The debate about Scottish independence is heating up, with some big names weighing in on the side of the 'no' vote this week. Whether Gordon Brown's intervention or JK Rowling's £1million donation will have any impact on the outcome remains to be seen, but one thing is abundantly clear from where I'm sitting - English people have found it impossible to make a solid case for the Union without being torn to shreds by the SNP and their followers.
Of course, they are right, to an extent, when they say 'it's none of our business what Scotland decides to do'. However, I can't help feeling that a reasoned argument about why Scotland's UK partners might want them to stay part of Great Britain is an important part of the debate.
Despite what you might hear from a lot of English people (and a I dare say a fair few Welsh and Northern Irish folk too) after a few jars in the pub, there are an awful lot of people down here, south of the border, who really don't want Scotland to leave the UK. I am one of them.
Having the most archetypal private-school educated, Tory PM we've had since the 1960s at the helm certainly doesn't help matters. Although I, for one, believe him when he says he wants Scotland to stay, David Cameron fits the stereotype of an 'English PM' with no genuine regard for the Scottish people so perfectly, that the Nationalists have been able to discredit his every word with consummate ease. It's no surprise then that the Prime Minister has refused a head to head debate with Alex Salmond on the issue - it's probably a smart move.
However, I think someone should try and appeal to the people of Scotland and make a genuine case about why we want the UK to stay as it is... so here's my attempt. Just don't call me an arrogant Englishman for trying, and yes I know it's not really any of my *expletive* business, ok?
I don't think Scotland should leave the reason for the following reasons:
1. We are a far better economic proposition when we work together. I don't think you need the US President to point this out, and I'm not sure it really helped that he did, but we are a strong international brand as four cultured, progressive nations working together. If anyone leaves it will have a detrimental impact on how we are all viewed. The world's changing and we have a better chance of staying successful if we stick together, rather than breaking up and getting smaller. We have a powerful international voice - it's not going to help if that is diluted.
2. There's no certainty that you're all going to be richer if you leave. The debate has found holes in both arguments about this, and the truth is it's anyone's guess what will happen - as is the case with most economic debates. Yes, you might have a chance of being 'better-off' as a separate nation, but you might not - what's the point in risking it when things aren't so bad right now. Things may not be perfect, but we are all fairly well-off in the grand scheme of things - it's not like the UK is a war torn region or anything like that.
3. Nationalism is so passé. Why do you want to start putting new borders up when the obvious way forward for the world is to remove them? Why would we want to make the distinction between us and them/who's in and who's out, right here on our own doorstep? As a proud Englishman and an even prouder Brit, with Irish grandparents on one side and Jewish and English heritage on the other, I think I present the perfect example of why nationalism is really just a state of mind - And I'd venture I've got more in common with a writer from Inverness than a Mathematician from Sunbury on Thames, if you'll excuse the crude analogy. Nobody has ever doubted or denied the Scots right to be proud of their heritage, and no one ever will - and yet as an integral part of Great Britain, Scottish people have made a primary contribution to the UK as a whole. I want that to continue. You've made this country what it is today, why would you want to turn your back on it now?
4. We have far more in common with each other than we have with anyone else. There are so many other places where people live under the banner of one nation and yet they are apart. What we have is entirely harmonious by comparison.
5. Britain is arguably the oldest and most successful nation-state in history. We should all be pretty smug about how we have managed to keep this prosperous country together, despite our distinct constituent parts. Our national heroes come from all parts of the Union, and are all celebrated with equal gusto. We've survived two near catastrophic wars together and come through them stronger and healthier. As British people, we have made an enormous contribution to the world, in terms of science, philosophy and culture. These are our successes and together we will have more to celebrate in the future.
The main thrust of my fairly loose argument here is that the positives of sticking together far outweigh the negatives, in my opinion. Yes, Scotland and England (and Wales and Northern Ireland) may have had genuine conflicts in the past, but that was 100s of years ago and now all we have is healthy rivalry and banter, usually played out on the sports field - yet another thing we have in common. All in all this is hardly the grounds for a constitutional break-up, surely?
Of course, I'm not saying you shouldn't vote for independence if you really think it's for the best. Scotland, it's your decision. However, on behalf of a significant chunk of the English population, and with not a hint of an English public school accent, I want to say to you, genuinely, we don't want to you to leave the UK. The place just won't be the same without you.