To those of us in favour of a No vote for unity and solidarity, the result of the Scottish referendum is a huge relief. My own sentiments were a mixture of emotion and fear. As the child of a Scottish mother and English father I have been raised to be British, never English or Scottish. I was proud to wear my kilt at my wedding and have many relatives and friends on both sides of the border. I would have been entitled to Scottish citizenship had the vote gone the other way. At the same time, I have been shaped primarily by the English education system and experience. I felt like my country and identity — one that I have always felt was by its very nature more inclusive than mere Englishness or Scottishness — was about to disappear.
I was also hugely fearful that progressive forces in the remainder of the United Kingdom would be massively and perhaps fatally wounded by separation from our Scottish comrades. Independence for Scotland would have unleashed quiescent but nasty English nationalism and consigned the vulnerable in the remainder of the United Kingdom to ever more miserable lives.
These are not the concerns of Scottish nationalists, but I know they are the concerns of Scottish progressives who look beyond their borders. Together we have to fight the reactionary and exploitative Coalition government that is ruining lives right across our shared country. Scots have done so much good south of their border and, as the Yes campaign showed, the passion and commitment of many Scots is a fearsome and invaluable weapon in a cause.
In my own field of migrants rights there is much work to be done. The awful Immigration Act 2014 is coming into effect. Citizenship deprivation provisions and additional search and detention powers have already been introduced. Landlord ‘papers please’ checks on tenants are to be tested in the Midlands this autumn and will create division and suspicion there – and everywhere if the pilot is expanded after the election in 2015. Appeal rights will be scythed for migrants in October. This Act is a new level of nasty.
Speaking personally, the energy of the Yes campaign in Scotland and the huge stakes have been a wake up call. Equally, I have been horrified by the passivity and inertia of many. We must work together to fight and win, to roll back these draconian changes and to realise our shared British values of inclusiveness, openness, tolerance and welcome.