BIG DEBATE: Scottish Referendum—better together or better apart?

Scottish Saltier flying above Stratford Old Town Hall

Scottish Saltier flying above Stratford Old Town Hall - Credit: Newham Council

The Scottish Saltier is flying over the old Stratford Town hall with Newham Council backing the ‘Better Together’ campaign as Scotland votes tomorrow on whether stay in or quit the UK. Newham’s directly-elected mayor, Sir Robin Wales, is a proud Scot and an ardent supporter of a United Kingdom who genuinely believes we are better as a united island. The ‘yes’ voters who want an independent Scotland have won support, unsurprisingly, from English Democrats who believe England should have its own Parliament—like the Scots—because they believe we would prosper without having to support the rest of Britain:

SCOTLAND VOTE: FOR... Englishman Robin Tilbrook (left) AGAINST... Scotsman Sir Robin Wales

SCOTLAND VOTE: FOR... Englishman Robin Tilbrook (left) AGAINST... Scotsman Sir Robin Wales - Credit: Archant

FOR... The English Democtrats’ chairman, Robin Tilbrook, a lawyer from Essex, believes we will all be better off if the Scots quit because it would save us billions in paying for Scotland’s upkeep:

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An independent Scotland would suit England. We would be better apart. As Alex Salmond says, England would lose a “surly lodger” and gain a friendly neighbour.

England would also be better off independent as we are spending £49 billion a year subsidising Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The Scots get more out of the union than the English.


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But the big political parties have no interest in England. The 1707 Act of Union created the United Kingdom of Great Britain out of the merger of the kingdoms of England and Scotland, in the single-minded pursuit of Great Power politics and a world empire in the struggle with the-then superpower Catholic France.

All those old reasons have now gone. The UK state is now too expensive, too authoritarian and too addicted to its Great Power status, draining the wealth of England with its vanity projects and its international interventionism.

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It is only the establishment which propagandise being ‘British’. The Westminster government admits there are no plans if there’s a ‘yes’ vote tomorrow for independence.

The historian AJP Taylor once said it was the Scots in England pushing the idea of ‘Britishness’. The union argument is self-interest by Scots living in London—they are Scottish when it suites them, but when dealing with the English say they are British.

The Scots would actually be better off financially remaining in the union—but England would be worse off.

Our aim is to get independence for England. If there’s a ‘no’ vote, the move towards city regions would break England up and call into question England itself.

We should face the facts, not the hype. We are a prosperous, democratically-run nation state with a comfortable life, but blown off course by a post-imperial miasma enveloping politicians with delusions of grandeur who believe we are still a world power—we are not.

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AGAINST... The Scots-born elected mayor of the London Borough of Newham, Sir Robin Wales, feels British—and wants to stay British. He sees himself as a True Scots Brit. He has joined many local authorities now flying the Saltier above the old Stratford town hall in solidarity with the ‘Better Together’ campaign. It makes him see red, go white and feel blue when some of his fellow Scots call for a split in what he regards as his country—the UK. Yet he won’t even have a vote on splitting the UK because he lives in East London:

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I grew up in Scotland, but never considered people living in the rest of Britain to be different.

The challenges my family faced were similar to those in towns and cities throughout the UK. We worked hard to get on in life, just as people do in Newham, Neath and Newry. Living in different parts of this island is utterly irrelevant.

I now work in another part of the UK, along with 800,000 other Scots. A Scottish Mayor, of an inspirational London borough, with ‘Wales’ for a surname and children born in England.

Living in England doesn’t make me any less Scottish or dilute the pride I feel in my national identity. I should not have to—and will not—choose between being ‘Scottish’ and ‘British’.

The 2012 Olympics we played host to ensured the eyes of the world were on Newham, London and Great Britain. I cheered for Scots Olympians. They were competing for ‘Team GB’ which is what mattered, not where they called home.

We work hard in Newham to build cohesion and prosperity. Newham is better together, just as the United Kingdom is.

The case for breaking up Britain has been one of opportunism and confusion. The Scottish Nationalists play up the fact that David Cameron’s Eton-educated government in Whitehall has little in common with hard working Scottish families.

Those families have more in common with families in Newham and East London, shared values and the same desire for good quality jobs and housing, the best start in life for children and a safer, more cohesive community. To achieve these we should stand together, not pull apart.

The SNP’s economic policies crumble under scrutiny, especially over the future of the £ and EU membership, while businesses warn against the uncertainty of separation.

I believe the Scottish people will see that Scotland, like Newham and East London, has a bright future in the United Kingdom and that we really are better together.

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