At 9.30 p.m. last Saturday news broke that Scotland’s ‘yes’ campaign had established its first opinion poll lead. Since then, the country has been confronting the possibility of its impending dissolution. The vote will affect all 64 million people in the United Kingdom, and most have neither a vote, not a voice. Last weekend, The Spectator asked readers to submit letters to Scottish voters, saying why they are hoping for a ‘no’ vote. Those printed here are a small selection from the hundreds we received.
Strikingly, almost no one talks (as the ‘no’ campaign does) about the economic drawbacks of separation. No one who wrote to us claimed that Scotland could not go it alone, and no one seemed interested in the allure of ‘devo max’. They were concerned about Britain, its values, and what might be destroyed if the country were snapped in two.
As a patriotic Welshman, I understand some of the appeal of independence. Nothing would push me towards it more than the English media telling me it wasn’t possible, but Scotland doesn’t need to need to listen to the minority making such claims. Everyone I know in Wales is desperate for you to stay with us, precisely because of the success that Scotland has always brought to the union. I supported Celtic as a boy and lived in fear of ‘ten in a row’ in the late 1990s. I was introduced to classical music by Nicola Benedetti. When I pour myself a single malt on a Friday evening I swirl it in the glass and marvel at the most complex, sophisticated drink man has yet invented. And I like to feel that I have a stake in all of that. That it’s a part of my national identity.
I don’t care about the oil or the currency or the monarchy. It’s the people of Scotland who are its greatest asset, and if you leave Britain, we’ll be much the worse for it. Stay with us.
Damian Buckley, Cardiff
I grew up in England as the descendant of immigrants. This had its rough edges. Racist graffiti seemed to be all over the place in the 1970s and some of the local children enjoyed ‘Paki bashing’. Knowing that my family was different, and not universally accepted, could have made it an unpleasant childhood.
Instead, I grew up feeling at home in Britain because I knew that differences were built into its character. Thanks to the Scots and their constant assertion of their own identity and values, Britain is not just one country. It is a ramshackle arrangement of four distinct countries. If there is room for the Scots, then there is room for me too. To be different is to be British — please, let’s keep it that way.
Andrew Apostolou, Whetstone, London
Dear Scottish voter, I write not to coerce nor beg but to tell you what you and your country means to me and many other people of these Isles. The ‘differences’ that separate us are superficial at best and cynical at worst; our bonds are not. Not once have I stepped off the train in Aviemore, or sat on a ridge in Glencoe, and considered myself away from home. I was just a little further from where my mail was normally sent. But I now look at the prospect of being forced — by some who view me as foreign — to view these lands (and you) as somewhat alien to myself. And what for? To face the same challenges, separately, that are common across our Isles. As far as the Union and my future is concerned, what’s mine is yours. Please stay.
Jo Simpson, west London
Once, I also dreamt of an independent Scotland, the master of its own destiny. I voted SNP, cheered Scotland and anyone opposing England. Then I moved to England in the late 1990s, as an ‘economic refugee’. To my discomfort, I found the English (aside from their annoying habit of calling Britain ‘England’) were just like us: worried about their kids’ education; lamenting summer weather; concerned with their own daily challenges; despairing of (and largely unrepresented by) their government. Now I fervently hope that Scotland will stay. Apart from anything else Scotland is the balance for the Union; the five million counterweight for the 60 million. The pricking conscience. The innovator. The socialist. The ballast.
Amy Jackson, Witney, Oxfordshire
Dear Scottish voter, We can’t blame you for feeling irritated with the ‘no’ campaign. We’ve been watching, and have cringed at their attempts to connect with you. We are painfully aware that many of them were spouting patronising tosh that would drive anyone into the slick, seductive nationalist camp. How many thousands of ‘Scots’ by heritage (myself included) now happen to be ‘English’ because of where our families now live? How ridiculous is it to separate two societies so deeply intertwined on the basis of the SNP’s ambitions? It’s your vote, but a ‘yes’ next Thursday would diminish us all. Long term, nobody wins. We’ll feel the most appalling sense of shock and sadness if you go. Please just say no.
Alex Brown, London
Those who revel in describing themselves as ‘English’ strike me as both parochial and small-minded. And yet now this is exactly what may be forced upon me through a process in which British people are denied any say. If a ‘yes’ vote passes, British people like me on both sides of the border will have to dismiss portions of our characters and look uncertainly to the future.
