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Scottish independence vote comes down to pragmatism versus romanticism

In five months we will know the future shape of the United Kingdom. The referendum on independence for Scotland is scheduled to take place on Thursday, September 18.

As we report on our news pages this week, it is a subject that has aroused strong feelings both for and against, and the indications are that the intensity of the opinions will only increase as judgment day approaches.

I will probably be accused by “Yes” supporters of English myopia by suggesting the arguments appear to be between economic good sense - to stay within the union - and romantic sentiment - to achieve statehood for Scotland. Talking with a Scottish independent retailer at a recent dinner, I was moved by his passionate desire for his homeland to be a separate nation.

“This is something not for me, but for my children and grandchildren,” he told me. “I just want us to be recognised as a nation.”

My immediate thought was that many of us already regard the Scots as a nation. By the accent, the name, the hair colour and complexion, it is not difficult to spot who hails from Scotland. The qualities I regard as typical of Scots are generosity, friendliness, a sense of fun, business acumen, creativity - especially in their textile industry - and, in most cases, having had a better standard of education than the rest of us.

Yet, for me, one of the strongest arguments against the separation of Scotland from the other three constituent parts is that I have never been convinced that the Scots are a united people. To oversimplify to make a point: Glasgow folk see themselves as different to those from Edinburgh; the urban dwellers have little in common with rural inhabitants; the Highlanders see themselves as separate from Lowlanders; and many of the islanders already feel a race apart.

And that’s before we consider the ugly face of sectarianism between so-called Catholics and Protestants, who display no Christian virtues towards each other.

I am unconvinced by the arguments that a country of 5 million could be better off economically than a country of 63 million. I am equally amused and bemused by independence champion Alex Salmond’s pick-and-mix approach to separation. He’ll be independent but will keep the pound, the Queen, membership of NATO and the EU.

I also wonder why this important matter is being left to the Scots. We could be dissolving a union that dates back to 1707, so shouldn’t the rest of the UK’s voters express their views? This is another case of Salmond & Co wishing to have their Dundee cake and eat it too.

My sincere wish is that the Scots vote on September 18 to stay within the UK, and continue to display and celebrate their various qualities of individualism within the larger British family.

But it is getting a little too close to predict.

A friend of mine native to the Scottish capital confided recently: “We used to think it was all a bit of a joke, but a lot of the teenagers who are eligible to vote take all that Braveheart stuff too literally.”

And displaying a perfect example of Scottish unity my pal added: “We in Edinburgh are quite educated and can properly weigh up the arguments, but that’s not the case when you get out into the sticks.”

To finish on a less controversial point, if you haven’t already done so, do check out our new, much-improved Drapers website.

Our online editor, Keely Stocker, and in-house digital producer, Kyle Browne, have been working for months to change what we had to what we have now.

They have done a brilliant job on

Readers' comments (2)

  • How can you say that a country of 5 million could not be better off or more successful than a country of 63 million. What about Denmark, Norway, Luxembourg, Singapore?Switzerland, Austria and Sweden are not much larger. Australia has kept the Queen for many years and been very successful. Slovakia has split from the Czech Republic but joined the EU and Nato, as have other countries in Europe. Other independent countries around the world have shared or linked currencies. Some of your comments are a little naive, even condescending. The whole Braveheart thing is a ''Hollywood-ism''. Could it not be that the Scots just want to control their own affairs, be responsible for their own actions and be ruled by a political party that they actually voted for?

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  • Eric Musgrave

    Definitely, the Scots could make a success of going it alone, but every economic commentator I've read, including Scottish ones, suggest that the initiative is extremely risky. There are also huge areas of England, at least, that resent being "ruled" by a political party (or two at the moment) that they haven't voted for, but that's an unfortunate side effect of being a democracy. This is an opinion piece and I am not concerned you think parts of it are naive, but there was absolutely no intention to be condescending. I know full well how important a subject this is to many Scots and many in the rest of the UK. You are making a perfectly reasonable response here. It's a pity you wish to remain anonymous.

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