NEIL OLIVER’S PAEAN TO BRITAIN

An emotional paean to Britain and to union, by Neil Oliver.

I was born British and as a British citizen I will live out my days. My nationality is a state of mind and I have no intention of changing either. I know who I am and what I love – and what I love is Britain, the whole place, every nook and cranny. This is my island. No pronouncement by any politician – here today and gone tomorrow – and no referendum on this or that issue of the day will have any effect on my understanding of myself and where I belong. It makes me feel better just to put those words down on the page.

The Canadian anthropologist Wade Davis said, “The world into which you are born does not exist, not in any absolute sense, rather it is a model of reality.” I listen to those words and realise that Britain does not exist either. Neither does England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales or any other country, not really. There are physical landscapes on the face of the Earth – made of dry land set apart from the sea. But the lines drawn and countries named are figments of collective imagination and made all the more meaningful as a result. They are what we say they are. The existence of our homelands is nothing more nor less than an act of will, and also of love. Just as creatures that once walked, swam or flew are long gone now, so there is a long list of countries that once were here but are here no longer … Sumer … Chimor ... Kush … the list goes on and on. You might say that a country is a dream shared by its inhabitants. As long as enough of the inhabitants believe in the existence of Britain, or Scotland, or wherever, then the dream remains alive and the country in question is made real. If too many people stop believing, or choose to believe in someplace else, then the dream is over and the country ceases to exist as completely as a candle flame blown out by the wind. I will always believe in Britain, come what may. That will never be taken from me.

The most familiar line of the Declaration of Arbroath, a letter to a 14th century Pope, concerned the necessity of 100 Scots remaining alive if Scotland were to prevail. My dream of Britain requires just me myself alone – it will last as long as me – but as many as want to are welcome to join me.

The question of whether or not Britain should continue to exist has been haunting our lives for years now. In 2014 a referendum asked the population of Scotland whether or not it was deemed a good idea to remain part of Britain, to maintain its existence. A majority said they did wish the union to prevail – 55 percent of voters in fact. The 55/45 split is well known. Less familiar to most is the fact that of the 32 council areas in Scotland, 28 said they preferred to maintain the three-centuries-old union. Many of those councils were small, with small populations dwarfed by those of conurbations elsewhere. But we are all told, are we not, that small voices must be listened to as well as large, and that small, determined, self-confident places might know their own minds?

In spite of that decision, that clean and clear “once in a generation” decision – that decision that both Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond swore, in writing, they would accept and uphold – the question has never gone away.

On the last page of his popular classic, Culloden, about the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion, John Prebble elegantly expressed the nature of dreams, or at least their power over us even when all seems lost.

He wrote: “A lost cause will always win a last victory in men’s imaginations.”

The Nationalist cause in Scotland is stubborn. I will admit to understanding stubbornness, being sympathetic to the trait and also admiring of it. This is because I am stubborn too, as stubborn as any nationalist could ever hope to be. My dream of Britain will always live in me. There is undoubtedly a requirement for relentless stubbornness and determination when it comes to the question of whether Britain – the dream of Britain, that is – should continue or be blown out. As far as I am concerned it is necessary most of all to see that it is that dream that matters most. In the end it might be all that matters.

Like everyone else involved in deciding the future of Britain I have read and listened to countless thousands of words on the subject. When it comes to predicting the prospects of a Scotland alone I have driven myself half demented trying to decide who and what to believe. The nature of the border … the ownership of the oil … the currency … the sharing of the national debt … the Barnett Formula … relations with the European Union … the armed forces … the fishing grounds … on and on goes the litany of concerns, opinions, promises, accusations, threats and denials. Both sides have at times declared victory – outright victory – in the economic debate. At the same time there have always been those on the separatist side evidently of the mind that the risk is worth it – come hell or high water … it will be alright on the night … While others (with brains wired for the task, unlike my own) continue to fight that good fight, I have moved in a different direction.

