March along Hadrian’s Wall – and save the Union
In an interview with Magnus Linklater from The Times, Rory explained his intention to organise a march along the Scottish border, including Hadrian’s Wall, to alert the English to the dangers of next year’s referendum on independence.
Rory believes that English indifference or even hostility towards Scotland could be a major factor in boosting support for independence, and hastening the break-up of Britain.
Rory told The Times:
“The great challenge is how to awaken grassroots opinion in England. I am living in an English constituency south of the border, so I have no right to talk about the Scots, but what I do feel able to do is to try to help to speak to the English and find English voices that are strong for the Union.
You can’t leave it too late — the Canadians woke up very late to the dangers of Quebec going independent. The way to do this is to remind people how much we stand to lose, to remind people of how proud we are to be British — how we don’t actually want to be a smaller country.
If this had happened in the 19th century, this would have been one of the great themes of the age. It would have been like the Great Reform Act, it would have totally absorbed all the energies of politicians.
I find it deeply shocking that we are now 12 months away from a referendum that could potentially lead to Scottish independence without a real sense of the whole country coming together. I believe that if Scotland were to separate, the English would miss it immensely, and the Scots would miss being part of Britain.”
Having spent much of the past year walking in the border country between England and Scotland, interviewing Scots to the north of it and English to the south, Rory agreed that he had encountered some of the resentment against Scots that was reflected in the British Social Attitudes Survey, published earlier last week.
“I think it’s very dangerous. There is a risk that people are going to become alienated. I was in Croydon recently, and quite a lot of people seemed to feel they wouldn’t mind if Scotland became independent. They complain to me about things that seem to me tiny — free prescription charges and free eye tests. But you can’t tear up a three or four hundred year relationship on the basis of free eye tests. I think it’s incredibly important that English people express their respect, admiration and love of Scotland.
I think the Prime Minister is committed. He is very clearly of Scottish ancestry … but he sees himself as British, and it is something he cares passionately about. He may, however, like many of us south of the border, feel we are treading on eggshells — that almost anything we say in this debate may be turned against us.”