This Autumn – very soon now – the Scottish people will be asked to vote either to stay in the United Kingdom, or become an independent nation, thus severing a bond tied in 1707, and a history that extends much further, back to the days when the political alliances of sovereign nations in Western Europe were still being formed.
It’s a long history. It was a difficult and intricate alliance which was simplified by union; and now a Napoleonic Scottish politician wants to make everything difficult again.
It would be foolish to argue that 300 years have brought unity. They have not. The instinctive mistrust an Englishman feels when confronted by a man wearing a skirt may be part of the explanation, or it may be something rather more visceral.
We do not even wholly share a mother tongue. Our conjoined languages have eroded national identity somewhat in the area known as the Great Glen (the wide fertile lowland area between Glasgow and Edinburgh) but as anyone who has traveled further north will testify Scottish is a very different means of communication.
If you believe that England and Scotland share a common language read any poem by Robert Burns.
The Scottish are a creative, innovative race. Logie Baird started the idea of television, Fleming discovered penicillin, James Watt built all sorts of interesting things involving steam and we are deeply indebted to Thomas Telford, without whose canals we would have nowhere to deposit our used shopping carts, dead cats etc.. Anywhere in the modern world you will find accomplished Scottish engineers and artists who have wandered from their homeland, and will do almost anything to avoid going back.
Scottish food is, at best, edible. Porridge, the national breakfast dish, a kind of lumpy wallpaper paste, must be eaten with salt, not sugar. No-one outside Scotland has ever appreciated this apart from Goldilocks. Haggis (the less said about the ingredients the better), is mealy and chewy in a cloying sort of way, while Black Pudding is – well – Black Pudding. Mealy and chewy…..
The truth about Scottish cuisine is that no-one eats it, least of all the Scots. Their true national foods are Fish and Chips. And being Scottish, their interpretations of this essentially English dish are imaginative – hence chocolate bars and even chocolate coated ice cream fried in batter (think Baked Alaska, then try not to think too hard) – in fact anything as long as it is accompanied by chipped potatoes.
Pizza and MacDonalds also feature heavily.
The United Kingdom (i.e. England and anyone who can get a word in edgeways) is particularly fond of Scotland for two reasons: whisky, and oil. These two products define the English way of life (drive to work, drive home, get drunk) and we are loath to see them as anything other than an inalienable right. To be forced to import them, with all the attendant duties and expense, would be a travesty. For this and other reasons in the event of a vote for independence I see the re-building of Hadrian’s Wall as becoming a necessity, otherwise cross-border smuggling will run rampant. As a matter of personal preference I shall also press for the area between the Antonine wall and Hadrian’s Wall to be declared a bagpipe-free zone.
The truth is, I will miss the Scots if they leave the Union – not because the annual armed raids across the border to Wembley Stadium will cease – they won’t. Football between England and Scotland will persist, and if anything, the fan activity will become even more aggressive: (Scottish comedian Frankie Boyle on the cost of demolishing London’s old Wembley Stadium: ‘Why didn’t they tell us they wanted it pulled down before the last international? We’d have done it for nothing!’) and not because of (speaking behind hand, sotto voce) the whisky. Since no misguided sense of patriotism will convert me to English wine, I’ll still be drinking it; in fact, I may set up an agency for a little quiet cross-border activity, if the vote tears us apart.
No, I will miss the self-deprecating Scottish humor, the wonderfully relaxed approach to life and work, the warmth and the hospitality, almost as much as I will miss the guy always seated at the end of the bar who proves that if we are separated by our mother tongues, we yet share the language of drunkenness. If he becomes an immigrant it won’t be the same somehow.
So come on, people of Scotland, don’t close our joint account – vote for a United Kingdom. We still need your money.
Hey, Jimmy! Ah bliddy luv yooo!