Scottish independence: How do the English in Scotland feel?

By Vanessa Barford
BBC News

image copyrightThinkstock
image captionThe polls are tighter than ever, with just over a week to go before the referendum

There are almost half a million English people in Scotland - and most of them want to remain in the union. But polls suggest one in four will vote for Scottish independence. And some are actively campaigning for an end to the 307-year union.

It's easy to understand why most people who were born in the rest of the UK but live in Scotland might be inclined to vote "No" in the Scottish referendum. Many are likely to still have ties south of the border.

That's the stance of 23-year-old Roisin Kay, who grew up in London but moved up to Glasgow with her family last May.

"All my family are Scottish, my dad is Glaswegian and we spent all our holidays coming up here when we lived in London. But my friends are in England, I went to university in Hull.

"I feel like there is a strong connection between Scotland and England and feel very passionate about Scotland staying in the UK," she says.

image captionAnya O'Shea doesn't want a "needless border"

It's a sentiment Anya O'Shea, also 23, shares. She decided to stay in Scotland after studying at the University of Edinburgh.

"I love living in Scotland, but I don't want to feel split from my family in London and Manchester by a needless border," she says.

Both women feel so strongly about the union staying intact they started campaigning for a "No" vote.

Anya says she started leafleting at university. Then she signed up as a volunteer and went knocking on doors. Now she works full-time for the pro-union Better Together campaign.

"Health, education and policing are already devolved in Scotland. That's good, but I like the strength and security of being part of something bigger. There are so many risks and uncertainties involved in independence, and Scottish families don't need that," she says.

She also says she wants to challenge some people's suggestion the debate is about identity.

"My dad is Welsh, my mother is a Polish immigrant, I've got an Irish surname. To me nationalism is an outdated concept," she says.

Polls consistently suggest most of the 480,000 Scottish residents born in England, Wales or Northern Ireland will vote "No" on 18 September, when voters in Scotland will be asked: "Should Scotland be an independent country?".

The average "Yes" vote among those born in Scotland is 47%, compared with 25% among those "born in England, born in the rest of the UK as a whole, or born in the rest of the UK or Ireland", according to analysis of Panelbase, YouGov, Ipsos MORI and ICM polls by John Curtice, professor of politics at Strathclyde University.

"People born in the rest of the UK are more likely to have a strong sense of British identity. That is one of the biggest things that influences voting - the economy is bigger though," he says.

image copyrightJeff J Mitchell
image captionMembers of English Scots for Yes held a border tea party at Berwick-upon-Tweed
image captionMath Campbell-Sturgess says he is "proudly English" but independence is a matter of self-determination

But although the majority of Scottish residents born in the rest of the UK may want Scotland to remain in the union, others are very vocal about supporting independence.

Co-founder of English Scots for Yes Math Campbell-Sturgess, who grew up in Cambridge and is now a Greenock SNP councillor, is one of them.

The 31-year-old says he is "proudly English" but the best people to make decisions about Scotland - where he has lived since he was 18 - are those who live and work in Scotland.

"Independence is a matter of self-determination, fairness and equality. In my ward one in three children are growing up in extreme poverty. An independent Scotland could act as a progressive beacon for England," he argues.

He says there is still some sentiment among some English people in Scotland that it is "not for them to decide" and the group was, in part, set up to say: "This is your home, your referendum, have a say in your future."

How might Scotland's decision affect the rest of the UK?

The group now has about 500 members on Facebook, with about 3,000-4,000 people reading their messages, according to Campbell-Sturgess. Members have attended hustings, organised street stalls and taken part in other "Yes" events across the country.

"Some of us are as English as you can get, others are practically Scottish. There are members in their teens, an activist in their late 70s, it's a very inclusive group," he says.

image captionRobin Horn says a "Yes" vote will "redress the political imbalance"

Another member is Robin Horn, a 31-year-old furniture maker from Edinburgh who moved to Scotland when he was about 12 or 13, after his father got a job in the oil industry in Aberdeen.

He says he wants there to be a "Yes" vote to "redress the imbalance" in the political system in the UK.

"I don't see change coming from a comfortable situation - an independent Scotland would be the most effective catalyst," he says.

He also wants to "debunk the nationalism argument".

"There is nationalism on both sides, it doesn't make any sense. This has nothing to do with the people of England. I feel as much English as Scottish and love both countries. It's about the political framework," he says.

For Horn, the Scottish referendum is an "extremely unusual and rare" opportunity to have a peaceful shot at independence, which everyone should embrace.

Campbell-Sturgess says the group is going to continue trying to convince voters to vote "Yes" to independence "over tea and cakes" right up until the referendum.

"You can't beat door-to-door street politics, and we thought we'd have a bit of fun by playing to the stereotypes and taking tea," he says.

However, the thought of a "No" vote isn't a laughing matter. "I'd be disappointed, for both England and Scotland," he says.

But Roisin would be equally disappointed with a "Yes" vote.

"If the cost of living went up and it was more difficult to get a job, I might consider moving back to London," she says.