Whisper It: Britain Would Be Nothing without Scotland. and Scotland Will Be Nothing If Conceited Salmond's in Charge; A Glorious, Flag-Waving Defence of Our Kingdom's Union

The Mail on Sunday (London, England), August 10, 2014 | Go to article overview

Whisper It: Britain Would Be Nothing without Scotland. and Scotland Will Be Nothing If Conceited Salmond's in Charge; A Glorious, Flag-Waving Defence of Our Kingdom's Union


Byline: ANDREW ROBERTS AUTHOR AND HISTORIAN

IMAGINE yourself at a very smart dinner party and the conversation gets round to the issue of Scottish independence. Suppose people whose intelligence and thoughtfulness you've long respected, such as Sir David Attenborough and historians Simon Schama and Professor Mary Beard, said they thought that it was in the best interests of Scotland to remain within the United Kingdom rather than going it alone in the world.

Then people who were at the top of their professions, such as the former chiefs of the Defence Staff, Lord 'Jock' Stirrup and Lord (Charles) Guthrie, agreed with them, as did the former head of the Royal Navy, Admiral Sir Alan West.

At the other end of the table, some of the brainiest people in Europe, including Stephen Hawking and the former Astronomer Royal, Lord (Martin) Rees, wholeheartedly agree.

Wouldn't you listen very carefully to what they have to say? Especially if historians of the calibre of Margaret MacMillan and Tom Holland, intellectuals of the experience of Lord (Melvyn) Bragg and Joan Bakewell, actors of the quality of Sir Patrick Stewart and Dame Judi Dench also weighed in, saying exactly the same thing? Wouldn't these views be at least worth considering very profoundly? Not if you're someone of the vanity and self-regard - or perhaps by now the sheer desperation - of Alex Salmond.

The Yes campaign has sneered at the opinions of some of the most profound thinkers and intellectuals of our day who have just written a joint letter opposing Scottish independence, simply because they were joined on the page by a number of TV celebrities, comedians and social gadflies who were asked to join the 200-strong list.

The people I mentioned above have been demonised as 'posh, rich, publicly educated English celebrities', even though most of them were not - and by the way still deserve a voice in our democracy even if all of them were. The response of the Yes vote has been woeful, yet wholly representative of the arrogant way they have conducted this whole campaign.

'It's Scotland's pound,' the impossibly conceited Mr Salmond has said. 'It doesn't belong to George Osborne. It doesn't belong to Ed Balls. It's Scotland's pound and we are keeping it.' For all that the Yes campaign has tried to discount all non-Scots' views on independence, there is nothing wrong with the rest of the United Kingdom reminding the Scots they are admired, valued and respected co-creators of the United Kingdom, indeed central to the whole fabulously successful project.

The rest of the country regards them with an affection bound over three centuries of a joint endeavour, a unity which it would be tragic to throw away.

After more than 300 battles between the Scots and English, the 1st Article of the 1707 Act of Union stated: 'The two kingdoms of England & Scotland shall forever be united into one kingdom by the name of Great Britain.' Scotland kept her excellent legal and educational systems, of course, but the new entity adopted a common flag, monarchy, coinage and Great Seal. That Act of Parliament provided for the 'same allowances, encouragements and drawbacks, and [for Scotland to] be under the same prohibitions and regulations'.

A vast free trade area was created, with access to both countries' trading outlets, so the Industrial Revolution would benefit Clydeside as much as Lancashire. In 1707, Glasgow's 12,000 inhabitants barely numbered half of Bristol's, but by 1800 its 77,000 people made it the third city in the nation. …

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