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20/08/2017
BBC Radio 4

    Feedback: Scottish independence referendum

    The battles over Scottish independence seem to have dominated my life.

    As a child, our family often went to collect mushrooms on Burgh-by-Sands, about five miles from my home city of Carlisle, and close to the border.

    The sands in question are in the estuary of the River Eden where it meets the Solway. It’s the place where the armies of both England and Scotland, and later the hordes of Border Reivers, crossed from one side to the other, bent on destruction and pillage.

    For 300 years, until Scotland and England had the same king, it was a truly miserable place.

    There was little point building anything other than defensive Pele towers in which to take refuge. Everything else was torched.

    St Michael’s Church in Burgh-by-Sands, built on the site of a Roman stronghold near the west end of Hadrian’s Wall, is as much a fort as a place of worship. Churches and Priories were not safe from slaughter.

    A few miles away, the Cumbrian monastery at Abbeytown, called Holme Cultram, was where the father of Robert the Bruce was buried. (He owned land on both sides of the border). That did not stop his son torching it. Twenty miles away across the water is Dumfries, where Robert the Bruce killed his chief rival for the Scottish throne, Red Comyn, at the altar of a local church.

    Scots tend to argue that the border troubles really began when Edward I of England interfered in the debate about who should succeed to the Scottish throne.

    Edward died on Burgh marsh where he had gathered his armies for another invasion before age and a fever did for him. A memorial marks the spot, close by his intended passage across the Solway sands.

    When I walked over to it a few weeks ago, I saw that someone, presumably a Scottish nationalist, had painted ALBA - the Scottish Gaelic name for Scotland - all over it.

    As a young Panorama producer, 40 years ago, I travelled to Edinburgh to report on the Scottish nationalists' breakthrough at the Westminster elections. That was eventually followed by devolution, and the debate about the future of an independent Scotland has rarely gone away.

    This week I flew up to Glasgow on the day that the leaders of the Yes Scotland campaign, for independence, and the Better Together, or no campaign, went head to head in a television debate broadcast only on STV in Scotland.

    I wanted to find out from the BBC journalists covering the referendum campaign, what difficulties they had faced, how widespread were the accusations of bias and what their listeners really wanted them to find out.

    Listen to the programme.

    That was the last in the present run of Feedback. We will be back in early October. By then we will know whether Scotland has decided to go it alone.

    As long as the Borders does not become 'debateable land' again...

    Roger Bolton

     

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