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Why Scots should vote Yes...for England's sake

Strangely, the Referendum came to mind in the iconically English setting of Burford's 12th century churchyard in the Cotswolds, where I made a discovery which triggered an interesting perspective.

A plaque commemorated three of The Levellers who had been executed there in 1649. It was a poignant thought that here, four centuries ago, these men had died for their beliefs.

Those political agitators, who wished to 'turn the whole world upside down', represented a grand English radical tradition which these days scarcely features in that country's national consciousness.

England has a diverse history, enriched by Romans, Anglo Saxons, Normans and Vikings, with an imposing cultural hinterland.

It seems ironic, therefore, that as the Referendum campaign is enabling Scots to exchange the long suffered image of Victorian tartanalia for aspirations to the social democracy of a northern European nation, some in England, defending the Union, appear to be promoting a confectionery of Britishness based on a fading imperial and military history, the Olympic Games, pop music, and the BBC.

The shared successes achieved, and sacrifices made, during the last three centuries are neither forgotten nor minimised by the desire to resume full control over our own affairs, but England, like Scotland and Wales, has an inspiring history outside of the Union era.

However, the need for a 'British' identity seems to have submerged much of the southern country's individuality. Certainly, years of living in England showed me that there are English folk as sceptical about flag waving 'Britishness' as many in Scotland and Wales.

Rich local traditions and loyalties are being eroded by a 'marketing brand' which fails to recognise the diversity of England, never mind the nations involved in the UK.

A Yes vote in September would be beneficial for England, allowing them to reassert their age-old, proud identity, and form a relationship of equals with their neighbours.

Nations, made of people, are constantly changing. The Union begat a massive world Empire and an international power; those days are gone - and a 300 year pragmatic arrangement no longer works effectively - not only in Scotland and Wales, but in large areas of England.

It's time to move on to a new model which lets diversity be celebrated in each of the nations of these islands. The prize to be gained is not only better and more effective democracy, but a chance to be good neighbours on an equal footing with mutual respect.

The possibility is reflected in Irish President Michael Higgins' state visit. Despite centuries of antipathy, an independent Ireland is able to develop a new, positive relationship with its nearest neighbour..

An independent Scotland can be a better, more effective neighbour: internationally, but particularly within these islands, when its relationship with England is redefined. A shared past can be celebrated, an independent future plotted

As the Irish President said in Westminster, the confidence which comes with independence brings: "an opportunity to craft a bright future on the extensive common ground we share, and where we differ in matters of interpretation to have respectful empathy for each other's perspectives." I am not sure that has proved possible for Scotland and England in the current Union.

A shared past , no matter how much success it entailed, does not justify continuation of a dysfunctional present.

The nations of these islands need to redefine their relationships - and give England a chance to breathe.

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