If the referendum goes ahead, I – an English student living and studying in Scotland – would get to vote. And for a long time this was something I felt a tinge of guilt over: as if it wasn’t my place to have a say in this once in a generation – surely not to be repeated in eight years – decision.
It’s a bit awkward being an English student in Edinburgh in the current political climate. You’re not quite sure how personally you should take attacks on the union – and to an extension, England. It feels like going round to your friend’s house and having to stand there awkwardly as they get told off by their parents for having you around. You’re not quite sure if you should apologise, stand up for yourself or just try to camouflage yourself against the wallpaper.
As someone pro-union, for a while I’ve taken the latter decision, feigned ignorance and avoided discussions about Scottish politics.Yet recently, as I cheered on Scottish and English athletes competing under the same flag at the European Athletic Championships, I’ve started to reconsider this stance. The whole point of the call for independence is that at the moment, rightly or wrongly, we’re in it together.
Despite Nicola Sturgeon’s desperate fantasies, Scotland is still part of the union. It’s still in league with England and is still part of the same parliamentary democracy. Scotland is ‘in’ right up until the point that it’s not – a seemingly obvious fact, but one that seems to be forgotten by English people who take no interest in affairs north of the border. Scottish and English politics are inextricably entwined, and in many ways will still be if Scotland gains independence, so of course this is an issue relevant to both sides. Scotland is home to the UK’s trident subs, as well as our only site for smelting aluminium (randomly trivial, but crucially important for English and Welsh based manufacturing industries – the more you know, hey?!). Scottish MPs get to decide English affairs, both English and Scottish taxes pay for the cookie jar Sturgeon liberally dips into every 5 seconds and (much to Sturgeon’s annoyance, I’m sure) we share a monarch whose claim to the Scottish throne is actually stronger than their claim to the English. Our country’s lives are interwoven politically, economically, and culturally too. So as a citizen of this historic, powerful union, why is the potential exit of one its key players not relevant to me?
Scottish Independence affects all members of the union. As a member of that union, as well as an inhabitant of Scotland, I care about the independence referendum, because I genuinely care about Scotland’s future. As someone living in Scotland, regardless of accent, independence would impact me. So I’ll get to vote if it happens. And actually, that’s something I’ll be proud to do.
In another article published by The Student on Scottish independence, the formidable Adam Losekoot discussed the slippery subject of national identity in relation to the independence debate. I don’t want to stray too far into providing a response to Losekoot’s article but I do want to respond to his sweeping claim that “most of our English neighbours don’t think about it at all”: I’m thinking about it now. And, unapologetically, I don’t think you’re going to like what I have to say.
Image credit: ’Edinburgh Independence March 2019’ by Adam Losekoot.