2007 - 2020

Dear Scotland

I’m English, always have been, always will be. I’m European, always have been, always will be. I love the thought that I live in an island that has three countries, all different and all unique. I also totally sympathise with the desire of so many Scots to become independent, cut free from the inward-looking, self-serving and cruel politics of Westminster. Me too, mate, me too. But how can England gain independence from itself?

As you edge closer to independence think of us, trapped in a country which is somehow not ours anymore. All those who want to remain in the EU – and we are the majority – fell into a slough of despond when Boris Johnson’s government took over. Grief and depression hit us all. I wrote the article below for all those I stood beside in Dorset; for all those I marched with; for all those Scots, Welsh, Northern Irish and English people I met and embraced, and the Europeans who thanked us for campaigning.

I wrote it to remind us all of the love we discovered we had for the EU, a love that will give us the courage to carry on, to go on fighting for a future that is far better than any fall off a cliff with Boris and his cronies. And I wanted to share it with you. After all, this island belongs to all of us, no matter what borders there might be (although the one border I really want is a ‘Trump wall’ around Westminster and Downing Street!)

Who are we, now that Brexit has severed our links?

I belong to England, but that England is not the self-important, arrogant and ill-informed England of Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage, the European Research Group or Tommy Robinson and the English Defence League. It is not the England ‘owned’ by the rich, nor is it the England of those people who believe we are somehow exceptional, and superior. It is the England of little people getting on with their little lives.

It is the small green fields of my childhood, the trees full of wonder and the streams full of sticklebacks. It is the small farms with their milk-herds of 10 or 20 cows. It is the narrow lanes, domestic and wild animals, wild flowers and butterflies to be chased after and identified. It is the small communities where everyone knew everyone.

It was where I felt safe and at home. It is where, physically and mentally, I still want to live. And before Brexit fans laugh and point their fingers at me for ‘living in the past’, can I remind them of the man who was labelled as being ‘seconded from the 18th Century’ –Jacob Rees Mogg? The man who, on becoming Leader of the House of Commons, insisted “that all non-titled males are given the suffix Esq – short for Esquire – and says words including “ongoing” and “hopefully” are banned.” His pro-Brexit colleagues appear to want a return to the heady days of Empire, without a thought to the damage the UK wrought on other countries, or the resources we had plundered. Those countries aren’t going to come rushing back into our fold.

Being in the EU, being a citizen of the EU, simply made my safe home larger, much larger. It meant having the freedom, not to just roast on a beach, but to explore other countries’ lanes and villages, bistros and tavernas, the back alleys of French, Italian, Spanish and Greek towns. It meant finding other histories, other cultures and other languages. It meant being made welcome by people who, because they loved their country, wanted you to love it too. Above all, it meant belonging.

To the horror and shame of those English who wanted, and still want, to stay with the EU, Brexit is solely an English project, and it was the English who delivered the Brexit vote. Scotland voted to remain. Northern Ireland voted to remain. Wales voted to leave, and people thought it was the Welsh farmers who swung that one but no, Oxford University research showed that it was all those English retirees living in Wales who voted to leave.

Nor, according to Professor Danny Dorling, was it the north of England that made England vote leave. That was another false belief, he said.

“The real support for Brexit, in terms of numbers of votes, was in places like Cornwall, which was 57% for leave, Hampshire, with 54%, Essex with 62% and Norfolk with 57%. It is those southern English voters that are dragging Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland unwillingly out of Europe. Everyone blames Wigan and Stoke for Brexit but we should really be blaming Cornwall and Devon.”

Cornwall seems an odd one. The county may be beautiful and therefore full of holiday homes. It is also very poor, recognised as one of the poorest areas, not just in the UK, but in Europe as a whole. It has been supported by and received funding from the EU for years. You would think the Cornish would be grateful for that. But, like Wales, Cornwall is also full of English retirees (please note: the Cornish are definitely Cornish, not English).

As the chaos and the incompetence of the government became apparent, as vitally important issues and threats to our stability popped up that had not been considered, let alone tackled (Northern Ireland and the Peace Agreement come to mind), a number of English constituencies that voted leave changed their minds, West Dorset being one of them. Several polls showed that across the UK people wanting to remain were now in the majority. They still are. Despite the Tories winning so many seats in last December’s election (due to the first-past-the-post system), the majority of actual votes were given to Remain-leaning parties.

Like so many other groups, West Dorset for the EU (WD4EU) campaigned tirelessly for a People’s Vote. If we couldn’t have a second, better-informed referendum, the public should at least have a Final Say on whatever agreement was negotiated. That seemed sensible, as people changed their minds and more young people became old enough to vote – on their future, which doesn’t look quite so good now.

With street stalls, leafleting and the ‘Brexitometer’ gathering the public’s opinions, we were endlessly patient and respectful as we listened to Leavers lecturing us on ‘sovereignty’, the awfulness of the EU, and the wonders of Britain (for which, read England) going it alone.

We had some good, friendly and thoughtful conversations with Leave voters, but too many times we were deluged by ‘facts’ that weren’t facts, false figures, beliefs built on ‘something I heard’, or got shouted at for saying we were European as well as English. Despite explaining that the 2016 referendum was an ‘advisory’ referendum, that people were changing their minds, that there were many young people demanding a say in their future, that in a democracy the people should have the right to vote on whatever deal was negotiated, time and again we were told, “We’ve had the referendum.”

End of any discussion. But one well-spoken lady got it horribly wrong. “Just remember,” she said to me, “17.4 billion people voted to leave!”

“Er… I think you mean million,” I said. “No, billion!” she said. “No”, said my colleagues, “it was 17.4 million.” And she lost the plot, and marched off through the Saturday shoppers, shouting “Billion, billion, billion!” How does one even begin to connect with a mind so steadfastly wed to a wrong number?

