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Opinion: Scottish Independence – A Guildford View

Published on: 30 Aug, 2014
Updated on: 2 Sep, 2014

Union Flag Scot IndBy Martin Giles

What has the forthcoming vote on Scottish independence got to do with Guildford? Nothing, not much, a lot?

In the eyes of the “Yes” supporters, places like Guildford are part of the London they want to get away from. Part of a region inhabited solely by card carrying Tories who look down their noses at the “Jocks” they feel they are “subsidising”.

But for many of us living here, perhaps one of the many Scots immigrants or those with any kind of Scottish connection, there is another kind of interest. Let me declare mine.  I wake up each morning next to  a little bit of Scotland, my wife, and, I must quickly add, what a charming prospect it is.

Anyway, through her, I have come to know Scotland and the Scots much better than I would have otherwise. I appreciate it and I count myself fortunate; there is much to admire.

Opinion Logo 2But my affection for Scotland did not start with my marriage. As a young boy I can remember my father singing along enthusiastically to ‘Scotland the Brave’ or Andy Stewart’s ‘A Scottish Soldier’.

A few year’s later, after my father had died, I realised that his enthusiasm for such tunes must have stemmed from his time when he served with Scottish soldiers in the Second World War.

The army, with its typical ironic sense of humour, had decided in 1939 that the best place for a 20 year old from Brookwood, Surrey, a particularly flat village without so much as a slight incline, was the 51st Highland Division, soon to be deployed with the BEF to France and later to North Africa and Italy.

It was not until much later, by then a soldier myself, that I first visited Scotland to see old school friends who were living in Glasgow. I had expected to be impressed with Scottish scenery, as indeed I was in a trip around Loch Lomond, but I left surprised by the sense of separate nationhood demonstrated by many I met.

They really considered themselves to be a different country… It came as a shock

Sometimes it was expressed in a way that appeared resentful, even surly, and this was back in 1980. Clearly Scotland was not just another region as I had, in my ignorance, imagined it, on a par, say, with Yorkshire. They really considered themselves to be a different country, albeit within the UK. It came as a shock even if it was obviously true.

So, as the years passed, I was not surprised to see the increasing popularity of the Scottish nationalists although I continued to be sad at the way their desire for independence was often expressed.

I know from erstwhile Scottish work colleagues that they have been surprised, sometimes even embarrassed, that the hatred, apparently felt by many Scots towards the English, was not reciprocated. This often came to light in sports tournaments when, if they were not playing against England, we English have felt it natural to support other UK teams.

Mel Gibson has something to answer for too. The film Braveheart might have been good entertainment but historic accuracy was not one of its strengths. Of course, we all see what we want to see and the film resonated with those growing increasingly belligerent in their desire to leave the United Kingdom.

It is curious, in a time when the fashion for ‘political correctness’ makes it difficult to even discuss some subjects, such as immigration policy, that the dislike that many Scots demonstrate for the English, bordering on racism, is deemed acceptable.

Actually though, the hatred is not so much against all the English. Their ire is, as mentioned before, focussed on London (ironically one of the most multicultural of places), and by geographic/economic association, the South East.

This seems to stem from the fact that the government, particularly detested by many Scots if it is Conservative government, and ‘the establishment’, political and financial, is based in London. It is also, I suspect,  because of the concentration of wealth here.

Even though wealth from the SE flows to to other parts of the UK, including Scotland, it does nothing to assuage the anger. In truth, perhaps we all resent, to some extent, those wealthier than ourselves, especially in the wake of the MP expenses and banker bonuses scandals.

My heart wants the Union to survive but my head says not at any price.

Where many Scots are wrong is to imagine that they are alone in feeling this sense of grievance. There are plenty of us in the South East, and I know in all parts and regions of the UK,  who feel pretty disaffected with the establishment, too. All of us have little effective say.

In fact, those of us in the rest of the UK, whose national taxes help pay for the Scottish education system that charges our children, uniquely in Europe, tuition fees if they wish to study there, are not even allowed a say in whether we remain in the union.

Why is that? Scotland is not a colony. They wanted, or at least needed, the original union more than England because the Darian Scheme (a South Sea Bubble type affair) had gone pear shaped and they were broke. So why now is only one half of this union being consulted?

My heart wants the Union to survive but my head says not at any price. Not if it means even more prevalence of a victim culture among some nationalists.

