I made the mistake of getting involved in a debate with a respected Scottish friend over independence today.
It's never nice to navigate such treacherous waters with a trusted acquaintance, however we both agreed it's important to debate the subject openly given the pending vote, and managed to remain calm and understanding of each other's views.
I'm more than happy to lay my cards out on the table clearly; I don't see myself as 'English' but as British, and as such I am a firm believer that we are stronger within the Union that has bound us together for centuries.
As an English dwelling British citizen, I accept that my perspective may be different to that of a Scot, and so set about researching our differences, and debating them openly with anyone who would engage in civil conversation.
The first perception that struck me on my journey of discovery was the level of ire a proportion of Scots lay at England's door, and more specifically the Palace of Westminster. Some appear to see our Houses of Parliament as a Den of evil intent, handing down laws and making decisions on a UK wide scale without any consideration for the feelings of the other regions within the union. Time and again the Nuclear Submarine Base at Faslane on the Gare Loch was brought up as such an example, but on further study I noted that even in the event of a YES vote the Scottish Parliament has not committed itself to the bases closure.
In addition to this 'use' of Scotland to harbour some of the UK's deadly weapons, the non reflective nature of the Tory lead Government in Westminster also causes some Scots to become riled. The majority of Scots did not vote Tory in the last election, yet the Conservatives have a UK wide control. It's worth remembering at this point that the majority of British people did not vote Tory at the last election either, and that this Government is a coalition. In addition, with devolution and a Scottish Parliament in place, decisions on policy and funding in education, health, agriculture, the environment, housing, law and order, tourism, sports and many others are already under the control of Scotland and its own elected house.
Whilst I accept that devolution has not provided Scotland with control over Foreign Policy, defence or immigration, these issues are continually becoming more centralised within European legislation, and Scottish Independence within the European Union would not see complete autonomy of these matters either.
The 'Theft' by the wider UK of funds gained from harvesting oil reserves in the North Sea around Scotland also seems to be a very big issue for some Scots. I noted a mood of Westminster shuffling off with this revenue and not giving Scotland their due proportion of the UK's overall funds. The Yes and No campaigns both declare that Scottish citizens would be better off financially by voting in their respective manner, however as I understand it these oil fields only have around 20 years of extraction left, and around two thirds of the reserve has already been removed.
It's also emerging that the future of the UK's oil and gas wealth in the longer term lays in the controversial use of fracking to extract reserves mainly in the South East and Northwest of England. With this in mind would Scotland not benefit from the Union when potential mineral wealth is shared with them from English sources?
There can be no argument that the Independence referendum is polarising the views of Scots and British alike. And the recent increase in support for the UK independence party (UKIP) across the Country is a concern to all with a moderate, harmonious intent. And even in Scotland UKIP scored a MEP triumph, showing how North of the border more extreme views are being vented in frustration and disillusionment at the current system. Whilst we have less than three months to wait until the independence vote is held, one wonders what will become of the Scottish political landscape in the event of a Yes or No vote, the aftermath is going to upset and antagonise a proportion of the Scottish population either way, and turbulent times could be ahead.
If you are asking for my opinion, an increased level of devolution (or devolution max) whilst remaining within the United Kingdom has got to be the most pragmatic option.
Whilst the SNP drive the 'YES' lobby forward, based on a raft of assumptions that they cannot guarantee their people in the event of independence, the Union provides mutual benefit for all its members in an increasingly globalised World.
Surely in such divisive, dangerous and uncertain times in unity we can face the challenges Europe and the wider globe meets us with stronger together?
I'm more than willing and ready to stand corrected, but I just can't get past the fact that so much of the yes debate has an underlying thread of Anti English Anti establishment running throughout it, and if Scotland does gain independence, how long before the same people who are so anti Westminster are equally disillusioned with their own government at Holyrood?
I'm not saying I'm right, it's just my perception.