But we also met people who had changed their minds; Europeans in tears because they no longer felt welcome here; EU citizens trying to cope with Leavers’ verbal abuse; visiting Europeans who promised to take back home the message that so many of us did not want to leave. We had conversations about how to reform our own political system. We had laughter and funny stories. And we had a lot of support.

Then we had another election… and I lost the plot.

I received an email about a petition to the president of the EU, saying ‘Sorry to leave the EU.’ The anger that had been bubbling inside me for so long boiled over and I emailed back:

“Sorry” isn’t the word I’d use – not after street campaigning for over 3 years, watching ‘Brexit’ voters change their minds, listening to rubbish from other Brexit supporters while maintaining politeness, listening to their reasons for wanting to leave when NONE of them wanted to know why I and my colleagues wanted to remain, listening to an intelligent, well-educated 15 year-old schoolboy telling me ‘we survived the war’. What does he know about ‘the war’? What does his father know about it? I’m just about old enough to remember the ration cards, the clothing coupons, the Anderson shelter my grandfather built in our garden, the Home Guard gas mask hanging among the coats in the hall (fondly known as the ‘google-eyed bugger with the tit’, although it was years before I understood that). I’m angry at some lousy, ignorant and self-important politicians, despairing about what it is going to do to the island of Britain, and dreading the results.

But all the campaigning we did was done out of love for the EU, love for our fellow EU citizens, love for our own country. Because of that love we will carry on promoting the EU and the UK’s need to be connected to it. That love is still there. So I asked WD4EU folk what they loved about the EU. Here was one ‘political’ answer:

As the world becomes more interconnected it is even more important that we have a democratic body working across many different countries to tackle the big global challenges we all face. 

Another had this simple message:

I will always miss and love EU.

Thank you for all that you’ve given us.

We still love being European.

A somewhat longer answer was this:

I love Europe. I love the diverse cultures, from ancient Rome, to tidy Luxembourg, from Hungary steeped in Germanic culture, to Holland seen from its lakes and canals. I love the people who endured, fought and survived a terrible political regime, the old storytellers, most now long gone, of unimaginable bravery hiding and helping people including our own nationals. Most of all I love those people who had the foresight and vision to launch a United Europe to keep peace. I love that Europe, it breaks my heart to be forced apart and although I won’t see our return to its vision, I hope my grandchild will.

Another one quoting peace as the reason said:

Thank EU for being such a champion of European peace and democracy, and a symbol we have so much more in common than ever divides us.

Two people had a whole list of things they loved about the EU. Among them was this gem:

We love…

The EU funds which encourage joint working and sharing on common problems including nature conservation, such as the LIFE programme which has helped fund conservation of the Dorset Heaths. And the EU structural funds which through the LEADER programme encourage local responses to tackle pockets of disadvantage and discrimination throughout the UK including here in Dorset.  Examples from the FLAG programme: the only fisherman in Kimmeridge got 80% of the cost of upgrading his boat, the sea food festivals in Weymouth and Lyme Regis and provision of huts for fishermen’s gear in Lulworth Cove. Would our own Government ever think of adopting such a detailed approach?

Well, no. And facts and details are certainly what have been missing from the Prime Minister and his Cabinet, when they issue statements about the way ahead. The lack of good governance, the lies and false claims, the feeling that all that Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and the ERG wanted was to leave the EU, with no idea of what should really happen after that goal was achieved, has bitterly divided the country. Johnson’s promise to ‘bring the country together’ was a false one. The ‘red lines’ being set by him are there to please the hard-line, no-deal Brexiteers. The rest of us can go hang.

We know that the EU is in need of reform, and many of us hoped to be part of that reformation. And we won’t stop loving the EU. We are grateful for the peace it has brought us after centuries of war and conflict. We are grateful for the protections we had for our workers, our environment, and our society. We are grateful that the largest trading block in the world could think small when it came to the little people and their needs. We won’t stop looking forward to a time when we may find our way back. But right now, we are frightened of what might happen, and despairing over what has.

And as one West Dorset person put it:

‘Dear EU, I am heartbroken to be leaving you.’

Comments (33)

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  1. Lorna Campbell says:

    At last, a truthful post about what actually happened. Thank you, Lesley Docksey. I think, if anyone would ever admit it, that our independence vote was also scuppered by rUK people in Scotland. I’m not claiming that the Scots themselves did not vote NO in huge numbers, because they patently did, but 75% (more or less) of all rUK residents in Scotland voted NO, taking the NO vote well over the line in 2014. For some reason, it is heresy here in Scotland to say that, regardless of what the research shows. I am afraid that the truth is that English people, in the main, and overall, voted for both staying in the UK, tying Scotland to the UK when Brexit came along, and for Brexit itself. It must also be remembered that two-thirds of previous NO voters went on to vote Leave, with one-third having been previous YES voters. I have English relatives and my heart bleeds for them and you all who did not want this. Those who voted for Brexit were not all stupid and racist either, I think. Many of them, in the Midlands and North, and in other areas, have seen their communities devastated by austerity and industrial carnage. Where there was stupidity, it lay in believing that all this was the fault of the EU, and of migrants, when so much could have been alleviated, and still can be, by their own government. It is hard for us to accept that the Tories and Labour colluded to ruin the UK, but they did, and only the few have benefited from that carnage, to grow richer and less ‘social consensus-minded’. The real irony lies in the fact that, had EU residents been given the vote in 2016, we would all still be in the EU, had lies not been told about Scotland having to leave the EU on independence, those EU residents in Scotland would not have voted, by a small majority, to remain with the UK, and we might have made it 50%+1. You are right, LD, Brexit was an English matter, but, I fear, so was, to an extent, that NO vote to independence. We have yet to acknowledge that fact. You, at least, have the courage and searing honesty to tell the truth. We are still deluding ourselves about ‘mass persuasion’ of No voters, both Scots and rUK, who are ‘unpersuadable’. We need an avalanche, not a trickle, to win another indyref.

