It calls for some appreciation that the referendum — on September 18 — on whether Scotland would remain part of the United Kingdom is taking place in a violence-free atmosphere. Should Scotland separate itself, it will be the first redrawing of national boundaries in Western Europe since the German reunification in 1990. Scotland united with Britain in 1707. Passages of unification had been there quite some time before this. King James, the ruler of Scotland, became King of England in 1603 and started the Stuarts dynasty. His mother, Mary Queen of Scots, was a cousin of Elizabeth I. Before Scotland, Wales had joined England sometime in the middle of the 16th century. With the accession of Ireland in 1801, Great Britain all but formally became the United Kingdom.
The Scots and the English are not known to have had much enmity apart from calling each other names (or nicknames). A person from Scotland resents being called ‘Jock’, just as the Irish do not like to be referred to as ‘Mick’. And that’s all there is to it. Ramsay MacDonald, from Scotland, became British PM, and so did Harold Macmillan and Gordon Brown. The two nations, if they can be called as such, lived with conventions even if they appeared contradictory. England and Scotland take part separately in World Cup football or cricket, with the possibility of Scotsmen being found in the English team. In the Olympics they unite. Sir Walter Scott was not a man of Scottish literature and Arthur Conan Doyle, to whom we owe much of our knowledge of the underbelly of London, was no Englishman. In the formation of the British Empire, the Scots too had a role to play. Many of the planters and those who invested in setting up the railways in India were Scots.
However, some bit of Englishness remains, why else should the Scots choose to opt for a referendum? The Berlin Wall came down, but Hadrian’s Wall, built in Roman times, roughly dividing Scotland and England, still stands. In India, there is only one thing we wish for: Let not aggressive nationalism take over at this stage, so that whichever way the cat jumps on the referendum day, we can, out of reverence for the finest product of Scotland, say ‘cheers!’