SCOTLAND DEBATE: Bryan Gunn, Ian Gibson, Tom FitzPatrick, Elizabeth Liddell and Blair Ainslie write for us on the independence debate
09:11 04 March 2014
Five Scots with Norfolk and Suffolk links have written for us about their take on the relationship between the people of the two nations as the independence referendum looms.
• BRYAN GUNN
Having spent the first 24 years of my life in Scotland and the next 26 years in England, you can imagine why I am in a no-win scenario here.
There are people who I love on both sides of the border, and all have different opinions on the matter.
I have been very fortunate in life and have moved up the financial ladder over the years – from paying low taxes on my low “youth team” wages in Scotland and then high taxes on my increased “first team” wages down south.
I’m now paying the same tax no matter where I would have ended up living in Great Britain.
Nothing has really changed for me. I have loved life on both sides of the border, and love people in both countries.
If my Scottish mum is happy and my English wife is happy, then I’m happy.
It’s a simple life for me really, as long as Scotland win at football and we all still celebrate Burns Night I’ll be happy.
Oh, and Mel Gibson in Braveheart is a legend!
Bryan Gunn learnt his trade in Aberdeen in the early 1980s, but spent most of his career playing at Norwich City – making the save of his life in the UEFA Cup match against Bayern Munich in 1993. He was a member of the Scotland national football team, making six appearances for his country in the early 1990s.
• IAN GIBSON
The battle for Scotland is up and running. The Yes and No campaigns are circling each other, hoping to deliver the killer blow that will sway the undecided. Until then, we face repeated rounds of “You can’t do without us” versus “Oh yes we can”, where the prime minister cites figures that pass us by and the Scottish first minister denies them, saying little else.
Scots who, like me, have lived “down there” for a long time (this is my 50th year in Norwich) are not allowed to vote. If I was voting, however, it would be “No”. This would be in spite of the strong emotional attachment and pride that every Scot feels towards their homeland.
We have grown up knowing that Scotland produces the best footballers (note Robert Snodgrass’s winning goal for the Canaries in February), as well as the best jokes. I am also attracted to a land that does not charge its university students tuition fees (even though many Scot Labour MPs voted for it in England), provides free care for the elderly, has no prescription charges and a more wholesale delivery of NHS drugs.
But while we should celebrate what distinguishes Scotland and applaud what makes it appear to be a more socialist country, the emotional tenor of the debate is masking the most important issue: inequality is still the order of the day north and south of the border. You only have to visit the deprived areas of Glasgow and other towns in Scotland to recognise this. The major challenge for all left-wing politicians is to extend benefits to everyone by redistributing wealth from rich individuals not only in Hampstead and Kensington, but also in Edinburgh’s Blackhall or Aberdeen’s Milltimber.
The UK parliament, particularly since the Thatcher era, has allowed these inequalities to grow for years. If political parties were less elitist and listened to all their members and peripheral voices, they would focus on tackling poverty and eliminating inequalities.
Why didn’t Kate Moss take the opportunity to say this when she delivered David Bowie’s plea to the Scots to “stay with us” at the Brits?
No political leader is making the case for why this problem would be better tackled, from John O’Groats to Land’s End, through separation or staying together. In my view, with people power added in, this is the priority that should unite us.
Ian Gibson was MP for Norwich until 2009
• TOM FITZPATRICK
In common with tens of thousands of Scots living in other parts of the United Kingdom, I will be unable to vote to retain the Union in September of this year. Like so many others, I am proud of my Scottish heritage, regard myself primarily as British, and do not want to end up feeling a stranger in my own county.
Despite people being proud to think of themselves as Scottish, English or Welsh, being British is a common bond and unifying term and has been to the benefit of everyone, particularly Scotland. Right across Norfolk there are Scots, and people of recent Scottish origin, contributing to the prosperity of this county. The union of Scotland and England ended years of fighting which was a drain on both nations.
Although there were early difficulties, the two countries gradually worked together and began to produce huge benefits for both in terms of trade, prosperity and peace.
Under the British flag people spread across the world, working together. The marriage has proven so successful that I cannot see why anyone thinks a divorce is needed.