    I will be sending a donation in the next day or so, Mr Small – a small one, as finances dictate, but I do appreciate Bella Caledonia’s perspectives. Thank you.

    1. Stranraer Observer says:

      Where’s the evidence for your claim that 75% of people not born in Scotland voted No in the referendum? Did someone ask them all?

      1. Lorna Campbell says:

        You have heard of psephology, SO? How do you think all studies and polls are done? Have you read LD’s piece? Do you think that she went round asking all Brexiteers if they voted Leave? Samples are taken and extrapolations are made, and, you know what, they are generally fairly accurate. Studies were done after the indyref that showed that around 75% of rUK voters voted NO. Do you have alternative figures? If so, how did you get yours? You might not wish to believe it, but there you are. Why don’t you ask: if you are right, why did they do that? No, like almost every other person faced with that truth, you are aggressive. Why? Why aren’t rUK voters shouting it from the rooftops and telling all in sundry that they are proud to have helped to scupper Scottish independence? Perhaps I also made up the English Tory woman who suggested that the Borders should be hived off to England as so many English people live there? I fully appreciate that there are rUK voters who support independence: I have marched with them. How does that change the fact that most rUK voters in Scotland in 2014 voted NO? Am I denying that around 48% of born-Scots voted NO? Of course not. Why would I when that is what happened? My point is that, unless we acknowledge the truth of this and find some way to circumvent that No vote, legally, peacefully and democratically, both Scottish Unionist and rUK, then we may as well pack up now because the numbers that require to be ‘persuaded’ is in the hundreds of thousands, not just a few thousand.

        1. Stranraer Observer says:

          It’s not enough to say “studies were done” though, is it? I’ve been googling the subject and I can’t find anything about how non-Scottish natives voted in the referendum. If you can point me in the right direction I’d be grateful.

          1. Lorna Campbell says:

            SO: try googling academic studies of the 2014 referendum. In there, you should be directed to the Edinburgh University Study, the Glasgow University Study, etc. The demographics point to the rUK NO vote being larger, per capita, than the Scottish Unionist NO vote. You may well disagree with that or think it’s irrelevant, but, patently it is not, and LD’s piece shows why it is not. Of course, Scotland’s independence referendum was not deemed to be as important as Brexit and the demographics there, but the trend was evident in 2014. Basically, and not to put it too crudely, English people in England voted, by a majority, in 2016, to have Brexit; English people living in Wales helped to take the vote for Brexit well over the line and, in Scotland, in 2014, the rUK vote also helped Scottish Unionists (who voted some 47.3% NO – less than 50%, you will agree?) to scupper independence, and, thereafter, as a direct result, to tie us into Brexit, too. Ergo, in three parts of the UK, English people either voted directly for Brexit or were instrumental in foisting it on the rest of us, as well as, in Scotland, helping to thwart our independence. I’m sorry if that upsets you, but there it is, and it shows the trend that is emerging. I think we have a right, and I hope you would agree, to rectify matters. In Scotland, that must be independence; in Wales, that may yet become the preferred option, too, if Plaid Cymru and the Welsh media are anything by which to judge; and, in NI, if Sinn Fein manage to take the Irish elections, or even form a coalition government, we will see a turning point in Eire-NI relations, but also in Eire’s relations with the UK, via NI. A number of ‘ifs’ there, I think that England had better prepare, longer term, for a solo Brexit aftermath.

          2. Stranraer Observer says:

            It doesn’t upset me at all! I shall check out the studies you recommend. Thanks.

          3. Stranraer Observer says:

            Fair play to you, Lorna. Humble pie now served up and eaten.

            A breakdown of voting patterns, on a sample of 5000, suggests that not only people born outside of Scotland shouldn’t vote, neither should women! Sorry about that.

            Here’s a list for everyone to ponder:

            ANNUAL INCOME

            £0 – £19,999 AYE 53.2% NO 46.8%
            £20k – £29,999 AYE 43.5% NO 56.5%
            £30k – £44,999 AYE 49.8% NO 50.2%
            £45K+ AYE 50.5% NO 49.5%

            AGE

            16-19 AYE 45.7% NO 54.3%
            20- 24 AYE 45.9% NO 54.1%
            25-29 AYE 62.2% NO 37.8%
            30-39 AYE 55.2% NO 44.8%
            40-49 AYE 52.9% NO 47.1%
            50-59 AYE 47.7% NO 52.3%
            60 -69 AYE 40.5% NO 59.5%
            70+ AYE 32.9% NO 67.1%

            EDUCATION

            With degree AYE 48.3% NO 51.7%
            No degree AYE 47.8% NO 52.2%

            BIRTHPLACE

            Scotland AYE 50.2% NO 49.8%
            Other UK AYE 29.8% NO 70.1%
            Elsewhere AYE 43.2% NO 56.8%

            RELIGIOUS AFFILIATION

            Protestant AYE 39.9% NO 61.1%
            Catholic AYE 57.7% NO 42.3%
            None AYE 52.1% NO 47.9%
            Other AYE 52.5% NO 47.5%

            GENDER

            Male AYE 52.7% NO 47.8%
            Female AYE 43.4% NO 56.6%

            So the biggest target demographic groups appear to be women, the old and the young, earning between £20k and £30k, not born in Scotland, Protestant and without a degree.

          4. SleepingDog says:

            @Stranraer Observer, these are worthless assertions without (and maybe with) a link to the methodology and detailed descriptions of assumptions necessarily made. Maybe it was monarchists who are proud rather than ashamed of British imperial history/mythology who voted most consistently No. But if the questions did not ask about royalist views, the survey will not have picked up on that, possibly most decisive, aspect. There are often simple blunders in such statistical guesswork (published psychological research has a history of major statistical incompetence, for example, and this was a point emphatically made by my psychology lecturers).

