Afore ye go… what about the rest of the United Kingdom?

Are our flags about to change?

Are our flags about to change?

This time next week we could be living in a very different country.

Maps may have to be redrawn to remove the words ‘United Kingdom’. Certain flags may become obsolete and sporting unions would have to be changed dramatically ahead of, say, the next Olympics in Rio. Currencies would have to be re-thought.

I would suggest the loss of MPs north of the border would also make it far more difficult for Labour to win a General Election when relying on an electorate in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Yes, the list of repercussions of a ‘Yes’ vote in next week’s Scottish referendum on independence from the Union with England, Wales and Northern Ireland goes on and on. And on.

Why anyone would want to carve up our tiny island further is beyond me – particularly as the inevitable consequence will be that each part will have its influence on the world stage diminished as a result.

Having covered General Elections as a journalist since 1992 I’ve developed a healthy disregard for opinion polls.

But it seems that the result of next week’s vote is genuinely too close to call.

To my mind, both sides of the debate are guilty of scaremongering and crass hypocrisy.

I think the truth is neither side fully understands or can predict all the ramifications of Scotland going it alone.

Sadly, the main parties in Westminster give the impression they have only just woken up to the possibility of the ‘Yes’ campaign winning.

The sight of the Prime Minister, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg scurrying north of the border to bolster the ‘No’ campaign smacked of desperation to me and I can’t believe it will have any substantial effect on voters.

Meanwhile, Alex Salmond and the nationalists can’t shake off the simple fact that independence is a huge gamble – not just for Scotland, but for the UK as a whole.

Not that the SNP give much of a monkey’s about the rest of us.

A lot of the ‘Yes’ campaign’s rhetoric seems to be based on perceived historical injustices and the fact that the south east of England gets all the money and attention from the powers-that-be at Westminster.

Of course, on that basis, anywhere north of the Watford Gap has a gripe.

Indeed, I eagerly await Stoke-on-Trent’s bid for independence from London and the ‘sarf’ east.

I will, personally, be extremely sad to see a majority of the people in Scotland vote for independence. I love the place. I holiday there most years and I think it has the best landscape in Britain and, perhaps wrongly, I consider it part of ‘my country’.

I’ll be sad because we’ll be saying goodbye to hundreds of years of tradition and ties – involving, for example, the military and the Royal Family.

The Union that survived two world wars will have been undone by the drip, drip effect of devolution.

Even if it’s a ‘No’ vote this is a ‘win-win’ for Mr Salmond and the nationalists because more powers will be ceded north of the border by the main Westminster parties as an incentive to keep the fragile Union together a while longer.

I dare say there are plenty of people here in England who will say, without hesitation: ‘Let them go and have their independence!’.

They will be angry that the constituents of Alistair Darling and Gordon Brown continue to enjoy free prescriptions and free university tuition paid for, arguably, by taxpayers in the rest of the UK.

Meanwhile, here in England prescriptions cost £8.05 each and a university education is cost-prohibitive for many because it equates to a second mortgage.

I’m not jealous of the Scots. Good on ’em, I say.

In fact, here in England I would suggest we could learn a few lessons from them with regard to their relentless pursuit of equality and fairness for all.

I joked earlier about the Potteries and the north seeking independence from London and the south east. But I believe there is a genuine argument for the rest of the country outside London no longer being treated like second class citizens on account of the capital being ‘the City’ and our ‘financial powerhouse’ – as Boris Johnson and the like constantly to refer to it.

From an English perspective, the Scottish referendum on independence is sort of like watching your brother rail against his parents and threaten to leave home.

What’s worse is that you’re not allowed to have a say in his decision – even though your brother’s departure will have a huge impact on the family as a whole.

Whatever happens, I wish the people of Scotland all the best for the future because I consider them my friends and neighbours – even if they do take the high road.

Read my Personally Speaking columns every Friday in The Sentinel

Let’s enjoy a knees-up we’re all (sort of) invited to

I’M DETECTING a lot of apathy, a good deal of cynicism and just the faintest aroma of outrage about the forthcoming royal nuptials.
There are plenty of people only too keen to tell you why they don’t give a monkey’s about two super-privileged individuals tying the knot.
Others will cry foul at the public money being lavished on this grand affair to celebrate the marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton during this time of austerity.
Then there are those to whose only interest is that they may get a day off work – or be paid extra for going in on what has been declared a national holiday.
I think this is a real shame and that some people are rather missing the point.
The royals are, as always, an easy target for critics but I have to confess I have a real soft spot for the monarchy – unlike many of my colleagues, it seems.
I guess this dates back to the Queen’s Jubilee in 1977 when, as a five-year-old, I attended a party down the street at Marie MacDonald’s house.
It is one of my earliest happy memories – a blur of Union Flag bunting, triangle sandwiches, cakes, jelly and ice cream, and lots of sunshine.
Four years later, I was one of the generation of Potteries schoolchildren who collected coins, ceramic money boxes and first day covers of stamps commemorating the marriage of the Prince of Wales and Lady Diana Spencer.
My mum’s still got them all.
Even to a young lad from Sneyd Green, Diana seemed like a breath of fresh air for the House of Windsor and like so many others I fell under the spell of the awkward, pretty princess.
When the fairytale ended in divorce and very public recriminations I felt saddened – not only for those involved – but also that those fond memories of national togetherness had been scrubbed away.
Suddenly all the memorabilia seemed cheapened and the reputation of the royal family irredeemably tarnished.
Over the years, through my job, I’ve been fortunate enough to meet Prince Charles, Prince Edward and even the late Princess Diana herself.
Granted, the latter was a brief conversation during a Sunday afternoon visit to Alton Towers with the two young princes but it is still indelibly stamped on my mind.
When Diana died I wasn’t afflicted by the strange, paralysing phenomenon of the national out-pouring of grief.
In truth, I found the whole spectacle of people shedding tears for someone they didn’t personally know rather bizarre and unnecessary.
However, I felt sorrow at the tragic waste of life and my thoughts turned to those left behind – principally Princes William and Harry.
Say what you like about their silver-spoon upbringing and their unique forces careers but I have an awful lot of time for the two lads who followed that gun carriage flanked by Welsh Guardsmen which carried their mother’s coffin through the streets of London.
Yes, they enjoy a lifestyle the rest of us can only dream of but, in truth, I wouldn’t swap places with them for a life so regimented and microscopically-scrutinised.
Having said that, I admire the monarchy and I’m truly glad we have one.
It is one of the few things which makes the United Kingdom different and yes, it does the tourism industry in this country no harm whatsoever.
The royal family is also, like sport, one of the few things which has the potential to bring us together in celebration and foster a sense of national pride. Heaven knows we need a little bit of that right now.
So forget the mealy-mouthed nay-sayers. Forget business owners. Forget the unions. Forget the arguments over Bank Holiday pay.
Let’s enjoy April 29 for what it is – a wedding to which we are all (sort of) invited.
Let’s buy some new crocks with pictures of Wills and Kate, stick up some flags and be happy for a young couple in love.
Yours truly will be at his daughter’s school in the run up to the big day, hosting a celebration party for 200 children with cakes and jelly and bunting.
They won’t care about the cost to the taxpayer or who designed the bride’s dress.
But they will be happy for the happy couple – and make a few memories that might just last a lifetime.