It is terrible being in England completely cut off from a referendum which has a huge impact on everyone in the UK, the British Isles and citizens all around the world. It is worse that the huge number of Scots who live outside of Scotland have been denied votes by the complicity of the Scottish Nationalist government of Scotland and the Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government of the United Kingdom. Far more Scots surely live outside of Scotland but have no say on what happens to their home country. (The best statistics I can find suggest 800,000 live in the UK outside Scotland to 5.3 million inside Scotland). The UK government for no good reason also agreed to a simplistic referendum question that failed to engage with any practical issues.
I signed Dan Snow's petition on Change.org on 21 August as I think it is important that our neighbours in the North know that this vote is important to us and that we would really like them to stay with us. What I said on the petition website was this:
"We're better with Scots, Welsh, those of Irish background, everyone together. A better modern society. Splitting into smaller states can feed division and hostility when we should be celebrating distinct cultures (like in Wales and Scotland) and enjoy diversity from old and new immigrants who make our island what it is."
Liberals have historically supported 'Home Rule all round' but opposed narrow nationalism. As I have often written on this website, having grown up a romantic Irish nationalist, and having spent time in the Balkans and South Eastern Europe, I see the dangers of nationalism. By contrast I spend much time in Wales where I see the great benefits of a modern inclusive cultural revival celebrating national character, history and language in a welcoming way. That is what Scottish leaders should strive to – which is what the leading UK Scottish politicians from the main parties have been saying. As with Welsh politicians, Scots have a much bigger impact and influence in the UK than population would suggest.
I firmly believe that if the Yes campaign loses Alex Salmond will actually go down in history as the most successful Scottish nationalist leader since Robert the Bruce. He will have secured (with his party and concessions by the major parties) increased powers for Scotland and potentially nearly won a referendum. If the No campaign loses, then David Cameron will have broken the United Kingdom and become irrevocably associated with the loss of Scotland in the way that Mary I is irrevocably associated with the loss of Calais. Labour of course need Scottish votes to win elections in the UK. If a majority of residents of Scotland who vote vote to go it alone then the rest of us may be stuck with an inbuilt Conservative majority in the remainder of the UK. The Labour Party are partly to blame for this by refusing to curb overrepresentation of Scottish seats for party political advantage. This presumably influenced Cameron and the Conservative's decision to agree to a referendum, and to recognise the result. But a rump UK could allow the petty parochial nationalists of UKIP to run wild. They already embarrass us in Europe. If Scotland votes Yes then all of the parts of the United Kingdom will be diminished. Alex Salmond, Nicola Sturgeon and their team have had a simple populist argument to make but they have still outmanoeuvred their political opponents at many turns. That is good politics but it is not a reason to vote for what centralist Scottish politicians want.
Some of the arguments of the No campaign are negative and scaremongering. Others appear only to appeal to financial arguments. And their constitutional law arguments about EU membership have been thoroughly tested if not completely discredited by my good friend former judge and constitutional law expert Ian Campbell. But the statesmen among the campaign like David Steel and Gordon Brown (like him or not), Jim Wallace and Charles Kennedy have put principled and positive reasons for staying together and I hope that many Scots will listen to the message of a better future from their countrymen.