          5. Stranraer Observer says:

            I take your point, but all studies are flawed in some way and this one was the Scottish Referendum Survey, which I’d expect to have taken possible skew factors into account. Short of going into the booths with everyone who votes we’ll never know for sure.

            I’ve not made any assertions here. These are the results of what amounts to a more-than-usually-informative exit poll. Among every category there will be hundreds or thousands of exceptions. If anyone is interested I’m an English born atheist male, aged 63, have a degree, oppose the monarchy and would like all Scotland’s grouse moors to be nationalised, and am 100% for independence. I’m also a vegan, a hippie, have a beard and support Stranraer FC. The surveyors never asked what team voters follow but perhaps they didn’t think it relevant.

        2. allan Irving thompson says:

          So your answer to the independence and Brexit votes is NOT to be inclusive and welcoming as SNP would like to make out they are !
          English people should only be allowed in to Scotland to live but have NO say ?
          Is your exclusiveness, inclusive of Europeans ?

    2. allan Irving thompson says:

      “Tories and Labour colluded to ruin the UK, but they did, and only the few have benefited from that carnage”
      That’s quite an assertion to make so it would be helpful if you show how this was done and who were the few who benefitted from the “carnage” you mention ?

    3. S mitchell says:

      I live in Scotland and have only met 3 people who voted to leave and I am not one on them.

  2. Richard says:

    Lesley – firstly, thank you for this honest and sincere essay. I found it moving.

    A Nation, I’ve heard it say, is the largest entity you can apply the plural personal pronoun (“we”) to. Because of you and people like you, I could easily maintain that feeling about the United Kingdom in my mind. On that basis, I’ve rejected Scottish Nationalism all of my life as an insular, divisive, weakening project.

    London’s contempt for the Regions has always made this partly a work of self deception. The effect of Brexit has been to make that self deception so much harder to maintain. Of course there are still ordinary, good people like you – possibly, the majority are. But the centre of gravity in this country has shifted so far now. Capitilism is good, but Brexit capitalism is the extreme form of it that only Britain and America are infected by. Nationalism is good, but Brexit nationalism is the extreme form that was the driving force of at least two world engulfing European wars.

    Scotland has a different conception of society, one that is based on fairness, a concern for others, a healthy skepticism toward deference. That conception hasn’t found its voice in SNP – we have significant economic challenges, and ageing and sick population, and a widening education crisis. But that doesn’t mean that a voice can’t be found, or that a thriving economy and society can’t be made: as oil declines everywhere, our possession of 25% of Europe’s wind and 10% of her wave potential have the capacity to make us relatively wealthy in physical terms, as London bases its economy more on manufacturing and laundering the world’s virtual wealth tokens.

    So I’m listening carefully now to all arguments, and working out for myself how I feel about the complex question of what my “Nation” is. All I can say for now is two things: there is not a clear answer where, before Brexit, there was; and that people like you do more than any politician can to make the case for a United Kingdom.

    One thing I do know: there will always be friendship across whatever border there will be.

  3. Alasdair Macdonald says:

    Lesley I should like to endorse the sincere thanks offered by Lorna and Richard.

    I agree with the thrust of your piece, although there are aspects with which I would quibble and I welcome this expression of the humane Englishness that exists, has existed for centuries and will, I expect, continue to exist. This humane and noble Englishness has been conflated with the British myth of Rule Britannia, this sceptr’d isle, bulldog breed, etc. etc with the result that so many people consider England/Britain to be synonymous terms and feel a genuine puzzlement that many Irish, Scottish and Welsh people, even unionists in these countries, have a sense of what being Irish, Scottish or Welsh is. They have that sense of national identity, even though many are also proud to be British. Despite the disparagingly contemptuous dismissal of this as ‘identity politics’, the accusers fail to see that they are identifying themselves as ‘British’, but perceive this to be ‘good’, as opposed to the ‘bad’ ‘nationalism’ of those who say they are Irish, Scots, or Welsh.

    I agree that the majority of those who voted Leave voted for reasons that they believed in and, indeed, had validity. Although I voted Remain and would do so again to regain my European citizenship, I am not blind to the downsides of the EU and the particular economic model which is hegemonic. Mendacious though much of the arguments presented by the Leave proponents were (and a fair amount of the Remain arguments were specious, too), I think many people in the whole UK are much more aware of the nuances of the situation and the nascent consciousness of an ‘England that is not Britain’ is something that has emerged. Sadly, some of this is xenophobic and jingoistic as can be seen by reading many of the nasty comments directed at Scots (as I am) on for example, BBC ‘Have Your Say’ threads. But some of it, like Lesley’s articles and many that have appeared on sites like Open Democracy, indicated an articulation of a healthy Englishness.

    So, here’s to you, Lesley and to the many like you. There are far more things about England that I enjoy and value than I find unpleasant and even as a citizen of an independent Scotland I would continue to look forward to visiting family and friends in England. We have some pretty nasty elements in Scotland, too – that is my Calvinist guilt speaking!!!

  4. Michael Edwards says:

    “But how can England gain independence from itself?” – I agree that this is the fundament question for these islands.

    I’m not sure what the situation was before Henry the 8th declared himself god’s representative and owner of all English land and it’s people (subjects!). But this total centralisation and ownership did not happen (officially at least) in Scotland or Ireland and quietly and often unnoticed this difference is our guardian.

    English subjects have been so disconnected from their land and so thoroughly colonized internally for such a longtime that it is no wonder there is a well spring of anger and resentment within many across the border – even today we hear comments from the English rugby team that ‘we hate them and they hate us’ as well as the use if words like ‘war’ and ‘brutality’ to describe the upcoming encounter between Scotland and England in tomorrow’s Culcutta Cup.

