I am Cornish and am proud of this fact. If you ask me whether I see myself as English or British, I would agree to both putting English as that which I identify most strongly. But above both of those I would describe myself as Cornish. I may not live there anymore but each time I return it feels like I am coming home. Driving down narrow winding Cornish roads through villages with distinctive Cornish names is a unique experience in itself. The scenery is beautiful and you are never too far away from the sea. It would seem that everything Cornish has a distinct identity. The cars display the badge of St Piran and all of the best food is grown and produced locally. It is a part of the world like no other.
What is it that makes most of us attach ourselves emotionally so closely to a geographical place, whether it be our street, town, city or country? And why do we support our national football teams even though they deliver nothing but heartache and frustration?
It all comes down to relationship. We are not designed to be lone islands. This is what I see when I look at myself and those around me and it is the same when I pick up my Bible. God created Eve so that Adam would not be alone and both of them were made to be in relationship with God. I believe it goes beyond this though. We have a relationship with the Earth we live on – it is part of us and we are part of it. Our lives and our communities are located in physical places that define part of who we are. So many wars are fought over land because people and rulers in one way and another believe they have a connection to the land they are attempting to take control of. We need look no further than Ukraine to see that evidence right now.
So I suspect I have some understanding of what is going on in Scotland. It makes sense that the referendum has stirred up such strong passions and it is no surprise that the Yes campaign has captured the imagination of so many.
To support the Yes campaign is to celebrate all that is Scottish; to celebrate all that marks it out as distinct from the rest of the United Kingdom. It has become one big party and it’s as if those who are saying No have gatecrashed with the intention of wrecking it. Talking relentlessly of everything that will go wrong financially only further sours the festivities.
This is Scotland’s big moment – a chance to free itself from the ‘Effing Tories‘ and the Westminster bubble that gives the impression of having little interest in what goes on north of the border. The promise of a new start with a new constitution is almost intoxicating. It offers that chance to reject all that is broken with British politics and begin again looking to countries such as Norway – comparable in many ways – for inspiration.
Where the Better Together campaign has offered the prose of likely probabilities of financial hardship, the Yes campaign has spoken in poetry of imagination and freedom. It is a contrast of heads and hearts with the hearts singing loudly with joy. Even some church leaders have joined in the chorus despite the churches in Scotland wisely taking a neutral stance. A former Moderator of the Church of Scotland’s General Assembly, Andrew McLellan, and the leader of the Iona Community, Peter MacDonald, along with 32 other ministers have issued an open letter advocating independence.
Christians advocating the No cause have been less vocal and in contrast it is Douglas Alexander, the Shadow Foreign Secretary who has perhaps given the strongest Christian case for remaining in the Union. It would be so much easier if there if there was a clear-cut theological case for or against independence, but of course there is no such thing. Those I have read are unconvincing. Saying that Scotland will become a more just country if it stands alone is an appealing vision, but at this stage there are no guarantees, only dreams.
If there is anything that has spoken to me in the Bible regarding independence it is Israel’s demand for a king because it had rejected the sons of Samuel as its leaders. The people of Israel looked to the nations around them with envy wanting what others had. God granted Israel its kings, but ultimately they were no better off.
Westminster politicians may be waking up to the realisation of how little they are trusted in Scotland, but this resentment is not felt in Scotland alone. If the vote on Thursday comes down on the Yes side, it will not be a rejection of the Westminster crowd; in the process, it will be the rejection of everyone in Wales, England and Northern Ireland too. This will be no conscious uncoupling, it will be one member of the family walking out and leaving the rest of its kin behind. Divorce and separation always leave scars and the painful division of assets results in each side poorer, both financially and emotionally.
And some of those left behind will be Scots themselves who have moved to other parts. It is not surprising that every Scot I have spoken to living here in England is strongly in favour of staying together. An independent Scotland will break connections inside them. They will become aliens in a foreign land.
Has the rest of the Union offended Scotland so badly that there is no way back? My heart is firmly rooted in the beaches, cliffs and hills of Cornwall, but this does not stop me loving the rest of this country. I too long for a more just and fair society and I will do my bit to see that happen for Cornwall, Scotland and the rest of the UK. Let us celebrate our geographical identities, but not forget all that we have in common with each other that also adds to our identities. If Scotland votes to leave on Thursday, all of us will have a part wrenched from our hearts that will never be replaced.