Why should The Local carry an article about Scotland and the referendum on 18 September?
Isn’t Scotland’s referendum on independence, to quote a former Prime Minister, ‘a quarrel in a far away country between people of whom we know nothing?’ I have two reasons for asking the Local to print this for the people of Bourne to read.
Firstly – there are a lot of Scots in and about Bourne. I am one and there are 15 other Scots in my village of Carlby, there are 252 Scots in Bourne, there are 66,507 Scots in South Kesteven and 708,872 Scots in England. (The 2011 census asked where people were born and these are the figures as they were then. They won’t have changed much if at all.) None of us has a vote but we have an opinion and an interest.
Secondly, if the referendum vote is ‘yes’ for independence, for the first time in centuries, England will have a land border with a foreign country. Like we expat Scots, English people in England don’t have a say in this.
With them was one man in the televised discussions/arguments/shouting matches between Alistair Darling and Alec Salmond have concentrated on economics, defence, social benefits and the like.
These are important but, to me, the big question is – does Scotland want to be, should it be, a foreign country? It was until the Acts of Union in 1706/07.
It was not a happy coming together. In 1698, Scotland had invested heavily in the Darien Scheme (or, as it was soon to be known, the Darien Disaster), to colonise Panama and cut the sea route from the Pacific to the Atlantic. Ships had to sail to the southern tip of South America and around Cape Horn.
The colonists found a mosquito infested swamp. To cut a short story short, the colony was abandoned within three years. Of the original 1,200 colonists, only 300 returned alive to Scotland, the rest having died from disease and starvation.
Scotland was bankrupt. The English Parliament, ever generous, sent a large chest of money to Edinburgh and said, poor Scotland, here’s something to compensate you for your losses and put you back on your feet. Oh, by the way, you will have to agree to unite with us so we become the one kingdom under one Parliament. The amount sent was £398,055 and ten shillings (many, many millions of pounds at today’s values).
The Scots politicians, who were largely the Lords and Lairds who had lost money in the Darien Disaster, were quick to agree.
On 16 January the Scottish Parliament voted 106 to 69 in favour of the Union with England Act.
On 1 May 1707 the Acts of Union joined Scotland and England into a single kingdom, named ‘Great Britain’, under one Parliament based at Westminster
That was over 300 years ago. The bad start has been forgotten by everyone (except Alec Salmond, probably). Has it worked?
The TV historian Simon Schama has said ‘What began as a hostile merger, would end in full partnership in the most powerful going concern in the world - it was one of the most astonishing transformations in European history’.
Who could argue with that? Mr. Salmond does. Alexander Elliot Anderson Salmond wants independence so that the people of Scotland can be free to decide their own affairs. Well, they can do most of that now, with their own parliament and with more powers to come, as promised by Westminster.
I’m all for freedom. But I’d argue that with freedom must come responsibility. This is what we have in and as Great Britain - responsibility for each other, whether Scots, English or Welsh, through mutual support and mutual respect. And this, I believe, is what has made Great Britain what it is. Mr. Salmond and the ‘yes’ campaign, whether deliberately or unconsciously, are rejecting this basic concept.
To my mind this is disrespectful and unfriendly to us outside Scotland. And it suggests an insularity and selfishness that, I like to think, has never been typical of the country I come from.
I don’t suppose that the Local is widely read north of the Border. But I hope that someone up there in the ‘Better Together’ group is reminding the people in Scotland who do have a vote of the sons and daughters of Scotland who don’t. We have an interest in and an emotional commitment to the place of our birth. This Scot says – no, Scotland must not become a foreign country.