    The elites are so adept at using this rage to divide and conquer both the British Isles and the colonies.

    It is going to be very difficult for us in Scotland unless those in English embark on a journey home to make peace with themselves.

    It is no small struggle though to go up against the aligned interests of The City of London, the British press, landowners and GCHQ.

    Look at what happened to Jeremy Corbyn! A life long human rights campaigner thrust into the leadership role of the shadow government by sheer popular will. Whole town centre’s filled up with people to support him during his first election campaign. However, his own parliamentary party was so set on self destruction and falling in with British elite interests, rather allowing him to enact modest structural reform of the financial and social welfare systems, that he was crushed. No modern British leader I can think of was so popular and went up against such odds and managed to last so long. And yet, the media progressively turned him into an antisemite, unlikeable, useless leader. It’s absolutely 1984 on steroids. This is the process that we all are subjected to year on year.

    Having given our children over for generations to the conditioning processes of the elites in their schools and universities, where do we even start the process of decentralisation and rehumanisation that we so desperately need?

    Having said all this, it does infuriate me that articles like the one above resort to so much emotional rhetoric – “we love you”, ” I’ll miss you” etc. It’s total nonsense and lands with me like emotional blackmail.

    Brexit is not making me anymore distant or emotionally remote from my French and Irish family. The EU is not the diverse people, land or culture of Europe. The Europe Union is a set of political and financial institutions that have a record of bullying its constituent nation states – the ECB is no better than the City of London.

    As a Scottish independence supporter I for one certainly would not want to see Scotland join the EU and particularly not the Euro Zone.

    I would very much welcome a sober and informed discussion about Brexit on Bella, rather that the emotional uninformative rhetoric that too often fills these pages.

    1. Alasdair Macdonald says:

      “But how can England gain independence from itself?” – I think this is a key question and it is essentially one of mindset. More than the others an idea of ‘England’ has been subsumed into a myth of ‘Britain’. This has been done wilfully over several centuries, so that many English people see England and Britain as synonyms. Anthony Barnett and others, mainly on the Open Democracy Website have tried to provide an awareness that there is a difference and to try to articulate a concept of England and Englishness.

      Undoubtedly, Brexit has let several genies out of a bottle. There are xenophobic England genies and there are more peaceful, humane England genies. There are grounds for optimism and concern in these.

      While the Tories like to wrap themselves in the Union Flag and sing ‘Land of Hope and Glory’, theirBritain/England is an exclusive one which is only for the narrow, wealthy clique, who shunt funds offshore, have residences overseas and passports for several countries. Their loyalty is to themselves and the maintenance of their privileges. They are, indeed, a ‘parcel o’rogues’. The Labour Party is the party of Britain, although it likes to present itself as internationalist and promoters of a union that is an expression of solidarity. However, it has become a British nationalist party, which unself-aware exemplifies the features of ‘nationalism’ which they attribute to those of us who seek Scottish, Welsh, Irish independence. MrCorbyn despite his sincere internationalism and support for countries to be able to determine their own destinies, could not really understand, that Scotland and Wales were not England/Britain. He recognised that Ireland was. While a large group in his own party undermined him, the relentless media bile poured on him from the moment he became leader was more vicious than anything Messrs, Brown, Blair, Smith, Kinnock, Foot, Benn, Callaghan, Wilson, Gaitskill, Bevan, Bevin, etc ever suffered and they all received pretty nasty obloquy.

      1. Michael says:

        Just to address Corbyn’s position on Scotland. I think it’s very hard to say what his heartfelt position on Scottish independence is. However, given the crude framing of him as a traitor to the British state by the MSM – IRA/Hezbola sympathisers, antisemite etc – it would have been political suicide for him to show any sympathy to the Scottish independence cause. My guess is that he is essential pro democracy and would have supported Scots having a choice. But we will never really know.

  5. Topher Dawson says:

    Thanks Lesley for this, it makes me sad for all the decent people in England who know they have lost something precious. In Scotland we are heading for a different future which obviously contains some big unknowns but whatever it is, the people who live in Scotland will be making the decisions.

    I don’t like hearing people blaming ethnic English people living in Scotland for the way votes have gone, both Indy and EU. When those English people moved to Scotland they were moving to another part of the UK. Nobody told them they were moving over an international border, and indeed they were not. I can see that it is a jolt for them to realise Scotland is close to dissolving the union.

    The SNP rightly have made the point that they represent civic nationalism, not ethnic nationalism. In other words anyone who lives in Scotland is Scots in a civic sense, wherever they were born, and welcome.

    When we have the next Independence vote it is for all registered voters to decide, wherever they were born. Fortunately many of my friends who are English born and raised, have come to see that Independence is the best prospect for Scotland and are campaigning for it.

    It is depressing that England has has a far right coup; I hope that when Ireland votes to re-unify and Scotland votes for Independence, the English people and Parliament can work out what it means to be a middle sized European country without an empire, and stop being so delusional about world power.

