Monkeys and Apes
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Editor's Note: You can listen to Feedback online or download it here.

As presenter of Feedback I have of course no public views about such a contentious political issue as Scottish independence and in this week’s Feedback programme I have tried to remain dispassionate, but I confess I am far from disinterested.

I was born and brought up under 10 miles south of the Scottish border, in Carlisle. My home city is full of Scottish residents as well as Cumbrians, and each day thousands of those from the northern side of the border come down the M6 to work there, passing the castle where King David of Scotland died when Cumberland was part of Scotland and where Mary Queen of Scots was held captive after fleeing from the Scottish nobles by sailing across the Solway.

We have a complicated history and a complicated relationship with England as well as Scotland. We are much, much closer to Edinburgh and Glasgow than to London or even Manchester, Liverpool or Leeds. And we are a mixed bunch with English, Scots, Welsh and Irish relatives and quite a few Poles as well, the result of a very brave Polish air squadron being sent by the Solway after suffering terrible losses in the Battle of Britain. The south east of England is a long way away and often seems like another country, much richer, more crowded, less British, and sucking in everything to what Samuel Johnson called the Great Wen, London.

By contrast, Dumfries, Annan, Kelso and Roxburgh are a Sunday afternoon’s drive away and culturally closer to us than most of the rest of the UK. House prices, unemployment and wage levels are also much more closely aligned up north.

Though I now live mostly in the south because of work, I think of myself as Cumbrian and British and European, and when next Scotland beat England at rugby (it may be a long time) I will not feel too unhappy, particularly if it is a player from Hawick who scores the winning try.

I am also aware that the last time England and Scotland were not united it was hell to live on the Borders. There really was a debateable land, which neither crown could subdue. This was Britain’s equivalent of the Wild West and the killing here went on longer and was even more brutal. Bastles and Peel towers testify to the constant vigilance needed to survive.

Tourist agencies may try to sell the period of Border Rieving as a romantic one, and good luck to them, but in fact, after three hundred years of conflict, including the Anglo Scottish wars, border rustling, blackmail, and murder, hardly a domestic building was left standing, and most of the castles were ruined. The poor, as usual, got poorer, if they survived at all.

It always seemed to me ironic that Edward 1st and Robert the Bruce were as much French as English or Scottish and, arguably, were concerned with familial prosperity as much as with nationalist identity.
700 years after Bannockburn and 400 years after the union of the two crowns, the question of an independent Scotland is on almost everyone’s lips once more as the September vote gets closer.

This week in Feedback we arranged a radio swap between Katherine Wilson from Nottingham who changed her much loved ‘Today’ programme for ‘Good Morning Scotland’, and Edward Harkins from Glasgow who did the reverse. Joining us in our discussion was Jim Naughtie who has homes in London and Edinburgh and presents both programmes. I was the, I hope, dispassionate chair.

This one, as they say, will run and run, but imagine you are a Scot who has lived most of your life in Scotland but because you have now moved to work in London, do not have a vote. I feel pretty bad about not being able to vote in a referendum which will, in effect, decide the future of the United Kingdom. Imagine what such an expatriate Scot must feel!

Roger Bolton

Roger Bolton presents Feedback on Radio 4.

Listen to this week's Feedback

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  • Comment number 8. Posted by Stew Green

    on 17 Feb 2014 16:58

    Roger what is with the "we have received a lot of emails from normal listeners" compaining about climate skeptics ?
    - When it seems that it is a coordinated campaign by climate activists and that they are not JUST ordinary members of the public.
    This is the third time in 12 months you guys have done this.

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  • Comment number 7. Posted by All for All

    on 17 Feb 2014 05:56

    Much as any politician might be admired, the mere fact of cleverness, of tending to get his or her own way, does not mean that a popular position on Scottish independence is necessarily to to be trusted as 'good for Scotland'. In the United Kingdom we have many times elected governments that have more than disappointed in their delivery, parties in office sometimes revealing their shocking duplicity. Only recently we were persuaded to vote our refusal of an offered freedom for expression of alternative voting preferences, a small step towards proportional representation portrayed as a threat, ironically by the major party proud to represent the most anti-social self-interest.

