Belfast Telegraph

Scottish independence: Scotland is different...you only have to watch Braveheart or read the 1707 Act of Union to see how different

By John McCallister

Scotland is different. To discover how different, you only have to listen to the home fans belt out 'Flower of Scotland' at Murrayfield when the opposition is England, watch 'Braveheart' ... or read the 1707 Act of Union.

The 1707 Union brought an end to Scotland's parliament, but it preserved the Scottish legal system, its own established church, and its own universities.  The Act of Union, then, was as much about preserving Scotland's unique identity as it was securing political union.

Whether it was intended or not, there was great wisdom here.  The United Kingdom was conceived and born in difference.  It's what we today call pluralism - a society that sees differences not as weakness but as a gift.

There would be nothing worse for the United Kingdom than if all our rich cultural identities were diluted, and we ended up as a carbon copy of the South East of England.  Scotland has been a major force in ensuring that this is not the case.  So, yes, London is a major building block of the United Kingdom.  But so too are the Highlands, historic Edinburgh, the Gaelic-speaking Isles, and urban centre of Glasgow.

We all lose, then, if Scotland decides to opt out of the Union.  Politically, it would ironically represent a massive transfer of power to the South-East of England.  The ability of Scottish MPs to act as a counter-weight to the political power of the South-East would disappear. Westminster politics would profoundly change, with MPs from non-English constituencies reduced by just over 50%, from 117 to 58.  Instead of almost 1 in 5 Westminster MPs from being outside England, it would be less than 1 in 10.

In cultural terms, it would also be a massive loss.  Now, within the Union, the rich history, culture, landscape and language of Scotland is a part of 'us'.  We all benefit from this cultural diversity - in a similar way to how we benefit from the cultural identities of the new communities that have made the UK their home in recent decades.  We become less diverse, less pluralist if Scotland opts out.

So, yes, we are 'Better Together'.  It is more than a pity that too often the 'Better Together' campaign has focused almost exclusively on the economic benefits of the Union.  There are great economic benefits to the Union.  But citizens are not just economic units.  We want to feel in our hearts that we are part of something bigger, something that gives meaning and purpose to our common life.  And that means politicians have to talk about something more than our wallets.

We in the rest of the United Kingdom need Scotland to stay part of our shared home - a home that is diverse, that embraces London and Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast in all of our diverse identities.  With a strong devolved parliament and an immensely rich cultural heritage, with Scottish people living and working throughout the rest of the UK, and many of us having relatives living and working in Scotland, we all are better, stronger and (not only economically) richer with Scotland in our shared home of the UK.

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