injustices in the past , and resolved them

        Vote No .

      • Ok thanks Stuart. I didn’t know about the Scottish govt consultation on Devo Max so thanks for pointing it out. I need to do some more homework on this. May I plug my article on Project UK? In it, I challenge Scottish and English unionists (nicely) to do something more to strengthen the union if there is a “No” vote. Kind regards

  8. Thank-you for the comment. On the issue of the electorate, I think geographical residence is not perfect but any alternative would be worse. I think you’re suggesting that the electorate should be made up of all the people that the SNP say would potentially be entitled to a Scottish passport in the event of independence. My parents were Scottish so this would include me even though my allegiance is to England and I have no plans to apply for a Scottish passport. Likewise, it would include e.g. an American with one Scottish parent who had never visited Scotland or the child of Malaysian parents born in Scotland while his/her parents were studying there for a short time. This is an exceptionally wide definition of an electorate and is not how an electorate is determined in England.

    I am sorry but I don’t know how the French do things. I imagine they must have a definition of permanent resident of France that includes people living abroad for a certain time.

    On the English having a beef with the Scots, this was an inference from your comment that a vote only by people in Scotland would be a recipe for poor relations within the UK. I hope we won’t have any beef with an independent Scotland.

    I have read in several places that Alex Salmond suggested a third option on the ballot paper but David Cameron was not interested. If I am wrong, I am happy to be corrected.

  9. Having served as a french legionnaire they world have alway respected or scottishness as well as the englishness of England and even people from the so called ” 3rd world ” know we scots are different

  10. Well written piece James and it’s worth noting how many of these prominent people speaking up for the union now reside elsewhere. If you have money you can leave (rather selfishly perhaps) but for the rest of us we have to try and improve what we can here. For me that begins with a vote for Yes.

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