Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Don't Leave Us Fair Alba Revisited

On 11th January 2012 I posted the following on this blog (all the stuff in italics) under the heading "Don't Leave Us Fair Alba"

It's been a second home to us since we bought the caravan in St Andrews and I hate to think of Scotland breaking away from the United Kingdom and going all independent. I haven't had time to listen to Alex Salmond's arguments in favour of the break. He was on all the screens at the gym last night but I had forgotten my headphones and couldn't hear what he had to say; I entertained myself on the exercise bike playing Words With Friends on the iPhone and watching his face inspired me to SMUG (42 points with a double letter and triple word) - thanks Alex.

The Scots have always had a reputation for being dour and my experience of some Scots (or to be honest one particular Scot) in England backed this up. But perhaps this perceived dourness has been due to their being fish out of water and away from their homeland as, in Scotland, I have never found the people to be anything but cheerful  and friendly. I'm not saying that in a patronising way it's just that, even in a big supermarket, you are a hundred times more likely to strike up a conversation with a fellow shopper than you are in England (in Southport at least - unless it's your best friend - and even then you might just nod); and the conversation does not end the minute they hear your English accent.

The other type of Scot, the stereotypical beer swilling, whisky drinking, deep fried Mars bar munching lard arse is certainly not in evidence in St Andrews. Okay so St Andrews in not exactly typical but the same goes for all the towns we've visited including Dundee and the wonderful Edinburgh which, London apart, has to be Britain's most exciting city; I'm pretty sure that he's a figment of some lazy journalist who has never been north of Watford's imagination.

There is certainly a strong sense of pride and national identity in the country and it's good to see the traditions and local costume - long may they continue. I know that we English have got a lot to apologise for but Culloden was almost three hundred years ago now and we've been quite a united kingdom for the last hundred years. I'm not going into all the political or economic arguments about the referendum here. I'm sure that there are strong arguments both for and against but, however eloquently the politicians express them, I very much doubt that the vote will be won on those arguments. I'm sure that it will be won on how much Scotland feels wanted by the rest of the UK. So now and for the next 1,000 days it's time for us English, Welsh and Irish to let the Scottish people know that we really want them to stay.

I wrote that over two years ago but it's a position that has only been gaining support  and sympathy here in England for the last couple of weeks since the Sunday Times published its infamous YouGov poll that showed the Yes camp in the ascendency. Most English people have been complaisant in the sure belief that Scotland would not dream of breaking away from the strong and happy union that we all enjoy and have enjoyed for as long as we can all remember.

But, having been in Scotland for the last two weeks and having extremely close connections with the country (two Scottish grandchildren) I am no longer convinced that we are seen by the Scots in the way that we thought we were and in the way that we have always seen them - true partners, countrymen and fellow Brits. 

I saw a fair amount of canvassing and publicity in the two week stay and must say that I felt the YES camp was aggressively hostile in its stance. I saw scores of NO posters defaced with either a simple YES or, quite often, something far more unpleasant. I saw no YES publicity defaced in any way. The YES campaigners had a nasty tone to their arguments (at least the vociferous ones did) and, after years of feeling welcome in the country and enjoying staying in our caravan there, for once, I felt uncomfortable and was unsure that we were as popular as we had previously been made to feel.

I still want to see a NO vote tomorrow. I don't want to be visiting my daughter and grandkids in a foreign country and I strongly believe that my family will be better off in a United Kingdom. But, whatever the vote, the referendum has damaged my relationship with Scotland and love for the country. Lets hope it's just a temporary spat and that when a NO is announced at breakfast on Friday, we can start to build bridges and mend that damage but if you really want to leave us fair Alba let's hope you get everything you deserve.