Are you English or British? In India an oriental monk with a shaven head with pigtail and a yellow robe asked me where I was from. ‘England’, I said automatically. I’m English and a Scot Nat. There was the time I got a taxi in Glasgow. We got on to football. I understood some of what he said. Suddenly he turned to me and said ‘Yer fr’m doon sooth are yer?’ ‘No’, I replied confidently, ‘I’m from Leeds’. ‘Aye,’ he said, ‘that’s what I meant’. I hadn’t realised. All that separation. The referendum’s coming up on 18th September. As I write, only 28% would vote for independence. If I were a Scotsman, I’d be horrified and angered at my fellow Scots, without electing a single Tory, being told what to do and what not to do by a bunch of English toffs in London. They watched their offshore natural gas plundered by Thatcher and given away in tax breaks for the English wealthy. And now the toffs are talking about what’s to be done about Scottish oil! There’s only one argument I can think of against Scottish independence: if the Scots had been independent at the 2010 election, Cameron would have had a majority of 9 seats.
But what disappoints me is that the main issue isn’t pride in nationhood, self-respect in authentic identity, or a passion about being Scottish: it’s money. The majority of Scots seem preoccupied with how much independence would hit them in the pocket. Robbie Burns would turn in his grave:
O would, ere I had seen the day
That treason thus could sell us,
My auld grey head had lien in clay,
Wi’ Bruce and loyal Wallace!
But pith and power, till my last hour,
I’ll mak’ this declaration;
We’re bought and sold for English gold –
Such a parcel of rogues in a nation.
Robert Burns (1759-96)– ‘Fareweel to a’ Our Scottish Fame’
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On Valentine’s Day the Guardian published this poem by Wendy Cope:
To My Husband
If we were never going to die,
I might not hug you quite
As often or as tight, or say
Goodbye to you as carefully
If I were certain you’d
Come back to me. Perhaps
I wouldn’t value every day
Every act of kindness, every
As much. If I knew you and could stay
For ever as each other’s
We may not have too many
One disappears to the
And I can’t hug or touch you
Yes, of course that knowledge
Makes us fonder.
Would I want to change
Things if I could,
And make us both immortal? Love,