I recently became involved in Scotland in Union. The thing is, I don’t live in Scotland. I live in Reading. I can also not claim to be Scottish. Although my maternal grandfather was from Glasgow, I grew up in Somerset and Dorset.
Well, despite a clear majority of Scots voting to stay part of the United Kingdom in a ‘once in a generation’ referendum in 2014, the prospect of our country being torn apart is unfortunately very much on the cards again. As someone who is proudly British, cares deeply about the UK and Scotland’s vital place in it, I cannot stand by passively, biting my nails and watching from afar.
But isn’t this just for people in Scotland to worry about? It shouldn’t really concern someone living in England, should it? I couldn’t disagree more. The prospect of our country being torn apart should alarm and concern everyone in the UK.
There are of course many hard-headed reasons why Scotland separating from the UK would be a disaster for the rest of us. In purely physical terms, the UK would lose a third of its territory and untold natural resources. Whatever remained would inevitably be weaker and diminished in the eyes of the world. It would be greatly reduced in terms of its economic, military and diplomatic clout and less able to defend itself. However, there is also an equally important, emotional case for the UK staying united.
I have been to Scotland on many occasions. In July this year my family I visited some friends in the Borders. We were enthralled by the majestic countryside and rich cultural heritage of this wonderful area. We visited Bowhill House, the beautiful home of the Duke of Buccleuch, and enjoyed a day out at Abbotsford, the stunning residence of Sir Walter Scott. Although it was our first visit to the area, there was a strong familiarity to the Borders. I realised it reminded me very much of the rolling hills and wide-open spaces of South West England where I grew up. The pub in Selkirk where we celebrated my birthday also felt very familiar. It felt like home.
The fact is, there is a deeply comforting, quiet familiarity which can be found across this wonderful island we all call home. Across Britain there is so much that unites us – not just in terms of the currency we use, the side of the road we drive on, or the language we speak – but in terms of our shared culture and way of life. Yes, there is huge diversity and variety, and this is what makes Britain great. Being British is an inclusive concept: you can be Scottish and British, English and British, Muslim and British, Black and British. Being British is not determined by ethnicity, religion or where you happened to be born.
Sadly, as witnessed by the ugly scenes of separatists waving xenophobic placards at English visitors to Scotland, there are forces of division who are hellbent on tearing the British family apart, driving a wedge between kith and kin and stoking resentment and grievance.
Across the UK, there is so much more that unites us than divides us. Let’s keep it that way.
Wherever you are in the UK, if you share this view please support our friends at Scotland in Union in any way you can.
Scotland in Union Volunteer, Berkshire, United Kingdom