Scotland will vote for independence unless the rest of Britain learns how to express its love for it, an MP has said.

Tory Rory Stewart (Penrith and the Border) wants 100,000 Britons to hold hands along Hadrian's Wall this summer to show the love that exists between the four nations of the union.

Mr Stewart claimed MPs and activists must argue emotionally for keeping the union or Scotland would vote for independence.

Loading article content

He said Britain would miss Scotland for personal reasons and so must argue for keeping the union on those terms.

Mr Stewart recalled a canoeing expedition he undertook with the Scottish National Party's Angus MacNeil (Na h-Eileanan an Iar), saying he would miss the MP from the boat and would be embarrassed to be part of a country without him in it.

He told the Commons: "It cannot be simply economics. If a relationship is going wrong, if a marriage is going wrong, the answer cannot simply be to say 'you can't afford to break up because you are going to lose the house'.

"The answer has to be only one thing which is 'I love you'.

"And the nature of that love that we express for Scotland, we in this House are struggling to express. We are not very good as politicians in talking about emotions. We have become very bad at it.

"But we need to learn to do it because otherwise a party which is trying to reduce, that is trying to shrink, that is trying to vanish, will win.

"What do we mean when we say that 'I, as an MP for an English constituency, love Scotland'?

"Well it would be personal to every single one of us. It could be that we love intellectual seriousness.

"I was in a boat with Mr MacNeil. He was in a canoe with me a few months ago. We were rowing along and I would really miss him from that canoe.

"From the United Kingdom, we would miss Scotland for different person reasons. For Scotland's egalitarianism, for Scotland's intellectual seriousness, for Scotland's sense of realism, for Scotland's sense of humour.

"I would be very ashamed and embarrassed to be part of a country that wouldn't have Mr MacNeil here."

Mr Stewart added: "What we need is the human expression. On July 19 this year I'm hoping that 100,000 people will gather along that old, foreign, Roman wall - English, Welsh, Irish, Scots, holding hands, linking arms across that border.

"Because in the end what matters is not the wall that divides us but the human ties that bind in the name of love."

And speak from the heart they did, with two more Stewarts following in his footsteps. Scotsman Iain Stewart, Tory member for Milton Keynes South, said he too wished to make an "emotional" plea, telling the House that September 18 - when Scotland decides its fate - is his birthday.

"And I want to celebrate the 18th September, for hopefully many years to come, probably with a glass or two of good, single malt, celebrating my country," he said.

"I don't want it to be a permanent reminder of the day that my country was lost, because my nationality is British, my country is the United Kingdom and I want to speak for my constituents and everyone on both sides of the border who feel the same way."

Continuing with Mr (Rory) Stewart's divorce analogy, he said "the Union is greater than the sum of its part, if we split up then we are all diminished".

Leaping to his feet, Colonel Bob Stewart (MP for Beckenham) added: "The influence of Scotland is enormous. There are three Stewarts on this side, there's a Douglas behind me. Scotland has great influence in the United Kingdom and should remain in the United Kingdom."

They were joined by Sir Gerald Howarth who spoke proudly of his own Scottish ancestry saying "I am the product of a union."

Sir Gerald told the Commons: "This is no foreign country, this is where a large part of my soul survives, when I cross the border back into Scotland, I think of the words of Sir Walter Scott: 'Breathes there the man with soul so dead, who never to himself hath said, this is my own, my native land'.

"I trace my roots to nowhere else but the soil of this Kingdom, this United Kingdom and the Scottish Borders is where half my soul resides."