The economies of Scotland and the rest of the UK are tied together so closely that a separation will have huge negative consequences for both, the full consequences of which will only become clear when it is too late. The Scottish Nationalists want to break a union of equals which has actually worked particularly well for the benefit of Scotland, and replace it with membership of the European Union. If and when they would be allowed to join, Scotland will be very much a junior new member with very little clout, but just glad to have been allowed into the club.
It is with dismay that I listen to the increasingly empty and desperate arguments in favour of a Yes vote and separation, beginning to resemble nothing better than petulance. Despite the current economic situation, the economy of the UK is still one of the strongest in the world.
Scotland and England have a huge interlocked economy... and separation will have a negative impact on sectors. The East of England benefits from the offshore oil and gas sectors, with wind generation increasingly important in terms of energy. These sectors are international and global and introducing another national division into what exists at present will weaken the position of all of us at a time when we can ill afford such fragmentation.
My hope is the Scotland does not sleepwalk towards a decision based on misplaced sentiment.
Tom FitzPatrick is North Norfolk District Council leader. He was born in Glasgow, brought up there with a few years living in Ayrshire. He attended Edinburgh University and has spent most of his working life in England.
• ELIZABETH LIDDELL
Why the doubt? Scots have always been, and will always be, independent.
Through the ages Scots have, for many reasons, travelled from their native land to far shores and helped create the foundation of many a successful business, leading in turn to a successful adopted country.
Are Scots living outside Scotland more Scottish because they have left their ’ain country?
I am not sure, but, as with any group of folk far from their homeland, the Scots gather together socially.
In East Anglia these social groups are still evident today with Anglo-Scottish and Caledonian Clubs.
Some of these clubs meet several times a month, mostly to enjoy and learn Scottish country dancing.
It is noticeable now, however, that many of the members are not in any way connected to Scotland, except by the shared love of the music and dance.
The “incomers” have integrated well!
It may be that Scots, like other Celtic nationalities, are proud of their roots and enjoy celebrating that heritage. Back to the original question, should Scotland become a country independent of the United Kingdom?
There are many areas where separation would be preferable and possible, but others where combined strength has benefits to the whole United Kingdom.
No need to state that Scotland would keep the monarchy.
When Queen Elizabeth I died in 1603, the next in line to the English throne was James VII of Scotland. He was crowned James I of England and from him is a direct line to Queen Elizabeth II of England.
It took almost 100 years from the union of the crowns to persuade the governments to unite.
The resulting joint parliament, located in London, was to be a bone of contention for the next 300 years before Westminster could be persuaded to agree to a plan which has resulted in the September referendum.
Scotland has regained a parliament in Edinburgh. Restricted powers it may have, but a parliament nonetheless, which is able to govern Scotland in those matters which pertain to Scotland only. The English are a different nation and would be most unhappy to find that their government sat in another country passing laws which in the main did not relate to England (or maybe that already happens as members of the EU?).
So, why should the Scots not feel the need for a separation from the English Parliament?
A poll taken north and south of the border has produced a very definite NO result.
But it may be well for Westminster to go gently with demands. Many “NO” votes could be changed if it seemed Westminster were still pulling the strings. We can only hope that the people with the privilege of voting in September do so with their heads and a view to the very long term rather than with their hearts.
Elizabeth Liddell, who is a member of the Beccles Caledonian Society, arrived in Suffolk in March 1960 when she was “almost a teenager”. Her family and farm moved from Doune in Perthshire to Framsden near Stowmarket. She met her husband of 43 years at a Young Farmers club and they are now retired after a lifetime in farming.
• BLAIR AINSLIE
It is ridiculous that independence for Scotland is even being given consideration at all.
Much blood was spilled over centuries to bring the home nations together.
It’s disrespectful to the honour of those that suffered to think that a cross on a ballot paper can undo that. National pride and patriotism is what being a Scot is all about, and there is not a nation in the world that has more of it than Scotland.
We don’t need economic independence to prove it.
Blair Ainslie is managing director of Great Yarmouth-based offshore firm Seajacks. He hails from Dunbar, east Lothian and moved south of the border in 1979.