On May 23rd 1976 when I was at university in Scotland, I was sitting in a campus television room with about twenty male Scottish students watching a Bicentennial Trophy game between Brazil and England - beamed live from Los Angeles. It was a keenly fought match but no goals were scored until the very end when Roberto Dinamite cracked in a wonderful winning goal for the Brazilians.
|Roberto Dinamite (Brazil)|
It was at that point that the Scottish students - almost without thinking - revealed their deep-seated antipathy towards the English. They cheered and punched the air and one or two of them even leapt out of their seats. They had perhaps forgotten that a proud Yorkshireman ( and therefore Englishman) was sitting in their midst.
I got up, walked to the front, and standing in front of the television screen yelled "You're a bunch of Scottish bastards!" before exiting left.
Though I lived in Scotland for four and a half years and enjoyed the company of numerous Scots - male and female, I never forgot that moment in the television room. If English students had been watching Scotland play Brazil in a parallel university south of the border they would undoubtedly have been rooting for "the auld enemy" - Scotland.
Yesterday the Scots held their long-awaited referendum and this morning the result is very clear. 55% have said "No" to independence so the so-called United Kingdom will continue and the SNP political fishmongers - Salmond and Sturgeon can retreat to their respective crofts to watch endless replays of "The White Heather Show" while chowing down on raw haggis and neaps.
In many ways this vote is a huge relief simply because the disentanglement of Scotland from the union would have been costly and disruptive to the English, Welsh and Northern Irish. We would have been paying a heavy price for their Braveheart fantasy. The tail would have been very much wagging the dog.
I thought that Cameron, Milliband and Gordon Brown arrived at the party far too late. They should have been making out the case for "No" much earlier and not just in economic terms. There is surely more to national unity than fiscal matters. What about shared history and identity? What about sport and entertainment, language and humour and what about the fact that many thousands of people of Scottish heritage live in England and vice versa? It's not all about the money.
Leading the "Better Together" campaign we saw the uninspirational London-born lawyer Alistair Darling caught in the headlights and out of his depth. Why was he chosen to lead the "No" campaign? It could have proved to be an extremely costly mistake.
In some ways I wouldn't have minded if Scotland had gone independent. It would have been interesting to see them struggling - no longer being handsomely underwritten by England. There were so many crucial questions left hanging in the air and Salmond and Sturgeon simply couldn't answer them. But I have got some basic questions of my own about Scotland.
How come our daughter Frances has a university tuition fees debt of £32,000 to pay back to the government when Scottish students pay nothing? How come, at the age of sixty, I am not entitled to free bus travel but Scottish sixty year olds can claim free bus passes? How come members of my family have to pay doctors' prescription fees when poorly Scots pay nothing? These inequities make me feel some resentment towards Scotland. They are getting a damned good deal as far as I can see and even though the referendum vote has gone against the nationalists, they are likely to get yet more sweeteners from Westminster.
If there was a referendum in Yorkshire - "Should Yorkshire be an independent country?" then I have no doubt that the "Yes" vote would be overwhelming and I would then happily volunteer to be a border guard - keeping out jealous asylum seekers from Derbyshire and Lancashire. We'd also have to search trains passing through our socialist republic. Maybe I'd rip pearls from the necks of Scottish ladies and remove banknotes from their gentlemen's sporrans. These funds would help to pay for our border guards' smart khaki uniforms and machine guns from Catalonia or Chechnya... "White Rose of Yorkshire! When will we see your like again?"