Scottish independence: Gauging reaction in the home of William Shakespeare

Laura Bicker has been to Stratford-upon-Avon to find out what some people in England feel about the idea of Scotland leaving the Union

"Oh Scotland, Scotland," wrote the Swan of Avon.

The Scottish play and this cry by Macduff are heard almost daily in the gardens of Shakespeare's birthplace over the summer.

But the constitutional drama being played out north of the border is largely passing people by.

Instead, for this week at least, they are focused on celebrating the English bard's 450th birthday.

At the Escape Community Arts project in the town centre, volunteers are decorating a cardboard cake which will be paraded through the town in a horse-drawn carriage.

As they cut out folds of foam icing, I pop an unexpected question: Have you heard about the Scottish independence referendum?

Forty-two year-old Katherine Hill looked at me nervously.

"Erm, not really. I know it's an ongoing thing. Is there a vote coming up soon?" she says hesitantly.

Her 12-year-old son Jake interrupts her.

Shakespeare This year marks the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare's birth

"There's a vote in 150 days or so," he tells his mum. I push to see how much he knows. "I know that Scotland might want to leave the United Kingdom. That's pretty much it."

Karen Williams, 42, an arts project manager, had also heard about it. "I fully understand why they would would want their independence, there's good points and bad points really."

At the waterfront, under an avenue of weeping willows, I met sociologist Alex Smith from the University of Warwick.

He believes the level of English engagement with the Scottish independence referendum depends on which part of the country they live in.

"Those in the south west of England probably feel a bit indignant about some of the arguments by the Yes campaign.

"I sense that if Scotland does go independent, there's a lot of people in the north who feel that Scotland shares a lot of their values and this is quite obvious when you look at the Labour vote across Britain.

"I think there is certainly an argument for engaging people in England in the debate."

Start Quote

I think the politicians so far have upset the people in Scotland so I think it's difficult to know what to do”

End Quote Jane Cleave

As I wander further into the market square, I notice a number of union flags in windows. They seem to be used to lure tourists into shops.

Many I spoke to did not understand the Yes campaign argument that decisions about Scotland should be made in Scotland.

But they do understand some things.

Jane Cleave, who was walking her dog, tells me: "I think the politicians so far have upset the people in Scotland so I think it's difficult to know what to do."

One young man stopped to say: "You'll come crawling back. You've got a better deal anyway. You don't have to pay for your prescriptions or anything."

I asked him if he had sympathy with Scots who believe they don't get the governments they vote for?

"No, not really," he said before running off.

Outside the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, the matinee performance of Henry IV has just finished.

Fataneh Hamisi from London was in the audience. As soon as I mention the referendum she knows what I'm talking about.

"The English are very detached from it. We think that it's not going affect us when of course that's not true is it? It will have an impact on us as well," she says.

Of course, people here will have no part to play when it comes to the vote in September.

Some may watch from the wings, others will want a front row seat.

And as for the Scottish play?

Marion Morgan, events officer for Shakespeare's Birthplace tells me: "Shakespeare wrote for both Scottish and English monarchs. Macbeth was written to impress James I.

"It's yours, it's yours," she laughs. "But we do it here if that's ok?"

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