The news this week has been dominated by the talk about Scottish independence, after Alex Salmond declared that a referendum would be held in 2014. An interesting date to choose – the 700th anniversary of Bannockburn, the famous battle when the Scots routed the English, but also the occasion of the next Homecoming when diaspora Scots will flood back into the country; will they get a vote too?
The main three political parties have been united in their support of the status quo, arguing that together the United Kingdom is far stronger than as separate countries – shared economies, armed forces, currency, mutual language… Even if we leave aside the legality, timing and phrasing of the referendum, this poses the question: who would benefit from the break-up of the United Kingdom?
It is very easy to see this emotive issue through Tartan eyes – the promise of independence from Westminster, national pride, self-government, culture; this was the ticket that swept the Scottish National party to power in the Executive, and it is perhaps easy to understand why the prospect is attractive. Yet the fact remains that Great Britain is a three-hundred year old Union, and has developed its own unique culture and identity alongside that of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. Surely the rest of the Union has a right to decide on its future as well?
Culture and identity lie at the heart of this debate, and the movement of peoples between the various countries of our uniquely successful Union demonstrates that we have an also lot to gain from keeping Britain, yet recognising the characteristics of each separate territory. Many of us have families that straddle at least one and sometimes many national boundaries in these islands, and can therefore claim to have multi-ethnic roots. It is what makes ‘being British’ both a sensitive issue, particularly amongst more recent arrivals to these shores, but also a source of pride because Britain represents a particular set of ideals, values and qualities. For me, it is that issue alone – three hundred years of history, three centuries of achievement – that should lie at the heart of the debate; not ‘what would Scotland or England gain’ from separation, but rather what would they both lose. I’d be interested to hear your views.
One day soon – I promise! – I’ll get round to more work on the website such as completing the resource page, but for now we are putting together a list of institutions, archives and heritage sites that we will be filming at over the next six months. Again, please forward your suggestions or, better still, if you manage one of these places, invite us along! We are always well behaved and will happily promote your work.
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