David Smith, East Yorkshire
The UK without Scotland would be a body without a heart. Scotland is not a satellite state, an occupied territory, an invaded country or a protectorate. She is already her own country with her own identity, culture, people and language. She’s an equal partner in the Union, subservient to no one. The history of the last three centuries is the history of a Union made great by Scotland’s presence. Yes, we can exist apart. But together, we are incredible. Let us remain united and continue to achieve greatness — as equals, friends and family.
Tarek Arab, west London
Although I’m British, I live and work in Russia. When I tell Russians that the break-up of the UK may be imminent, they are uniformly shocked and surprised. For them, you see, Britain is one of the world’s great success stories. Sometimes you need to live outside a country’s borders to see the big picture. No country has ever achieved a great destiny through separatism and division. Countries are great through unity — of that make no mistake. Please vote for the people of our islands to remain strong, prosperous and together.
Nationalism is an ugly force, accentuating and exaggerating minor differences, creating and exploiting perceived grievances. It’s worth pointing out that in the event of a ‘yes’ vote, it would be the fiduciary duty of the rump UK government to negotiate the absolute best deal for its taxpayers — which would mean no more favours to Scotland. The SNP will reap what they sow, but it is the ordinary British citizen who will ultimately lose out. We will all be diminished.
Stewart Fergus, South Croydon
Britain is a patchwork nation, with a patchwork soul and a patchwork people. My family, childhood, education, interests, what one might label identity, are a patchwork of Scottish and English strands. What binds these halves into one whole is Britishness — so hard to define, yet so easy to understand. Please don’t rip it apart. If you do, you will break my very British heart.
Alastair Benn, Cambridge
The ties that bind us together are not simply about whether you live north or south of a border. From Cornwall to Aberdeenshire, these islands are criss-crossed with more common interests, shared history and future prospects than can ever be divided by a line on a map. Alex Salmond is selling a myth: that Scotland is one single country and that the United Kingdom is nothing more than a Tory elite in Westminster. It’s not true. The Edinburgh fund manager and the Highland farmer — they may be Scottish but in truth they have less in common with each other than with their counterparts in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. We can share our resources and we can share our ambitions. Don’t waste this opportunity. Please vote ‘no’.
Tom McPhail, Bristol
Yes, there is a widening inequality and poverty within and across our society. A lack of social mobility at almost every turn. So why emphasise further division across these problems that affect almost all of us? The problems — a political class, a weakened democracy, abridgment of freedom in the name of order — will still remain. A union is better placed to make peaceful protest, signify pluralist living and aspirations to things bigger — much bigger — than ourselves.
Tom Calvard, Edinburgh
It is the differences between us that put the ‘great’ into Great Britain. I consider the Scots to be nothing more than my family. Sitting here, writing this, thinking of what might happen in a few days time feels like death. A death of a family member. Please, Scotland, stay with us.
Angele Tornabene-Parsons, Eastbourne
Inverness was my home until April this year. My accent was different but I never felt like a foreigner — and to me, that is what it is to be British: being from a far distant part of our islands, speaking differently, but somehow still being at home. The Union is a common bond between our people. If I was still working in Scotland, I’d want my son to be raised in a place called Great Britain, where people from all over our island continue to share this common bond of togetherness and friendship. Why give it up now?
Tim Poole, Beckenham, Kent
The myriad threats to the Scottish economy of this leap in the dark have been pointed out. But I’m even more worried about the cultural and social sidelining of Scotland which will inevitably happen after independence. Many in the rest of the UK will be so upset by this unilateral severance, this ‘turning of backs’, that they will be strongly tempted to turn their own backs. The richness of the Scottish contribution to our Union over the past centuries will count less and less to them. Will a sense of pure nationhood truly compensate for that isolation? I wonder.
Ursula Buchan, Glapthorn East Northamptonshire
We Scottish voters have heard the ‘yes’ campaign talk about the perils of conservatism, and how a vote for independence would ensure a Tory-free Scotland. And yes, there’s a fair chance of that. But I also care about my brothers and sisters in Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds and London. I don’t want to leave them behind at the mercy of conservatism and austerity. That’s why I urge my fellow Scots to summon that British spirit: vote ‘no’ to separation on next week. Leave no man behind: we’re better together.
Chris Scott, East Kilbride
I am a ‘yes’ kind of person, and so understand the pull towards a ‘yes’ vote. But here’s the paradox: a ‘yes’ vote will lead to a rejection — in reality a ‘no’ — to all that has held us together for so long. Like you may feel, I often despair as I hear about the latest policy from Westminster, and yes, we can make our country so much better still, but surely that is not a reason for a once-and-for-all separation? Please stay!
