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INSIDE TRACK: Why identity will play a key role in Yes vote

AN interesting thing will happen next year in the Scottish independence debate; there will be an appeal to the English to raise their voices on why Scots should "stay with us".

The so-called social union, the cultural, social and indeed family ties that bind both nations, will be used by the pro-UK forces to tug at Scottish heartstrings and try to persuade Scots, from not just an English but also a Welsh and Northern Irish perspective, not to become foreigners.

The Nationalists have in the past tried to nullify such fears, insisting that if Scots vote Yes, then the social union would continue as it always has; nothing would change. Indeed, some have even suggested that Scots, again from a UK perspective, would not even become foreigners in an independent Scotland but would remain part of one big happy island family.

There has been an argument that, given the significance of the independence debate and its potential consequences, the English, Welsh and Northern Irish should also be included in the 2014 vote. But few seriously question that Scotland, as a nation, should be left to determine its own future on its own terms.

In recent times, the advocates of independence have tried to lessen the emphasis of their arguments on identity and placed more on what an independent Scotland could do to make the lives of Scots better economically, culturally and socially.

Yet identity, as we move inexorably towards September 18, 2014, will play a part and not just for Scots. For those south of the Border, Scotland is part of their identity. Many regard themselves as British first and English, Welsh and Northern Irish second or hold both identities in parallel.

If Scots vote Yes, then Britain as a geographical entity would continue but, as a political and cultural one, would to all intents and purposes cease to exist. Those inhabiting the residual, remaining or rest of the UK would, over time, have to redefine themselves. They would no longer be able to call themselves British as a Great Britain that was made up of just England and Wales would be unsustainable.

Nationalism, whose presence is not as strong in England and Wales as it is in Scotland, might strengthen with unknown consequences for the continuation of the remaining K.

Westminster, already dominated by English MPs, would be even more dominated by them in a reduced UK and so there would have to be some form of constitutional overhaul to prevent the Welsh and the Northern Irish from becoming completely marginalised.

And on a practical level, there would be much more than just redefining the Union flag to take out the blue of the Scottish saltire. While, for practical purposes, all those institutions like the BBC, the British Museum and the British Library would retain their names, as years pass there could be pressure to rebrand many of them, taking out the B-word.

So, the consequences of Scottish independence would be profound but not just for Scots.

G K Chesterton famously wrote: "For we are the people of England, that never have spoken yet." The question is, if they do speak out on Scottish independence, will it make any difference?

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