I know what I have come to believe about all of the above, but I will leave that much aside. Why? Because long ago I realised that the economic argument was not what mattered to me. Dreamers of dreams and those who pursue causes, lost or otherwise, care not a jot for economics. In my heart I respect this. A dream as grand as a country to believe in, to belong to, to stand up for, to speak for, to fight and to die for is a prize beyond gold or any other treasure. The economics matter – of course they do and for many people such is the be all and end all of the necessary discussion. I get that and respect that. But I am well beyond making the so-called “economic argument” myself. Just as I would not ask a mother to put a price on her child’s heart, so I will not seek to challenge, to tarnish and sully a dream, with talk of money. What is truly at stake here, at least for me, is the business of the heart.

History has been invoked – again and again and again until everyone is blue in the face (well, one side certainly). Both sides – unionist and separatist – reach backwards in time in pursuit of origin myths and superior claims of ownership of place and people, hearts and minds. This is among the oldest tricks in the book and has been tried more times than anyone might count. While trying to hammer the Scots into submission, King Edward I wrote to the Pope to assert the ancient nature of England’s claim on the whole island. Quoting historian Geoffrey of Monmouth he said his countrymen were descended from a Roman named Brutus, that Brutus was the root of the very name Britain. Since the English were in Britain first, went Edward’s logic, then the whole place must be his by right. The Scots replied by sending a party of churchmen led by one Baldred Bisset to talk to the Pope in person. There in the Holy Father’s summer home in the hill town of Anagni, Bisset declared that the Scots were descended from Noah, that his descendants had fled Israel, all the way to Scythia on the Black Sea. One of them had married a princess called Scota who led them on an odyssey to the land subsequently named after her, bringing with her as an heirloom the Stone of Destiny upon which Scots kings were crowned ever after.

(Britain is certainly an old name – much older than England, Ireland, Scotland or Wales. It seems likely that when the Romans first encountered these islands, splashing ashore somewhere on the south coast, they asked the locals what they called the place. The reply would have been something like Prytain and the Romans’ attempt at pronouncing the word – called an ethnonym – became Britannia.)

But I ask you … Brutus, Scota – who really cares about the truth or otherwise of those ghosts now? Just as the economic argument is too shallow, so fairytales told to a Pope seven centuries ago are inadequate. Neither ghosts nor fairy tales make foundations deep enough for persuading people of the best path to take now, into the future.

The union is more than 300 years old. The coming together of Scotland and England, on May Day 1707, was hardly a happy one and no one denies it. The bride was poor and the groom knew he was being married only for his money. Unhappy or not it was to prove the best thing that ever happened to either of them. The Scotland and England that came together then no longer exist, however. This, as much as anything else, is worth remembering. Our parents, happy or not, are gone now and never coming back. It is we, the children of that union who must decide what is to be done with our shared inheritance.

More recently Scots, some Scots, have sought to distance themselves from the long years of Empire and Commonwealth. What was once cause for common pride has been recast as national shame and some of those Scots have sought to pretend, to themselves most fervently of all, that imperial Britain was none of their doing. Apparently a big boy – England – did it and ran away. This stance is so wide of the mark, the claim so utterly false, as to be nothing short of a bare faced lie. We Scots were talented and enthusiastic builders and administrators of empire – as wedded to the enterprise as anyone else and grown rich and fat on the profits in the process. If there is shame to be apportioned then it is ours as much as anyone’s. While there might be little to be gained now from knowing whether Brutus or Scota made the earliest footprints on the homelands, it is surely vital we remember the truth of all our behaviours during the last three centuries of our coupling at least – the bad as well as the good.

So much for economics and history – both matter but not enough, either together or alone. What matters is who we are now, who we think we are … who we could or should be in the future. In seeking to portray Britain and British-ness in a bad light – a corrupt and sinful enterprise best dismantled and discarded – the champions of Scottish separatism have somehow claimed the moral high ground in its entirety. Not only were the sins of Empire committed behind our backs, without our knowing (don’t you know) apparently it is the Scots, the Scots alone, that are the egalitarian, caring defenders of freedom. South of the border therefore lies the embodiment of all that is corrupt, selfish and heartless – the Mordor that is Westminster. It is worth noting that since it has long been unfashionable for the SNP and its supporters to openly voice hatred for England and things English, “Westminster” has become the handy proxy. Something similar lurks furtively behind every disdainful reference to the “London parties” by which the SNP mean Conservatives, Labour, the Lib-Dems and anyone else that might speak up in favour of a United Kingdom.