Revd James Hutchings
Priest-in-charge, Littleham-cum–Exmouth with Lympstone Mission
I may not come from Scottish stock, but I have always counted Scotland’s heroes as my heroes, Scotland’s history as my history and my Scottish friends as my countrymen. I’ve always been immensely proud to come from the land of David Hume and Francis Bacon, Robert Burns and William Shakespeare, William Wallace and Winston Churchill. Scotland, we love your history, your people and your potential. Please don’t leave.
Oliver Lewis, Camberley, Surrey
Dear Scottish voter, I sometimes wonder if Britain understands how much her island’s story means to those abroad. The Union has contributed so much to the destiny of humanity. When civilisation hung in the balance, and the shadow of Nazism fell over Europe, the world looked to the solitary figure of Britannia. The peoples of her islands confronted the Luftwaffe together, not apart. Young British men of the four nations lie side by side in Normandy, having pledged the ultimate love for their land. Many of us cannot understand why something so beautiful should be destroyed.
Timothy Spyrou, Limassol, Cyprus
Yes, our current political and economic challenges are serious, frustrating and divisive — but they are temporary. Independence is permanent and irreversible. Real change comes slowly, as it always has, through the determined efforts of men and women working together to break down barriers, build consensus and make common cause. That is the direction of human progress, and it is what the United Kingdom, for all its failings, stands for. The Union is one of Scotland’s greatest achievements — to leave will greatly diminish you, and us.
Richard Keatley, Pulborough, West Sussex
My dear Scotland, I heard you want a divorce so I thought I would write you a letter to tell you what I know about divorces. There’s no such thing as an amicable split, because neither side is ever happy with the divorce settlement. This is the second characteristic of divorce: both end up poorer than they were before but often they don’t realise this until it is too late.
I know that you have been seeing Norway. It must seem an exciting prospect to be with someone new. But England is here on same island, right next to you. She has been loyal and dependable and is willing to rebuild the relationship. Scotland, it’s time to come home.
Andrew Jackson, Ormskirk, Lancashire
I would love, in my dreams, to have an independent Kent. Think of the tariffs on the roads, the near monopoly on hops, our recourse to oast houses, castles, beaches, Dickens, William Harvey, Canterbury, Knole for tourism… I tell friends from eastern Europe and the US to stay in Kent because we’ve everything about these islands within an hour’s drive. So go — if you must. Kent will follow you. Our island will be snipped up into bits.
Charles Robinson, Kent
I have a passion: I love flying. And here’s the thing. From the cockpit, the UK isn’t very big on a worldwide scale. Actually, it’s not very big at all. Scotland is even smaller. I climb to 5,000 feet from central Scotland and I can see England. The nationalists want to put up barriers on something that is not very big to start with. Have they ever flown? What is this madness to split up something that is not very big, and put up barriers where none currently exist?
Lindsay Knight, Blairgowrie, Perthshire
Last weekend, I attended a commemoration of the 70th anniversary of Arnhem in Somerby, Leicestershire, where the 10th Battalion Parachute Regiment were stationed. One of the veterans came down from his home in Scotland. Upon the parade through the village we had heard the 51st Highlanders on the bagpipes. Scottish pipes, in an English village for a British cause.
Leigh Higgins, Twyford, Leicestershire
I may have some Scottish blood in my veins, but I live down south so I’m not allowed a say. It feels like my whole identity is being taken away from me. Though a virulent Eurosceptic, I’d even stay in the EU if that was the price of keeping you with us!
Oliver Knox, St Lawrence, Jersey
Dear Scotland, Listening to the ‘yes’ camp, you’d think England is full of Ukip–supporting, Scotland-hating loons. You might think hating the Conservative party is a reason to start a new nation, but guess what? Most of the rest of the UK hates them too. They haven’t won an election for 22 years. That poll tax business? We hated it too — hated it so much that we got rid of it. And the prime minister behind it.
Most of us love Scotland. We love being part of this Union. Say yes to the UK, and vote ‘no’.
Matthew Lumby, Chester
Leaving the UK is akin to walking out of an extraordinary home you have built (and own) and then throwing away the keys.
Charles Watters, Canterbury, Kent
Churchill once proclaimed that, ‘Of all the small nations of this earth, perhaps only the ancient Greeks surpass the Scots in their contribution to mankind.’
I have no doubt that he’d affirm that this is only the case as a consequence of the Act of Union. Yes, some say the Union’s time has come and that impersonal economic forces have diminished our nation. But always remember:
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are
Rule Britannia! I say, and to quote the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards at Waterloo (the most British of all battles), ‘Scotland Forever!’
Oliver Simmonds, Worthing, Sussex
More letters are online at spectator.co.uk/stay