    Years of success for the SNP have owed much to the offer of policies more socially progressive than those of timid Labour, counter to the drift of New Labour and to the threat posed by a Tory Liberal-Democrat coalition. However, in playing-up everyday grievances as regional, to be answered mainly by flag-waving, offer has been neglected of clearer address with respect to the democratic deficit from which as individuals, as a community and as a world we all so grievously and so unbeknown suffer.

    Revival of notions of protected independence for Scotland, now as far from democratic relevance as similar romance for the English heptarchy, has at least served to displace the UK's two complacent main parties from their safe seats north of the border. Coming late in the day, the collapse of the SNP's case on such clear and brutal geo-political and economic grounds, well illustrates the cost of our vulnerability to fantasy and worse, in party-indulgence north and south of the border, in the absence of equal partnership representation.

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  • Comment number 6. Posted by debtfixer

    on 16 Feb 2014 14:35

    Clearly, Newlach, the English could do no better than to have a long memory when dealing with the Scots. The only reason for the Scots to accept the Act of Union in 1707 was the looming bankruptcy of the Scottish Parliament. The Scots resisted the logical political union with England despite the earlier act joining the parliaments and, I suppose, the bankruptcy circumstances leaves misplaced resentment of the English who baled them out. It was paternalistic of the English to demand as the price of baling out the Scottish Nobles the act of 1707 and this apparently still rankles in some areas of the Scottish psyche.

    Misplaced resentment? Well it was the Scots themselves acting in competition with England's superior prowess at international commerce that set up the South American Darien project, therefore they were the authors of their own potential demise.

    The English had their own agenda in protecting the Scottish people from their reckless leaders. It seems to have worked passably well for 300 years but in the age of indvidualisation and self determination Alex Salmond wants to turn the clock back at almost any cost. There is no way that the English should have the Scots involved in the management or determination of the English ££.

    In my earlier blog I mentioned that the Scots in the years leading up to 1707 were reckless and ill informed and I mention HBOS as a modern equivalent, my opinion has not been swayed away from this view in the light of the announcement by the EU commission president that an independent Scotland will find it practically impossible to find a place in Europe. Is it not a year or so ago that there was a legal opinion that was difficult for either Alex Salmond to accept or publish? Recklessly, some would say, with extreme arrogance other might assume, he has pressed ahead despite an adverse legal opinion. This is not opimism on their part that all will turn out in their favour, it is pure arrogance and recklessness.

    Ill-informed because the reasons given concern the other small scale principalities or potential breakaways of small factions within other countries such as Spain which might gain succour from an independent Scotland admitted to the EU and set in train further blood shed or restlessness we are all so tired of hearing about.

    As for the English, I, for one, am looking forward to, at long last, getting an English Parliament (even if by default) to deal with issues pertinent to the English Counties and dealt with in an effective way with no interference from these outsiders.

    Are the Scots greedy? Well mention has been made of "Scottish Oil" and I believe that the Scots are willing to go to any lengths to have full fiduciary control over the income stream so that the 3 million of them can be enriched. So we come back to the years leading up to the 1707 act. The crofters were not involved in the Darien project that the Nobles went into so recklessly. Would it be any different now?

    I do not think so.

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  • Comment number 5. Posted by michael north

    on 15 Feb 2014 18:19

    "The Great Wen" was what William Cobbett called London. Dr Johnson loved the place. As for Scotland sharing sterling: that would just be the eurozone in miniature. There should be a statue to Gordon Brown for keeping us out of that hubristic fantasy.

