The Blog

Let's Stay Together?

'This isn't about England-Scotland or Scotland-England; it's about all of us, the whole nation.' He is right. By the time all the voting is done I hope will all my heart that we will still be a United Kingdom.

I type this sitting at a table in my grandparent's small cottage in the village of Laphroaig on the island of Islay. Their house looks over the sea and at night passing ships sparkle like jewels, twinkling golden in the dark. Now, in the late afternoon, haze hovers low on the horizon, blurring the blues of the sky and the sea. The coastline and rocky islands seem to hang in a shimmering blue void.

Half my immediate family live on Islay, I have visited regularly all my life and I feel deeply attached to the island. The prospect that very soon this could be a foreign country is something I find profoundly disturbing.

Out of all the implications of a 'yes' vote what I find most worrying is the idea that the social solidarity that connects Britons across our islands would start to fray and, in a few generations perhaps disappear entirely.

Many Yes campaigners dispute this: surely our social union can continue even if our political union is broken?

Sadly, I think this is untrue. Not necessarily immediately - separation obviously does not mean my family or friends are suddenly lost to me - but in generations to come.

My point is simple. Our social union stems from the fact that we exist in a political union: that we are a family of nations. Our lives are interwoven, what affects one of us, no matter where in Britain we are from, affects us all. Our social union depends on this equality, this fact that wherever and whoever we are we have, above our national interest, one common interest together. Separation would break an essential solidarity by creating two fundamental national interests where currently only one exists. This would rip the beating heart out of what being British means.

Scottish nationalism is a two-sided coin. A 'yes' vote, as well as being a positive, confident vote for a certain future is, at the same time, an abandonment and a giving up. A 'yes' vote leaves behind and rejects the notion of political solidarity across the islands of Britain. To a degree, it is also deeply cynical: holding that a positive future for us all is impossible, much better to bail out now. This, for me, is a depressingly narrow and small vision for the future of our islands.

I have far more faith in the dynamism and ability of the collective British people to tackle the problems of tomorrow together and build a brighter future for everyone. Our union balances national interests and brings people up to a noble vision: of working for the good of not just your fellow Scots, Welsh, Northern Irish or English - but for everyone. In our union, our talents and our abilities are shared for mutual benefit. This notion has been the cornerstone of the United Kingdom and can be the foundation of an exciting, prosperous and vibrant shared future.

The United Kingdom certainly does need political reform; very few people across Britain disagree with this. Greater devolution would follow a 'no' vote in Scotland and England's major cities and regions will not be far behind. Therein lies my argument. What we want and what we need is a political reformation, not a revolution. Surely it is far, far better to remake and change the state we have than break up the nation we share? The idea that this option is not on the ballot paper is incorrect: it is present, in a 'no' vote.

After several months reading, writing and debating the Independence Referendum it is hard to know how to 'sign off' my final article before the vote. Here are some final thoughts.

While the other nations of the UK have no vote we do have a voice and, over the last few weeks we have found it.

Scots can go to vote on Thursday knowing that the Welsh, English and Northern Irish want them to stay. There is genuine optimism for the future of our union, our United Kingdom. The decision lies with the Scottish people but they can look to the other peoples of Britain and see an invitation to share the next chapter of our history.

I am a Londoner and English but I am proud and honoured to share a political destiny with Scots. I am proud of our ability to share risks, proud of how we pool resources for mutual benefit, proud of our shared history and excited about our future.

During my visit to Islay I listened to one of the most concise and prescient comments on the Referendum I have heard throughout the entire campaign. I was talking to a local distillery worker about the nature of the vote and he remarked,

'This isn't about England-Scotland or Scotland-England; it's about all of us, the whole nation.'

He is right.

By the time all the voting is done I hope will all my heart that we will still be a United Kingdom.