    1. Lorna Campbell says:

      “…When those English people moved to Scotland they were moving to another part of the UK. Nobody told them they were moving over an international border, and indeed they were not. I can see that it is a jolt for them to realise Scotland is close to dissolving the union…”

      TS: many of those rUK or English voters will have moved to Scotland after 2007. They must have known that they were moving to a part of the UK that was governed by the SNP and that independence was on the agenda. All those who voted NO, and who had been in Scotland well before 2007, must have seen the sea-change coming. No, they knew they were living in a part of the UK that was not England. When I discovered that so many had voted NO, I was upset and, yes, angry, with both them and Scottish Unionists and EU residents and others, all of who scuppered a perfectly legal and peaceful aspiration. Everyone has a vote and a right to exercise that vote. However, no one has the right to exercise his or her vote in a way that causes pain, misery and hurt to others who have opened their door to them, no one has the right to inflict enforced imprisonment within the Union on anyone. International law positively re-inforces the right of self-determination and basic human rights to follow one’s own path. People not stopping to think about what they are voting for, and its consequences, or for voting in a selfish and petty knee-jerk reactive way, have caused harm everywhere. I believe that rUK voters knew perfectly well what they voted against when they voted NO in 2014, as Tory voters know perfectly well that their votes help to sustain and maintain a status quo of economic division that can only be detrimental to society as a whole. I do hope enough of your English friends now see that independence could be good for them as well as us, because, frankly, if they vote as they did in 2014 and help the Scottish Unionists over the line again – if there ever is another indyref, that is, which I am inclined to doubt – we are buggered good and proper. What LD’s piece has thrown up, but which no one appears to wish to engage, is that English people in England, Wales and Scotland have ensured that the satellite parts remain tied to the Union and to Brexit. A sobering thought for those with the understanding to appreciate what that means. As you say, England was once a bastion of liberalism and decency, but I fear much of it no longer is or wants to be, despite the heartfelt insights of LD, and it will be no easy task undoing the harm that has been done to all of us on the British Isles we all share.

      1. Susan Macdiarmid says:

        Lorna, I’ve been reading this article and the comments with much interest. I understand your anger; I felt the same in 2014, sat in a cafe in Glasgow on the morning of 19th September, so grief stricken I was damn near suicidal. A couple of days later I discovered that a friend, an elderly person originally from Essex, had voted No on the basis of a fuzzy idea that ‘things were not too bad really so why change?’ A last minute whim, which he already regretted. I wanted to kill him. He is alive and a definite yes next time. Perhaps he is not alone.
        The thing is, as you said, we all have a vote and the right to use it, but we can’t control or coerce those we disagree with or prevent them from voting; not unless we want to live in a dictatorship or a fascist state. The only way is to keep calm, keep talking and convert those who are willing to listen to reason.
        Knowing the demographics of voting patterns may help in targeting those we need to reach but it does not help anyone to use the data to target our anger.

  6. Arboreal Agenda says:

    Thanks you for the article Lesley. It resonated with me a lot as an English remainer and always conscious and opposed to that nasty side of the English mentality (put simply), its colonial arrogant mindset and all the rest of it. It is well worth saying that many millions of English people are not like that (and can be seen down through history – colonialism was opposed all along by some, even by the likes of Samuel Johnson who regarded it as iniquitous and immoral), and we should keep standing up and saying so and reclaim our country. There will be no giving up or leaving from me. Scotland has hundreds of years in the bank as an independent country and there is no need for any new era of this to signal some massive severance and upset (which would be a practical impossibility anyway). It has go to the point where political separation would probably improve relations and needed co-operation. I sometimes think the Scottish nationalist cause would do better to emphasise that rather than focussing so much on how awful the Union is, since apart from anything else, that might actually stand more chance of winning the waiverers and mild ‘Britnats’ over (though I suspect that idea will be scoffed at here).

    One point that does frustrate though: you talk of ‘the love we discovered we had for the EU’ but the trouble is this discovered ‘love’ came too late. Where was it during the referendum campaign? Not very obvious – it was mostly project fear (a term somewhat ironically borrowed by Brexiteers from the Yes campaign in Scotland from 2014) rather than ‘look how great the EU is’. There was very little vision – that was all from the other side, specious as it was: ‘freedom!’, ‘opportunity!’ etc. What there was also, was endless scoffing and worse at those who wanted Brexit as if that was going to change their minds. It had the opposite effect: the English can be very belligerent and pig headed when attacked and so people dug their heels in.

    Even more to the point where were all these EU lovers in the 2014 EU elections? Who got the most UK seats? UKIP did at 24 (Labour, 20, Tory 19) even Scotland and Wales elected a UKIP member. This happened not because UKIP were massively popular but because only 35% of voters turned out but clearly most of those that did were motivated to do so as anti-EU (and UKIP knew this and played a very clever game in getting all those seats), so we ended up with the UK being represented by a party who not only wanted out but would happily see the EU’s destruction too, resulting in the daily, embarrassing spectacle of the godawful Farage and his henchman acting simply as wreckers. And this set the agenda and tone for the next years and we know what happened next. It needn’t have been like that – where were the EU lovers in 2014?

    1. Lorna Campbell says:

      You make excellent points, AA. I often wonder what the Union might have been like had England not hi-jacked it in 1707. It could have worked and worked well. I actually think it would have led to a real federalism that gave equality to all four parts, with all four being represented on the international scene. That is the Union that should have been and for which the Treaty was signed. That Union never materialized because it was in England’s interest right from day one to subvert it for its own ends, and it was in the interest of Scottish collaborators to force their compatriots into compliance with a false Union that bears no relation to that agreed in the Treaty Articles. I do not believe it is at all possible for that Union to ever become a reality and the Scots will either take their independence somehow or we will be enveloped forever in a Greater England. I don’t want to bleat that it’s all England’s fault, because, of course, it isn’t at all. We Scots have much with which to berate ourselves. Acquiescence has been our bane when challenge would have been smarter because the British (English) Constitution is built on sand.

      1. Arboreal Agenda says:

        Interesting speculation Lorna. I bow to your knowledge of the Treaty and what became of it but on a basic level, England’s rulers down the centuries have not exactly been the sorts not to exploit a situation for their own ends (money and power), nor to simply tear up agreements at the drop of a hat. Cleary England had the power and still does, not least due to size and wealth and so it would have taken a much more benign approach for a truly federal Britain to emerge and I suspect that was never going to happen. All those years of wars too didn’t make for much trust either (on either side – both nations have had a justified reputation for warlike ferocity), nor the problem of England’s enemies (e.g France) being Scotland’s friends (French soldiers fighting against the English in Scotland for example). All this is still being played out today in its own way. Countries make their own beds which have resonances for centuries. The huge recent surge for Scottish independence can quite clearly be put at the door of arrogant English politicians as much as anything, a cause of much frustration for me, but it isn’t anything really new when you look at history.