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  • Comment number 4. Posted by newlach

    on 15 Feb 2014 13:56

    There is a lot of traffic news on Good Morning Scotland, and I'm not sure what purpose it serves. A couple of years ago Mr Bolton interviewed someone whose name, I think, was "Sally Traffic". She gave a spirited defence of the importance of having travel updates on Radio 2, but I remain unconvinced that most of them improve the lives of motorists.

    When a motorist heading towards the Kessoch Bridge in the morning hears, for example, "slow moving traffic on the Kessoch Bridge" or "lane closure" does it not simply provide him with a great excuse for arriving late for work? On the point about the earlier religious broadcast on Good Morning Scotland I totally agree with the remarks of the Feedback experimentee: It whacks you on the head from behind. I suppose, however, that a regular listener to the programme would learn to take evasive action.

    Seven months to go until the referendum vote. A lot of dirt will be thrown around between now and then. One contributor here has brought up the issue of the 17th century Darien Project. It would be interesting to know if that project was headed by someone called Salmond - could prove decisive!

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  • Comment number 3. Posted by This is a colleague announcement

    on 15 Feb 2014 13:33

    When I lived in the capital, I felt I'd far more in common with the people of other international cities. such as Edinburgh, Glasgow, Cardiff, Paris etc. than I had with those in Dewsbury, Walsall, Banbury and Weymouth for instance. Now I spend more time in the country, I feel closer to people in perhaps Eaglesham, Wells, Dereham, Tuscany, Provence and Bavaria than I do to those in Rotherham, Hull, Warrington etc.

    The shrinking world, through transport and telecommunications, and the EU, allow us to find ourselves in this way, and if we reflect, we see how obsolete nationalism, particularly of a racial kind, is.

    That said, the UK under the Tories is, within Europe, a threat to the aims of the whole project, and if Salmond's campaign does anything to weaken the UK's ability to hold that to ransom, then so much the better.

    Incidentally I see the BBC's Have Your Say, Politics and Business pages have no threads at all open. Since the change of government we've seen the BBC introduce a 400 ch. limit, a ten minute delay between posts and now hardly any topics open or none. That's some change from the liberal position of a few years back, when all were welcome to write at any length about the government and anything else.

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  • Comment number 2. Posted by debtfixer

    on 14 Feb 2014 18:27

    Dear Eddie
    Hand over the £ to the Scots, NEVER. This is not a bullying campaign by prominent politicians but homage to history, old and modern. In the late 17th century the Scots embarked upon a colonization process known as the Darien Project. A major proportion of the currency in Scotland was paid into this project and it went wrong. The outcomes were England bailing out the Scots from bankruptcy and the Act of Union of 1707. In the modern day the Scots built up HBOS to be the biggest bank ever, now bust and the English parliament had to bail out the Scots again. The Scots are reckless and ill-informed. If given the financial muscle generated by the English there is no telling what fantasy adventures they may embark upon. It is time that they took full responsibility for their own financial adventures and not rely on England to under write them.

    At a local level their demand is like my neighbour demanding that we pool our financial resources and work together but seperately to pay off each other's mortgage! Well my neighbour can enjoy a chat and a cuppa at my table, but not the contents of my wallet. Alex Salmon wants power without responsibility in this request. The Mid Lothian question needs to be settled completely and finally in all aspects of our dealings with Scotland.

    Fears of the "Rievers" mentioned by Mr Bolton is a further irrelevance and is just a journey into a past that is impossible to recreate again in a civilised society.

    The Scots should not be put in charge of a piggy bank let alone be able to influence the ££.

    Salmon’s arrogance in the face of our objection is warning enough that trouble lies ahead if they have control to any extent of our carefully managed currency. Oh Yes we have our own wide boys in the LSE to watch to avoid further banking crisis. We don’t need the Scots working against us as well.

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  • Comment number 1. Posted by hermit2006

    on 14 Feb 2014 18:24

    Well here's some feedback... debatable is NOT spelt debateable. Does the BBC have no sub-editors?

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