If not economics or history, then what? How to make the claim that we, the inhabitants of these islands, are one family? In the end I can only speak for myself and from my own heart. That much is all I truly know. More by luck than good judgment, and mostly by means of the magic carpet provided by making television, I have seen a great deal of these islands. I have circumnavigated the coastline multiple times. I have criss-crossed the interior. I have seen the landscape from the sky, from the cockpit of fighter jets, vintage biplanes and microlights. I have been on its encircling waters in kayaks, battleships and just about anything in between that floats, and under its waters in scuba gear and a nuclear submarine. I have had a thorough look around. Long before the end I realised it was all one place, that the national borders drawn across it had no meaning for me and were invisible anyway. I have seen for myself how fisherfolk in Cornwall have more in common with others of their kind in Fife than either has with any inhabitants of the interior. You might say the same common ground is there with fishermen in France or Spain, but there is no denying the added strength of bonds made by shared language, shared culture, shared history, shared centuries.

I have also found it unavoidable to see the connections between the character of folk in Liverpool, Belfast and Glasgow on account of shared shipbuilding heritage. My English father in law learned his trade as an engineer in the coalmines of Kent before coming north to make the family that is part of my own. His Scottish father had worked as a miner in the pits of both the Central Belt of Scotland and in England’s south east. Both talk and talked with nothing but love for that lost trade. It was a love born of camaraderie and shared experience in an often dangerous world. Underground it hardly mattered where you had been born, as long as you could do the job and cared to look out for the wellbeing of the other men on the shift. Miners were miners.

I have noticed that differences in accent and dialect, style and demeanour, the countless idiosyncrasies providing the dizzying multicolour of the tapestry of Britain happen mile by mile, between one valley and the next, and are not all about national boundaries. Most of all and best of all I can say with hand on heart that I have been received with nothing but affection in every town and city, nook and cranny. Year after year, as a Scot abroad, I have been made to feel at home all over. When I toured Britain with one of my books last year and the year before, going from theatre to theatre, I stepped out onstage one memorable night in Liverpool into a welcome of cheers that took me aback so much I almost burst into tears. I have no connection to that city on the Mersey and yet I was nearly knocked to the back wall of the stage by the wave. I know that might sound self indulgent but I have to write about what I have experienced as a citizen of Britain, to make clear why it all matters to me the way it does. All of this is personal in the end, perhaps for all of us. How could I not love this place – this whole place – and so hope with all my heart that it remains one place. If so much is cut away from me I will feel the itch of missing limbs until my dying day.

I have been around enough of the wider world to know that most places are not like Britain, not at all. Every time I hear the place being run down for some or other alleged failing I want to ask, “Compared to where?” That anyone at all would imagine it were possible to break this wonder into pieces and yet somehow retain its fragile, precious gifts in each of the tattered remnants is beyond me. A torn fragment of a work of art is not enough. Once its gone, it is forever and we will all be diminished by its passing.

This Britain of ours has been and remains a bright light in a dark and darkening world, a magnet for humanity moving in hopes of somewhere better. When the EU was conjured into being it copied our union in hopes of having a fraction of its success. Whatever the intention, those builders fell short of the mark. There is no EU welfare state, and German taxes do not pay for healthcare in Greece or pensions in Spain. Most of the wider world would rather it were more like us, that it might have what we have had. When it comes to western liberal democracy, ours is the original marque.

What I said in 2014 I will say again. The idea that we Scots might look on at a whole Britain in need of repair, in need of realignment and updating to cope with the future, and choose to cut and run just makes me blush to my fingertips with shame. I am a British Scot and the Britons are my family, all of them. I don’t give a fig for politicians and I certainly don’t allow my feelings about the present bunch to blind me to what Britain actually is – no more than I would let this year’s crop of midges blind me to the beauty of the Highlands. I set aside my feelings concerning the latest incumbents of various parliaments on the grounds that they – and all of us besides – are temporary tenants. These islands of ours are rented accommodation whether we like it or not, and sooner or later we will vacate the place for new occupants. You don’t burn down the house just because you don’t care for those living in it now. Keep the house together. This house of ours is the work of 300 years (and the rest). If there are repairs to be done, then so be it. Let’s treat it like the grand home it is, and make it wind and watertight for the whole family again. The whole family. Let’s not break it into flats like a dodgy conversion job by cowboy builders.

