It’s extraordinary to think that we could be 12 days away from the dissolution of our country. The union of Scotland and England, perhaps the most successful and consequential alliance in history, could be ended – and for the worst of reasons. The Scottish National Party has been campaigning hard, and campaigning well. Alex Salmond has excelled in depicting his enemy as a cold-hearted England (and the people they vote for) whose values are so irreconcilable with those of Scotland that the only answer is the partition of (and, ergo, the end of) Britain.
As a Scot with three English children, I loathe this agenda more than I can say. But it has been a mistake for unionists to judge nationalist arguments as too bizarre to resonate. As Jim Murphy recently observed, there is an energy of nationalism which has not been matched by the energy of unionism. When you hear Ed Miliband in Lanarkshire, wittering on about his energy price freezes, you can see why the passion – and the momentum – is with the nationalists. They talk in terms of nationhood, destiny and unity – the other side just have not sold Britain in the same way. The ‘no’ campaign has blown a 20-point lead; it’s now just 6 points.
You don’t have to be Scottish to be sickened by watching all of this, and waiting to see our country snap in two, in front of the eyes of the world. Cornish, Geordies, Scots, Welsh – we had, up until now, been united by Britishness. That identity now faces extinction via a vote in which 90 per cent of Brits are excluded. Most of us are forced to stand by and watch this great country fall apart without a vote, or without being able to do anything about it.
There is one thing that we can do. I’d like to ask anyone reading this to write a short letter, of no more than 250 words, addressed to a Scottish voter telling them what you’d like for them to save Britain, and stay part of a united country. It should emphasise the point that the nationalists hate: that Britain is a union of peoples. And a great many people, from Perth to Penzance, treasure this union and desperately want it to survive.
There are a great many reasons why those of us outside Scotland can hope that Scots vote to keep the country united. If you can put them in an email, we’ll print the best ones in the magazine next week, and award a bottle of 1995 Lagavulin for the best entry. And don’t make them in the comments section: please email firstname.lastname@example.org with “Stay!” in the subject heading. Deadline: 1pm Tuesday.
You can make only one point, or make a bunch of them. The letter can be funny or deadly serious, clinically rational or a cri de coeur. The aim is to show that people in certain parts of Britain do care, very much, about the other parts – and that the Britishness which binds us together is worth fighting for.
The vote on 18 September is not an election that can be reversed in four years’ time. It’s an irreversible choice. It’s about whether to abandon Britain, and abandon an alliance of countries that not just invented the modern idea of liberty but defended that liberty– for itself, and others – through two world wars. Through its constituent parts, Britain been one of the greatest forces for good the world has ever seen. Its fate now hangs in the balance.
We’re just days away from the perhaps the most important vote that this country has ever held, and the vast majority of us are disenfranchised. But if you, or anyone you know, would have time to write a letter for us to publish then you’d be doing something. The campaign to save Britain really does need all the help it can get.