Patriotism and nationalism

Sadly, the independence referendum is already creating divisions – not only between England and Scotland, but between Scots.

Divisiveness, which leads to hatred, is a terrible thing, especially among fellow countrymen, and for Scotland to actively pursue such a course is a tragedy. It is a pity that when it comes to matters of the heart, reason is of so little consequence.

As an ex-soldier, I have seen what borders do. Where there has been harmony, borders create hostility and the wounds that are already being inflicted on social media and elsewhere between those Scots who are pro and those who are against independence will take generations to heal, whatever the outcome. Squabbling among ourselves is bad enough, but treating our fellow citizens in the rest of the United Kingdom with disdain is worse.

The economic arguments are all on the side of remaining part of Great Britain as, despite what Alex Salmond says, we will definitely be a poorer nation, as was made abundantly clear by Rupert Soames.

Having buried the hatchet after hundreds of years of bitter fighting between Scotland and England in which thousands have died, why have we now decided to resurrect our differences and seek a divorce? For 307 years the marriage between two countries in a tiny island has been brilliantly successful.

It was James VI of Scotland whose idea it was when he became James I of England. He was one of our wisest kings and managed, against all the odds, to make a translation of the Bible acceptable to Roman Catholics, Anglicans and Presbyterians.

He then tried to unify Britain (he personally designed the Union Jack as our national flag), but sadly failed. It took another 104 years for the English to accept the Scots and for the country to become a united kingdom named Great Britain and its people, while remaining English and Scottish, became British (look at your passport).

It was Scottish and English, working together, that produced the great innovators and pioneers which led – and still leads – the world in so many fields. It was the British coal and industrial revolution that modernised the world. It was the British Army and Royal Navy that safeguarded this country by defeating Napoleon and the Germans in two world wars. Had we not been united we almost certainly would have failed.

The Scots played a major role in all this, producing superb regiments, ambassadors, pioneers, entrepreneurs as well as numerous Prime Ministers with Scottish blood such as the Earl of Bute, Marquis of Aberdeen, William Gladstone, Arthur Balfour, Henry Campbell Bannerman, Andrew Bonar Law, Stanley Baldwin, Ramsey MacDonald, Harold MacMillan, Alec Douglas Home, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and David Cameron.

All this desire for independence has sullied our reputation. I am now embarrassed, when abroad, to call myself a Scot. Wherever I travel, I find we are no longer looked upon as a great and distinctive part of Britain, as people with self-confidence, backbone and stature – but increasingly seen as a nation of whiners and graspers lacking in confidence and dignity.

North Sea oil is ours, we say. Why are we not prepared to share the profits from this windfall with the rest of the UK? Do we hear the English saying the oil off the east coast of England, or the shale oil they expect to find in Lancashire, is theirs, rather than British assets.

In the Blair/Brown years, when we had boom and bust, did the English say they wanted a divorce? The two big banks which went belly up and crippled the country – the Royal Bank of Scotland an Bank of Scotland – were seen, rightly, as British and not Scottish banks. Had they been Scottish banks in an independent Scotland, it would have been the end of Scotland. The expression “United we stand, divided we fall” has never been truer.

This debate will permanently affect the future of our children and grandchildren.

Let’s not be part of an organisation that so dislikes those who do not agree with it that it has SNP people going round housing estates in the Borders, knocking on doors and saying, “You will be voting for us to get the bloody English out, won’t you?”, or like some pubs in Edinburgh who are refusing to sell beer to those without a Scottish accent, or the Twitter hate campaign asking people to boycott a Scottish travel agent because he realises his firm will be worse off if we become independent.

This is not a vote between rich and poor, or right and left wing, because at future general elections parties and politicians will change – some of which may be even more right wing than the present Westminster one.

Neither is it a trial divorce. Divorce is permanent. Remember what happened when Czechoslovakia split. The Slovaks broke away from the Czech Republic and formed their own country. Within a short space of time they realised their mistake and asked to rejoin – but were told, “No you are on your own”.

The same will happen to us if we leave. The English will understandably say, “If you dislike us that much, good riddance”.

Remember what Clemenceau said – “A patriot loves his country; a nationalist hates everyone else’s”.

Nicholas Ridley

St Boswells