I don’t base my decision on politics or economics or even history. I make my choices based on the responsibility I feel for people – alive now and yet to be born. I love Britain more than anywhere else in the world. With all my heart I declare that those of us born here, or who have made a home here by choice, are the luckiest, most blessed of all people. I am British. I will always be British.

Comments

D.J. Simmons

Wonderful writing. I heartily agree with everything you say.

Patricia Mackenzie

Stunning piece of writing, Neil. I won't be alone in feeling deeply moved (and in complete agreement).

W M Penton

A Heartfelt, well thought out piece of beautiful writing. I empathised with every thought written here. Those of us who are privileged to live in these islands called the United Kingdom are the most blessed(whether or not we realise it), in the world. Thank you Mr Oliver.

James Bruce

Absolutely stirring stuff; well said, Neil.

Niall Warry

Beauitfully written and I agree with every thing you say so very clearly. I too support the union and believe we are stronger together than apart. That it is preening, self-centred, ignorant and incompetent politicians leading the charge for seperation says all you need to know about the movement for separation. The more people, especially Scots like you and George Galloway, who speak up for the union the better. Thanks for a great article in defence of the union.

Diana Morgan

You reflect my thoughts exactly. I wish I could write so eloquently.

Richard Lyon

Neil - a beautiful essay, thank you. Whether you are conservative or not, there is something of value in the conservative idea of stewardship. The idea that the current arrangement is something we have inherited from those who have gone before, and have a responsibility to hand on to those who come after. The idea that 300 years of our history can be thrown away by a calibre of politician who's vision for Scotland accommodates stirring up prejudice, vigilanteism, and division is an offence to that principle. But this is not an argument that can be won by exposing the nature of the party of Nationalism. It's to be won by setting out a vision of what being part of Britain means, what we have inherited, and what we can pass on to our children, and your essay is a fine contribution to that task.

Margo Simpson

Agree wonderful writing ,this is probably what the silent majority of us think as well

Shena Winning

Pure eloquence

Charles Russell

Well written, correct in everything except you could have used the word’THRAWN’ instead of stubborn, only joking

PJMG

Thank you, Dr Oliver, for such as well considered and perfectly pitched article.

Charles McWilliam

Beautifully written. Thank you for taking the time to express, so eloquently, how I feel!

Jignasha Shavdia

Beautifully put, together we are stronger than we can ever be alone.

Glenn Horwood

Absolutely spot on, I live in England, but work in Scotland, and have done for a number of years. I love coming to work come rain shine or midges. I have always adored the scenery esp the west coast which is where I work. The Romans, actually landed about a mile from where I live. There was a dig recently which confirms this, which was around the Pegwell Bay area near Ramsgate. Keep up the good writing Mr Oliver, I shall be watching Coast again now, great series.

Mark Haythorne

Truly magnificent Neil....you express what so many right-minded people believe in such elegant, articulate prose. My awakening to the beliefs and values you espouse began over 20 years ago with Norman Davies' "The Isles - a History" but you have elevated the depth and maturity of thinking to a new level. Top of my bucket list would be a beer or three with you in Stirling and a good old chinwag! Go well and safely my friend.

Andrew Fenner

You have crystallised in your words everything I also feel about Britain and our shared heritage. From an English Brit (somehow British English doesn't sound the same as British Scot)

Euan MacGregor

Well done Neil for realising that Scotland is on the British Isles and will remain on the British isles after independence. Your union is finished and it’s not hard to see in your defeatist rhetoric. Nice piece - I love it

Martin Moore

What a wonderful piece. Emotional stuff. This personal and emotional testimony is what has been missing from the discourse on the Union.

John McCarthy

Beautifully written. Sincere and heartfelt. Neil Oliver shines the light of hope for all of us in these dark times. I am proud to be a Briton along side of him.

