In 15 days, an estimated 4.2 million people will vote in a referendum to decide whether Scotland will become an independent country. 'National' is the buzzword flying high at the moment - why, it's the Scottish National Party's middle name.
Unfortunately, when Scottish nationalists latch onto the word it becomes emphatically Braveheartian. 'Freedoooom!' screamed Mel Gibson playing William Wallace in the 1995 epic. 'Our time is now!' bellowed Alex Salmond playing Mel Gibson playing William Wallace in a 2013 SNP conference. As an outsider looking in it all seems rather rousing; but it would take a very roused Scot indeed to believe that they -- however amped up on stirring, nationalistic one-liners -- are any less British than a Bobby's bulldog holding a brolly.
You're British, mate
It's not a surprise to anyone anymore when you say you have English, Scottish, Welsh and Irish blood. My parents' ancestors, like many others, emigrated to Wales and Ireland from England and Scotland to mine coal and own land. And even if they had miraculously avoided the great genetic petri dish that is Britain, it would not have defined them wholesale. They were just people of a place, doing what was best to secure their futures.
I don't look English, or Scottish. There's nothing in my gait that yells, 'ENGLISH!', or in my chin that says, 'Ay, Scottish chin'. There aren't any signifiers that distinguish me as 'British' at all. If you think about it I could be the archetypal Australian stereotype, with my blonde hair and blue eyes. Especially since I, like all true Australians, am very proud of my own island girt by sea.
When it comes to nationality, you don't necessarily get someone who appears inherently 'anything'. You can place a Scotsman next to a Welshman and without a signifier - like a red shirt with three white feathers, or a kilt- they are, more or less, identical. 100 years ago in WW1, for instance, they were told apart by a cap badge.
All we have going for us to determine 'national identity' is where our parents came from. But, as a friend recently pointed out, what then identifies them? Is it their parent's birthplace - or their parent's parents'? Is that all nationality is, a flimsy coating we step into fresh out the womb? Or is it the values our nation holds - the unity of a people defending shared principles for generations to come?
Royal Scots Greys, France 1918
That is why I will learn the Welsh language, like my ancestors, but I will also walk through a crowded arena with a British flag. And I will sing the anthems of Northern Ireland, Scotland and England at the Commonwealth Games. As a British citizen I have an opportunity to lift up the hem of my political territory and sweep under it all four constituent brands of my national identity.
In this referendum, Scottish nationalism isn't necessarily the same thing as having Scottish parents. We've know that first generation immigrants living in Scotland are allowed to vote and stranded Scottish nationals living in a flat in Putney aren't. Let's be clear: this isn't a national referendum for the Scottish people. It is a referendum for the people in Scotland.
For those of you voting 'Yes' on 18 September, it will be because you believe independence is the best deal for Scotland's future. But for those who have yet to decide, fight against the tartan curtain of Scottish nationalism getting pulled over your eyes.
Vote for what you think is best for Scotland, and remember: a 'milk and honey' Scottish utopia is always going to be a pipedream without the rest of Britain supporting it.Suggest a correction