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Last modified: 08 September 2014

Saving the Union

A response to Wrestling with Smoke by Chris Deerin.

In London last week you bumped into a pal.

Not in Glasgow. Not in Manchester. In London.

Alone that is fine, it’s just a story from a great place where people meet. But among the current sea of pieces, videos, and pleas from London — none that mention a trip to Liverpool, or Leeds, or Manchester, or Bristol — it highlights this Union’s problem.

The UK holds nine of the ten poorest regions in Northern Europe. The North of England where I live counts six of them. For comparison, what was East Germany holds none.

London is great. I too have lived there, and I too bump into pals when I visit. But Scotland will never be like that. Its history, and the geography of its lowland cities and countryside are similar to the North of England’s, not the South’s.

And so when most Scots look for an example of the dividends of loyal Union, they are not looking to London as you do. Instead, if you really ask, they look from Glasgow to Liverpool, from Edinburgh to Newcastle, and from Dundee to Middlesbrough.


There is little dividend of Union to be seen here.


You undoubtedly benefit from London’s stature. Britain’s stature benefits from that, and your work at one of the world’s great papers. But the majority of Britons do not benefit similarly. At least, no more than those in similarly distant independent nations like Ireland and The Netherlands.

So I urge you. Find a pal in Liverpool, or Middlesbrough, or Sheffield. If you’re stuck, call me a pal and come to Leeds.

We want the same thing. We want Scotland at the heart of a strong Union. But the story we need to win the argument isn’t from the winners of this Union in London; it is from those that have lost in the compromises of Unity but still believe that we can fix what has gone so badly wrong.

You would be among the first with a national voice to listen.


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