Anthony Brown-Hovelt

I couldn't agree more! My Father's parents were Catholic his mother Irish his Father English. My Mother a Northumbrian Scot raised in Glasgow with Protestant parents. The UK is a family with so many blood connections to pull it asunder is a terrible thing. Brought up in England I had the privilege of serving in two Scottish Regiments where we fought for our country, Britain and our values of the rule of law and western Liberal democracy. Long may it continue

Shane McGing

I agree with every word of that. Too often, people who feel the same way as us are reluctant to express it. Well done!

Karen Weatherill

Your words expressed my feelings for this wonderful land beautifully. Made me cry. Thank you.

Baw bag

Keep your outdated views to yourself Oliver

John Jardine

Thank you Neil for expressing your thoughts so eloquently.

Margot Russell

Such a strong message for remaining part of the United Kingdom. His article will cause great anger among supporters for Independence but i am one who believes it was a once in a generation decision and should remain so. I hear people now saying that in the middle of this pandemic the FM should not be looking at another referendum. Great work by Neil a proud Scot and proud Brit

Richard England

Thank God Neil has the guts to stand up and speak out in the face of SNP demagogues. That is hard in the current atmosphere the puritans are whipping up. It strikes me that while Trump is doing Putin's job for him in the USA the SNP is doing Putin's job for him in Britain. Divide and rule. Richard England

Samuel Reid

An excellent piece Neil. A pleasure to read.

Faaris Zaki

A truly beautiful piece. Exactly the sort of emotional message that may just yet hold our Union together. Boris take note!

Mark Kateley

As an Englishman who grew up in Ulster-this speaks 100% for me better than any politician has ever done

robbie wood

An excellent piece of writing,Neil.Ever thought about entering politics?Compared to the present bunch of misfits,you couldnt do any worse.

Duncan McNab

What utter drivel, and I say this from the heart! The right to self determination is sovereign and is based on egalitarianism not elitism. The 1707 Act of Union was based on blackmail, as the seperatist leaving of the EU, to avoid tax and human rights legislation. Seperatist England is based on nationalism, lwe wish a different path.

Looby Lou

I note you conveniently chose to ignore the great wealth the bride inherited some 50 years ago, wealth the abusive husband stole from her giving her only occasional shopping money. The marriage died a long time ago and I'm sure even you wouldn't wish the bride to continue to be a victim of this domestic abuse? I wish the bride the very best when she finally escapes the clutches of the spiteful and self obsessed husband you seem to admire.

Peter Mott

What amazes me as an Englishman is that those who would destroy the Union to make Scotland an "independent country" want to abandon that independence as soon as it is achieved and join the EU. I hope that demands for another referendum will be resisted and the idiocy will pass.

Karen Matthews

Neil Oliver has certainly earned his place in history. I’m proud of being British, and it just happens to be that the place of my birth was Scotland. Neil’s passion for our country and what makes us Britons is something we should all be striving for.

Derek Dargavel

A fabulous piece and mirrors my thoughts of my country exactly if I had his gift of eloquence which in his case is brilliant

Peter Watson

A magnificent call for all who share your belief to stand up

eric anderson

A superb piece of work , the only problem we have is that nationalists are unable to think for themselves and can only see the word independence. Hopefully the silent majority will stand firm again against this madness.

eric anderson

baw bags comment above is just typical of the lemming nationalist party. Trying to keep all thinking people quiet. The world has been through this before many times but the good people have come out victorious.

Ian Cumming

An excellent piece that echos my own thoughts exactly. I have travelled a fair percentage of the world and worked in some of it as well. I firmly believe we are stronger and better off united. As a tiny off-shore Dominion of the EU we would have no voice at all and it concerns me that bitterness and resentment lies at the heart of so many in the separatist movement.

Joyce Quin

Wonderful and inspiring. The emotional case for the Union is much stronger than the already strong economic one. As a Northumbrian with mixed English and Scottish roots I feel this deeply and the prospect of having to choose between little England or little Scotland is utterly depressing...and the loss of identity involved utterly distressing. I know very few “purely English” or “purely Scottish” people, so perhaps us mixed heritage, diverse, folk are in the majority??

Michael Forsyth

A beautiful piece. We are a family of nations and like all families must stick together.

Gordon Stewart

It seems several people have missed the thrust of your argument. We are British, have always been having taken several thousand years to become so. No petty squabble between bedfellows over who has a greater share of the blankets can change this. Thank you for a thoughtful and objective essay.

