Idea of Scottish independence frightens and saddens me in equal measure

I know when it happened. I had just climbed up the steps to the top of the Glenfinnan Monument, squeezed myself on to the viewing platform and was looking out across the sun-kissed shores of Loch Shiel.

That’s when I fell in love with Scotland.

I’ve visited Skye several times and even Orkney, Mull and Iona as well as braving the elements for a boat trip to the stunning Fingal’s Cave on the Isle of Staffa.

In my opinion, there is simply nowhere in Britain to rival the rugged beauty and sheer majesty of the Highlands.

Like my nan and grandad before me, who enjoyed many coach trips north of the border, I love Scotland.

I holiday there every year and I’ve never viewed taking the high road as going abroad. To my mind it is more akin to popping next door.

We are all part of the same island, after all, and so it’s no different for me to driving from Staffordshire into Cheshire – albeit a tad further.

Thus I find it hard to accept the concept of Scottish independence and the much talked-about referendum leaves me cold.

Rarely do I venture off-patch in my columns but the planned vote which could see our northern neighbours secede the United Kingdom frightens and saddens me in equal measure.

On the one hand, the political and economic arguments just don’t stack up for me. Surely, as our city’s motto says, United Strength Is Stronger.

It stands to reason that Britain has far more clout than any of its constituent parts would have if they were to go it alone.

At present, our tiny nation punches above its weight on the international stage.

Why therefore, at this time of global financial crisis, would anyone think it a good idea to break up the union?

Surely the Scots don’t buy Scottish National Party (SNP) leader Alex Salmond’s vision of a Gaelic utopia fuelled by endless supplies of North Sea oil (and none of our nation’s debt).

While the SNP chases the Braveheart vision of freedom, it strikes me that unravelling the Union would actually be complex in the extreme.

The problems it throws up range from the sublime to the ridiculous.

What would Scottish independence mean for our Armed Forces? Would the Scots keep the Pound, adopt the Euro, or make up their own currency? How would shared border controls be handled? What would it mean in terms of tuition fees for English students studying at Scottish universities? What would happen to the BBC and Team GB?

To my mind, while far from perfect, the Union has far more advantages than disadvantages.

What’s more, time and again it is the echoes of our shared heritage which convince me that a break-up after 300 years would be deeply unpalatable.

The peoples of the United Kingdom share common values which I believe should not be lightly cast aside in a jingoistic fervor surrounding the 700th anniversary of a medieval battle.

Let the facts be presented: The legalities of who calls a referendum plus the costs, the ramifications, the benefits and the disadvantages of such a momentous splitting of cultures must be laid bare to bring some clarity to the debate.

Ultimately, the decision must rest with the Scottish people but the discussion is one in which we should surely all be allowed to take part.

I spoke to a friend of mine about it all – a Scot who has made his living and home here in Stoke-on-Trent – and asked for his views on Scottish independence.

He wasn’t even sure he would get a vote on the matter but if he did, he said he would be against the split on gut instinct alone.

He said: “I think about all those boys in the Army who fought together in the wars and it just doesn’t seem right splitting us up.”

Amen to that, brother.

Ready my Personally Speaking columns every Tuesday in The Sentinel

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One thought on “Idea of Scottish independence frightens and saddens me in equal measure

  1. Gregor Murray says:

    “At present, our tiny nation punches above its weight on the international stage.”

    That assumes that the argument being put forward by the UK reflects the view of Scotland. Take the discussions when joining the EU for example, the UK’s fisheries were described as “peanuts” by the Civil Servant in charge (Sir Con O’Neill), but as you may very well know, fisheries are an exceptionally important part of the Scottish Economy.

    Scotland may have a small voice on the international stage, but it’s better than no voice. A seat at the EU Council, at least twice as many MEPs and a Commissioner. If you take the view that Scotland’s interests are close enough to the rUK’s interests, then you’d welcome this, as collectively the British Isles’ voting strength would be increased if Scotland were to be independent.

    “What would Scottish independence mean for our Armed Forces?”

    As with Ireland’s independence, currently serving Scots/people in Scots regiments would be given the choice if they would like to join the Scottish Army, or remain in the British forces. Trident would be removed from the Clyde.

    “Would the Scots keep the Pound, adopt the Euro, or make up their own currency?”

    Keep the pound, until such time as the people express a desire to use something else.

    “How would shared border controls be handled?”

    No borders between the nations.

    “What would it mean in terms of tuition fees for English students studying at Scottish universities?”

    As EU citizens, English (and Welsh and Irish) would then be able to study in Scotland for free, as other EU citizens can currently. Although the Scottish Government is currently looking at introducing some form of management fee similar to the Republic of Ireland.

    “What would happen to the BBC and Team GB?”

    BBC would be split up. Team GB would be no longer.

    “The peoples of the United Kingdom share common values which I believe should not be lightly cast aside in a jingoistic fervor surrounding the 700th anniversary of a medieval battle.”

    Quite. But why does sharing common values require political interference in each other’s decision making processes? And as for the 19th century ideals of nationalism, I think you’ve severely misjudged the modern SNP (and Greens, and other pro-independence movements). It’s all about the future, not the past.

    “He wasn’t even sure he would get a vote on the matter ”

    He wouldn’t. The referendum will be held in Scotland, for people living there to vote. Anyone over the age of 16 who is on the electoral register, no matter where they are from. And as for Scots abroad, then they will not get a vote. It’s about the direction and future, not arbitrary notions of where one was born.

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