        I recently read a major history of the Border reivers which was both fascinating and disturbing and it surprised me just how mercenary both English and Scots could be when it suited them and I wonder if that duplicitousness is also still part of a certain mentality amongst some in Scotland. I also visited the Borders last summer and felt this kind of weird sense there – so quiet now but the ghost of all that violence hanging in the air somehow – Hermitage Castle – what a fantastic doomy place that is!

        Much as it might seem galling, the Scottish electorate could take a leaf out of the English Brexiters book and stick to their guns (not literally I hope) and refuse to listen to Project Fear (again), dig in their heels and as you say, demand, if not ‘take’ independence somehow. I won’t personally rejoice exactly if that happens but I would certainly hope that when the dust settled we’d all be better off for it. There is no doubt the current status quo is a kind of torture which must be felt very deeply in Scotland – how long can this limbo carry on? It must be very damaging to Scotland since it is so hard to move on. Unionists would say, well if the Nationalist just forgot it then we could couldn’t we? But with the country so evenly split on independence, with yet another hard right Tory PM who hardly represents Scotland at all, Brexit with only a minority support, and SNP still riding high in all elections, that is hardly going to happen (I wonder how many soft Unionists vote SNP?). It’s a gargantuan mess.

        Funny thing is, though there are important cultural differences (quite marked at the moment), the English and Scots are actually pretty similar people in my experience which is why we mostly get on, enjoy the banter etc but can also get riled at the other. I don’t think that will ever change (I certainly hope not) and I for one would always extend the hand of friendship to my Scottish neighbours and enjoy the banter over a pint o’ heavy. Given Scottish independence, would we become ‘foreigners’ to each other? Technically, yes . . . I suppose.

    2. Lesley Docksey says:

      First – I have to say thank you to all those who read and liked what I had written!
      The ‘love’ question – yes, for most of us it was a slow discovery, finding out how many links we all had with Europe and the EU (of course a lot of Brexit people have those links, but don’t seem to recognise them for what they are). Would we have done any better, campaigning to stay in the EU by emphasising our love for Europe? I doubt it. Hard Brexit fans would claim the ONLY country we should feel love for should be Britain. Note: not the UK, but Britain. But Britain is an island, not a nation.
      I also think that we started to acknowledge the love (accompanied by growing fear and despair) because of facing the hate, anger and bile of many Leavers. It was not nice, discovering the very high level of all the xenophobia and racism that had been hiding in a multi-cultural society. Still, our hope lies on the fact that Remainers are in the majority, and the more mistakes Johnson’s dictatorship makes, the more that majority will grow. What we in our separate parts of the UK all do with it remains to be seen, but do something we must.
      But why did people vote to Leave anyway? First, the EU was always blamed for what our government got wrong. And here ‘s one idiotic reason – because Cameron was ‘leading’ the Remain campaign, people thought that, by voting for Brexit, they were voting against the Tories! And here’s something one of our West Dorset people discovered. Some people were supporting No Deal because they thought it meant staying in the EU. People in england are not so politically informed as those in Scotland!
      As for this thing of England being Britain, I think it goes back to medieval times and something called ‘The Matter of Britain’, a collection of myths, legends and stories mostly based on or related to King Arthur, and a lot of that written by the Welsh! But the English court loved it and took ownership, and as Arthur was seen as the king of Britain, so Britain was seen as England. But hang on a minute – the physical Arthur lived in the 5th century and there was no England then. It really wouldn’t surprise me if that very poor historian Jacob Rees Mogg (his book on the Victorians got slaughtered by the reviewers) starts to claim that the Neolithics were English. He did a hilarious election campaign video standing by the Stanton Drew stones, so he’s halfway there. See https://www.facebook.com/JacobReesMogg/videos/1254081854780009/
      I truly cannot understand why people have to ‘own’ things, apart from self-importance, of course!
      I hope Scotland gets what it wants regarding independant governance and the EU. I have the same hope for Wales and Northern Ireland. And goodness knows, i want some way forward for England. As it is at this moment, it is a danger to all of us in the islands of Britain and Ireland.

      1. Arboreal Agenda says:

        It would be worth doing more research into the terms Britain, Briton, British etc and avoid stuff about mythical Kings.

        I don’t know what you are referring to specifically but the Welsh are indeed what one might call truly British: historians use the term British for all the peoples on this island before the arrival of the Anglo-Saxons and the rest, sometimes called the Romano-British. The Romano-British are the ‘Celts’ (a colloquially term, and not a clearly distinct group in fact but it has some meaning still), now mostly confined to Wales and Ireland but with DNA still very prevalent in West Yorkshire (where the last Romano-British stronghold survived, under King Gwalog, sometime after the arrival of the Angles), the Western Isles, and Devon and Cornwall. On the whole, the genetic make-up of most of England and Scotland is the same and dominated by post-British genes (Anglo-Saxon, Norman etc). This was confirmed by an extensive DNA survey a few years ago.

        What Britain is, as a political place / space, in relation to England has been in dispute from the middle ages but of course Great Britain is a geographical term distinguishing it from Brittany (Little Britain). But it is amusing to read mediaeval writing from just after the Norman invasion, bemoaning the foreigners taking over the land, saying all is over and the true Englishman will never exist again.

        My point is that there is a big difference between the political concept of British and the idea that as livers on these islands we are all Britons and ironically, those with ‘Celtic’ blood are more British than the English.