David Cansick

Where would our flag be without the blue of Scotland, and the men and women who are the mainstay of our armed forces. How many English people do not have a Scottish relative in their family tree.. The SNP should read their history.

Tony Rouse

Stunning piece of writing, so much sense.... Now I can appreciate the honesty he shows when doing his TV shows...

Alexander Morrison

What a wonderful piece - we need a positive and emotional case to be made for the Union, and this resonates so strongly with my own feelings and experience. The aggressive response from some cybernats on this forum shows that they also recognise that these are the arguments that might keep the Union together - but the people who really need to hear this message are in England, where indifference to the Union is at least as much of a danger as the determination of Scottish Nationalists to dismantle it. Sadly the strongest arguments for Scottish independence are mostly being made in Westminster rather than in Edinburgh - and the argument for the Union is not going to be won by politicians of any stripe, which is why we need advocates with Neil Oliver's eloquence and integrity.

Alec Oatttes

Dear Neil, you are just like everyone else on these islands, entitled to your opinion, I would happily remain "British" if there was not so much power and sometimes corrupt wealth in London and The South East of England. I do not hate you or the English, but would like to see a written Constitution, like most other sovereign nations, a fairer voting system and finally an elected democratic Upper Chamber. Democracy will finally win out in the end. Best wishes.

Michael Birnie

Well Neil you have said everything I have felt for years and would never be able to put to paper as you most wonderful have. Watching you on to for years I often wondered what your views on this subject were. I am so glad you have not disappointed me. I too am a proud British Scotsman.

Bernard Burgin

Brilliant piece of work Neil. It really did bring tears to my eyes. Interesting the only negative comment was from someone too cowardly to give a name.

ken gibb

"Breathes there a man with soul so dead..?" Walter Scott, a High Tory if ever there was one would be in despair at such an empty, shallow, posing piece of prose. Especially from a self-proclaimed historian. The Britain Neil claims to love so much is going to the dogs - it may be that a politically independent Scotland may be just the medicine that's required reinvigorate these islands.

Donna Cosstick

Thank you for putting all my feelings into this powerful piece of writing. As an Englishwoman living in Wales I despair of subtle attempts to portray Wales as a separate country rather than a principality- a part of Great Britain, the country of which I am proud to be a citizen.

Michael Upton

What oft was thought but ne'er so well expressed. Thank you greatly Mr. Oliver for your highly commendable words. I was born to an Englishman and a Dane in Peebles and have lived my life in Penicuik and Edinburgh. The idea that one day someone might tell me that I no longer live in my own country of Britain strikes me as somewhere between lamentable and laughable. Michael Upton, Advocates' Library, Parliament House, Edinburgh.

Tim Walsh

Thank you Neil, you have summed up exactly how I feel about my home and my country.

John Chambers

Excellent essay, superb comments, what common sense...! Wish more people could/would read these words. Thank you, Neil.

JN

Thank you Mr Oliver for an articulate and impassioned argument in favour of maintaining the union. What a pity we don’t hear more of this in the mainstream media which appears in thrall to the First Minister and her party of incompetents and bigots.

david sillito

I recall my Geography teacher saying, when asked what race we were in the UK, that we were mongrels. That was more than 50 years ago. A collective tail wag for Neil Oliver please!

Michael Davies

I am a proud Welshman, but also a proud Briton and would hate to see Great Britain broken up by a number of demented delinquents, especially as the Welsh were here long before any of the English or Scottish arguments would have you believe. I refer to GB and not UK as I believe that Eire and NI should be reunited as one country and then the British Isles can truly form its' own union to build better, stronger, together.

Susan Nicol

A remarkable, thoughtful and hugely relevant essaythat I found so enlightening. As British English I am so wearied of the weight of blame and disparagement, and it can seem hard to rise above the separatist discourse. Thank you for reminding me of the view you get when you do manage to see it from above. And thank you for re-igniting the hope. If bright, intelligent people like you will speak, there is hope.

Anita Hadder

Thank you, For all the years we have ben away from our home land, we still miss the beauty & History of Britain.

Tom Adams

For someone born in England, schooled in NI, with Welsh and Scots in-laws - reading this warmed my soul. Magnificent. Should be mandatory for all politicians of all parties and creeds. Thank you.

