I’ve watched in on the Scottish independence debate in disbelief from a relatively long distance down in the South-East corner of England. I’ve never really considered myself a Unionist or a Royalist. I enjoy the best bits of being English and the best bits of being British, and occasionally, just as the next man or woman, I find it all too easy to become English or southern when fingers need (or don’t need) pointing to attribute national problems. That’s part and parcel of living in the most multi-cultural, multi-racial country in the world, a united country built in the age of empire with an ever-evolving, yet previously inconceivably strong identity that has been fostered through the most extreme adversities that came as a result.
What is clear to me is this: the United Kingdom as it was is now dead. Its demise began with the decision to devolve power to Edinburgh. This gave unreasonable, illogical credence to Alex Salmond’s petulant verbal bashing of the English. Whatever the outcome of Thursday’s referendum, the ties that have bound the England, Scotland and Wales together for 307 years (and Northern Ireland more recently) have been irrevocably cut by the actions of politicians of all party persuasions in this farce of a referendum.
The debate of freedom has centred all too much on economics. If the Scottish want to be independent it should be because there is no price on freedom; Jock Bloggs from Elgin saving £100, or €112, on his gas bill being pushed forward as the principle thinking behind his vote to stay part of the UK is the final slap British politicians can lay to the face of the once admired democratic franchise of the United Kingdom – something our great-grandfathers through to their great-grandfathers gave their lives to build and defend. As for Scotland’s Prime Minister-elect Salmond, his diatribe comparing the prospect of Scottish independence with black South Africans ending Apartheid. Well, no words are required. The relative lack of bite in the strong-willed opinion of the once infamous regional and national press and media corps hammering the way this referendum has been structured and campaigned over has been flabbergasting.
Whatever the result, the lasting fallout of the referendum ought to be for the people of the United Kingdom to wake up and redefine what it means to be British, for our politicians and our press have completely removed that from the conscience of those able to go to the polls in this, or indeed, any vote.