I have something to write which falls into a no-man’s-land between love letter and lament.
I want to write: “don’t go”.
I want to write: “don’t leave me like this”.
I ought not really to write it, though. I have no voice in this argument. I have – ironically, in something which is all about place – no locus standi. My position is merely passive: to listen, to watch; ultimately, possibly, to be left.
I grew up in the North East of England. I went to Scotland long before I ever went south of York. Edinburgh, not London, was the first city I ever visited, and when I came to go to University, going north of the border seemed an obvious choice, passing the small town in the Lowlands where my grandmother grew up on the way. To this day I have felt more “abroad” driving through Kent, or on my one and only trip to Cornwall than ever I do in Glasgow or small towns in the Central Belt, Geordie accent engaged and welcomed.
No matter how much I argue that some of my best friends are Scottish, it doesn’t make me so. I know that. Nor do the Celtic branches on my family tree, nor the red hair, nor the (instinctive?) preference for one type of landscape, one way of being, over another. But then, I wonder, what would? Are the Uni friends who settled overseas or down south less Scottish now than the English or Irish ones who stayed? If the cards had fallen differently last year, we’d be there now. If Hadrian had built his damn wall straight, the argument would be different altogether.
Of course none of this is personal. It really isn’t about me, or us, at all. It is Scotland’s decision to make; it is the people in Scotland (are they, for the purposes of this referendum, to be considered in Scotland, or of it?) who, if not already convinced of their position, are to be wooed and convinced by one or other of the two camps in their decision on whether or not to become independent.
Detached from my feelings, I know that if I were to have a vote to cast, I’d struggle not to vote “Yes”. I think I’m past the age when the prospect of a tribal identity appeals, but the current political landscape is after all a gift of an opposing scenario to those who have fought so passionately and so long for independence. What matter that many of us south of the border long equally for a clean, clear option to reject the “Englishness” of an elitely-educated Westminster; a London-centric set of policies which feel irrelevant or worse to those of us on the periphery – geographical or otherwise? By virtue of our postcode we remain condemned to that Englishness, whether we identify with it or not.
Those north – not very north of here, either – have that option, however. And though no-one can agree on the finances, the prospect of a severance and a fresh start seems almost irresistible, though of course there is more to a permanent independence than the decisive rejection of the current administration.
I worry about the practicalities of a “Yes”. I worry about the financial and political implications for my own region, which already loses out on almost every possible measure. I can’t argue, though; I can’t influence the outcome.
My part is just to turn away, bitter and chill at heart, when I hear the debate and the passion denied to me. Scotland has a chance now to create and re-centre itself, but whatever is to come is not mine to determine.
Mine – ours – remain the sidelines. The edge. The borders.