The UK I grew up in is not totally unrecognisable today. I mean, the countries are the same. The union is the same, although undoubtedly the politics have changed significantly. I remember the feeling of overwhelming relief when, what seems like a lifetime ago, Scotland voted to remain a part of our wonderful United Kingdom.
A lot has happened since then, though. Most significantly one soon-to-be irreversible decision – Britain wants to leave the EU.
It has been a tough pill for me to swallow, as most people who know me personally will know. But I’ve swallowed it. It’s happening. In two years time, little old me in the North East of England will be turning my back on the EU. And there’s sweet F A I can do about it now. My country has decided and I must stand with my country.
My stance was equally firm in the referendum we had before that, too. Scotland should remain part of the UK. “We are better off united. We are stronger as one. We should work to improve the status quo, not abandon it.” My arguments against Scottish independence from the UK were largely the same as those against British independence from the EU. Yet today, I have to say I have a change of heart.
Call it a threat, progapanda, or good, solid advice – call it whatever you will. The UK made it clear that for an independent Scotland, the road to rejoining the EU would be a lengthy and difficult one. And, in a nutshell, advised the Scottish to save themselves the bother and just stay part of the UK. And then we left anyway.
While it’s true that an EU referendum was on the table at the time that Scotland was making its mind up, I feel it now to petty to repeat the line that I had right after the Brexit vote – “you knew it could have happened anyway, you should have thought about that”.
Instead, I try to put myself into the mindset of a Scot. I would have wanted to remain part of the UK, of course. However, like all of the Brexit voters, I wouldn’t want the path to my country’s future to be dictated by disconnected politicians hundreds of miles away – be that it Brussels or Westminster.
One thing that I do want to make clear is that my change of heart is one that stands with Scotland – not against it. I have been many times, have friends who have furthered their education there, and remain very fond of teachers I had as an adolescent – who were proud to be Scottish, proud to be British, proud to live in England and helped shape my personality as well as my education. My change of heart is to support Scotland to avoid the shitstorm that Brexit will bring its way; and it is not without a heavy heart that I must acknowledge that Scotland may well be better off within the Union, albeit without the Kingdom.
If it is indeed true what the First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, has said – that the UK government has not “moved even an inch in pursuit of compromise and agreement” – then not for one second would I blame Scotland for saying to the UK exactly what the UK has said to the EU. “Fuck off”.