        As for the possible message that might have been pushed in 2016, I think it would have made all the difference. Voters like vision and hope, and wont be swayed to vote for something that is simply presented as the least worst option and that anyone saying anything else is a moron, which is basically what the Remain campaign was about. It was complacent, patronising and lazy. The upsurge in racism after Brexit came as zero surprise to me: anyone who was brought up in London’s East End in the 70s remembers all to well how popular the National Front were (and that blatant racism in England goes underground for long periods then re-appears when the conditions are right), and though we love to have rose-tinted spectacles about the 1960s, even a casual look at social attitudes then show racist thinking was totally normalised (nothing special about England in that respect though – it was pretty much all over the West).

        1. Lesley Docksey says:

          Thanks for the lecture. Been studying this whole thing since 1960.
          I’m British, not a Briton, and very aware of all the mixed DNA in my blood (and everyone else’s)
          My comment on the link between Arthurian romances and the English ‘owning’ of Britain was short and hopefully sweet because I didn’t want to deliver a lecture on a large and complicated subject.

  7. Clive Green says:

    You talk rubbish we got milked in the eu and paid that bunch of money grabbing parasytes trillions stay with the eu and become another state no thanks come on boris get away preferably without an eu deal

  8. Gordon Grant Benton says:

    A most enjoyable half hour read – both the Author’s article and the letters. The cultures, histories, economics and past and recent elections and referendums have been thoroughly ventilated; lessons hopefully learned.
    But the elephant in the room today and tomorrow is the process of ‘assimilation’ – in this case from across the Border. Call it what you like, but the movement of peoples has happened all over the World, clearly for eons of time. In recent times, we can contemplate the fate of the Amerindians, Inuit, Amazonian forest people, and the Aborigine, Maori, Ainu, Shan indigenous peoples – everywhere it seems their time in history is, if not over, at least, critically subsumed by others. Much of this process has happened through war and invasion; some, not too many, have achieved the same result through a process of osmosis – by gradual absorption and assimilation. Scotland, a Nation barely 1,200 years old, has been before and since osmotically (if you like) populated by too many peoples to count, and the process goes on – nationals from every one of the 197 countries of the world, plus more than a few Welsh, (Northern) Irish and who we are talking about – the English – all are made most welcome here.
    So why pick on the English! They are the ‘Auld Enemy’, we know, but that must be history, surely. and the friendly banter, kissing and hugging that will be going on on Murrayfield this afternoon will surely bear me out.
    No: we have our problems but we can get on as neighbors, honest! The Scottish Government has a policy with which the majority of the Scots agree, that is to welcome all – as was said by one of your correspondents – in a civic sense, rather than a racial one. The problem is when, as recent incomers to Scotland, in matters of intrinsic Scottish national interest, they can have the egregious notion that they can vote in this case, against the host Nation’s independence and continuing membership of the EU: this appears to me to be a piece of rudeness, and clearly, very dangerous to the future of our Nation.
    And for those who have expressed doubts about the voting direction of the English immigrant, just look at the solid pro-Union vote along the Scottish and, more intrusively, the Welsh borders.
    i feel, in conclusion I have to apologise for picking on the English: as they say, i have nothing against our neighbours, other than this, to me, abuse of hospitality. I would qualify every immigrant’s entry with a minimum of 5 years’ residence before giving anyone the vote on National matters. Every other country i know has such a safe-guard.

  9. Maureen Grieve says:

    You’re right in that England cannot gain independence from itself, but it could gain independence from the U.K. I say go for it.
    The UK is not England.

  10. SleepingDog says:

    The premise of the article, that the British Empire is no more, that the English intersect only with the British isles and Europe, is incorrect.

    The British Empire still exists, is global in span, and is still run pretty much on the old imperial lines from the Crown to the Privy Council:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Kingdom#Dependencies
    Many of these territories are non-self-governing, and several are amongst the world’s top-10 tax havens. The monarch is also head of state of other countries.

    In order for England to gain true standalone independence, it would first have to dissolve the British Empire. In fact, the EU has been highly critical of the British imperial arrangements.

    We have heard how (English) Brexiteers are supposed to cling to a vision of the British Empire, but we hear little about how (English) Remainers plan to divest themselves of it.

  11. Allan Suherland says:

    Or to put it another way, “I haven’t really taken in the disaster that has befallen the SNP as a result of Derek McKay’s creepy behaviour and the process that is now in place in terms of the unravelling of the shaky Jenga structure built by the SNP to con us into independence”
    Including the vastly overhyped EU sacred cow by the SNP. The unravelling has started with widened enquiries on education, emboldened participants in the Ferguson trial, emboldened journalists and a populace that will gradually,many reluctantly, realise they have been had, or “shafted” as Jim McColl, a major player in the ferry debacle, put it.

  12. allan Irving thompson says:

    I voted for the “UK” to “Remain” in the EU. I did NOT vote for Scotland on our own to remain in the EU, we would be swallowed whole.
    Scotland was not on the ballot paper, nor Wales or England or Northern Ireland, it was NOT a four part vote. It was made clear it was to be a UK wide vote. Scotland had already had our own referendum in the full knowledge there was to be a UK wide ref later, we voted to stay part of the UK, had we voted “Yes” to independence we would have been OUT of BOTH unions.
    Nicola Sturgeons love for all things European was not in evidence in 2014 when “Yes” would have taken us out of EU. It was her only chance of a 2nd indyref by circumventing the Edinburgh Agreement by introducing two new buzzwords “material change” so that if there was any difference in the UK overall vote and Scotlands vote she could trash the 2014 indyref result. And did.
    Old democracy is dead and we now have a new disposable democracy much more flexible if you do not like the result of the vote, shout “material change” and keep doing so till you get what you want.

  13. David Stanley says:

    Thanks Lesley. A lovely piece.

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