There is as much ignorance about the south of England in Scotland as there is about Scotland in the south of England and all of us need to understand that we share one island with the Welsh too, have a similar language (by and large), are surrounded by the same sea, and, for the last 300 years, at least, the same history (longer if you count the bit when we were always scrapping).

You do not have to wear blue dye and be called William Wallace to love freedom. We English do too and have fought closely together with Scots, Welsh and Irish to protect it over the years.

I would much rather continue our union with the enterprising, intelligent and hardy neighbours than be divorced by them. If we are, we are bound to feel a bit miffed, like a deserted husband or wife after a long marriage, and it will be a little harder for Scots to be as fully accepted here.

Now with only a few weeks to go the referendum result seems too close to call. It was the only topic of conversation in a borders pub my wife and ate at earlier this week. Sadly, whatever the result, nearly a half of Scotland will end up disappointed and rejected – and some resentment in England will remain too. What a shame.

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Responses to Opinion: Scottish Independence – A Guildford View

  1. Jim Allen Reply

    August 31, 2014 at 9:19 am

    I worked in Scotland for some nine years, so I have some first hand experience of ‘the problem’.

    The Barnett Formula – that allows higher, per capita, government spending in Scotland than England – was based on a calculation on a napkin. No matter the outcome, this has to be changed.

    Then there is the two part ‘West Lothian Question‘ i.e. Scotland’s MPs voting on English affairs and Scottish MPs elected in English constituencies voting on uniquely English affairs. What do they know of our way of life, our heritage, our history. They claim we English know nothing of their history.

    A partnership or a marriage? It has to be a partnership – you’re not allowed three wives – Northern Ireland and Wales are in it too. Surely all partners should be consulted if the partnership is to be smashed. Our flag, our laws, our money are so intertwined we should all have our say – not just one of the partners.

    One whinge in Scotland is, “You have all the money and better facilities south of the border.” In reality, inside the M25 is one thing, the pace of life slows and the supposed quality of life and services gradually changes, as you travel further out from the M25. Cornwall, West Wales and the North of England all have this supposed decrease in quality of but is rarely mentioned.

    But consider this: the pace of life in Glasgow is about half that of London; in the Outer Hebrides it is half the pace of Glasgow. Who has the better quality of life?

    So would I vote for separation or staying together. The implications of the split are so complex I feel I have no option but to vote stay together. But things do need changing. The Barnet Formula was never correct. It should be worked out with the same complexity demanded of our Local Plan.

    I believe there are no English MP’s in Scotland but plenty of Scottish MP’s elected in England including many Prime Ministers. Blair and Brown are a couple of recent examples.

    English affairs should be voted on by the English not by a group North of the Border who don’t understand us.

    And if you think my last sentence is extremist I have only exchanged the words ‘Scottish’ for ‘English’ and ‘North’ for ‘South’ from a sentence I read in “Yes” campaign literature.

  2. Murray Grubb Jnr Reply

    August 31, 2014 at 10:41 pm

    A good article. I however am the reverse. A Scottish born and bred individual who moved south for a better life. Guess what? Under the Union I got it.

    I am married to an Englishwoman, my children were born here and will be educated here. I have worked here for 13 years and have been a local conservative councillor for Guildford for 18 months.

    I think this gives me the right to be a proud Scot and a proud Brit.

    The 18th of September may change my homeland to another nation which may, or may not, initially flourish. However one thing is certain, I will always be a proud Scotsman who, like so many others from across the globe, came to England for an opportunity at something better and for that I will always be a Unionist to my core.

    Murray Grubb is the Conservative borough councillor for Ash Wharf.

  3. John Robson Reply

    September 1, 2014 at 11:16 am

    The Empire is long gone, though I have Scottish roots through my Mother and my in-laws, I think the time has come for the Scots to “Vote Fae Freedom”.

    Instead of them blaming the English for their woes let them manage the purse strings themselves.

    We’ll see how long the free education system and the other fringe benefits they currently enjoy last.

    One final point, why is it only the English and Scottish people living in Scotland get to choose? Why are we denied the right to also to determine “our” fate?

    One thing is for sure, whichever way it goes, we’ll be picking up the tab, as usual.

  4. Barbara Morrison Reply

    September 1, 2014 at 7:38 pm

    I think that Dr Who got it right. ‘Oh, I’m Scottish am I? Does that mean I can blame the English for everything?’.

    I was born and bred in Glasgow. I have lived in England for 32 years. I hope Scotland gets independence.

    Part of growing up is learning that you only have yourself to blame if everything goes wrong and of course if everything goes right I’ll never hear the end of it from my family up North.

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