Nicholas Bundock

Stunning - it's words like these that will save our precious Union...

Malcolm Ward

Absolutely wonderful article, thank you Neil. Had us in tears.

Frances Post

I cannot express my gratitude deeply enough. What a masterful job. Living in the US, as my husband and I have for many years, I sometimes struggle to convey why Britain matters so much. Thank you for writing this; it cannot have been an easy task. I hope it is used as a primer whenever the topic arises.

Mike Haseler

" The reply would have been something like Prytain and the Romans’ attempt at pronouncing the word – called an ethnonym – became Britannia.) But I ask you … Brutus, Scota – who really cares about the truth or otherwise of those ghosts now? " The idea that the people of Britain were one unified Welsh or Gaelic speaking group is just absurd. That might have washed in the days before real archaeology, but we now have clear and unequivocal evidence that the supposed massacre of a welsh speaking "British" race by incoming Anglo Saxons is a total fiction. The archaeology shows a continuance of population, and therefore we know there would have been a continuance of language. If Welsh were widely spoken in England, almost every name of every hill, village and most personal names would have been Welsh. And like the Norman conquest, we would have seen things done by captured Britains being given a British name and those objects (foods) belonging to the lords being given a posh Anglo Saxon name. In contrast, there is not a shred of evidence for the widespread use of Welsh spoken in England. So, no, when the Romans came to Britain, the people at least in English speaking areas, almost certainly spoke a Germanic language so similar to Anglo Saxon that we cannot now distinguish the difference. The only areas where there might have been other languages are where we know Welsh, Cumbric and Gaelic were spoken in historic times (i.e. written accounts) and in the "nearer shores" to Gaul, (I.e. Kent and surrounding areas) where the Belgae Gauls at least formed the local elite speaking ... now that is an entirely different can of worms.

Andrew Brown

Excellent piece of writing- we need more of this.

Gordon McLeod

What a brilliant article encompassing all the hypocrisy of the independence issue. The piece was so refreshing and sums up what many Scots already feel. It illustrates what too many Scots don't understand that Bonny Prince Charlie was a confirmed narcissist who cared more about his own ego than the Scots people more concerned with his own advancement. Does that sound familiar ? Well, Scotland currently has a First Minister who is more interested with her own aggrandisement than any welfare of the Scottish people determined to lead a misguided band of modern day Jacobites into a "Culloden" of Independence. Scotland needs more realistic insight like your own Neil. Thank you

David Strachan

Excellent article and shows what we have is far beyond any political party at a moment in time. Having traveled extensively and lived for a number of years overseas what we have in Britain as a collection of nations is unique and is the most free society globally.

Gordon McLeod

As an adjunct to my first comment on this brilliant article, I find myself truly ashamed of the narrowmindedness and ignorance of some of my "fellow"Scots who seem oblivious to the empty chasms in the SNP,argument, not least the economy. Hasn't history taught them ANYTHING ? If anyone needed any proof of this, just look at the lack of intellectual calibre of the couple of negative comments this article has received, obviously from nationalists. It entirely makes the case for maintaining the union........and with that the Defence rests !!

Ron Savege

“Twenty eight out of thirty two council areas”...”swore, once in a generation”......”politicians, here today and gone tomorrow”.....succinct and telling.

Robert O'Neill

My mother and father were Belfast people, my wife's father a Dundonian and her mother's father a proud Welshman, we were born in England. Throughout my life when asked from were I hail I always say I'm British and proud of it. Great article and more needed to save the Union.

George Campbell

Neil once referred to some of Adomnan's writings as being "fairy stories." Columba had two priories called "Insula Iona" the first of which was at Fort Augustus. By an amazing co-incidence, all the so-called "lost place names of Iona" can be found where? Fort Augustus. Get it? The Benedictines wanted the site because the Valliscaulians had been there and the Valliscaulians wanted it because Columba had been there. Columba, of course, wanted it because the druids had been there on a site between two rivers. I'll deal with this another time, but the story of Culloden is totally false. My ancestor was Keppoch's cousin and was slain with him.

stuart chalmers

the outpourings of a sentimentalist's heart. little in the way of rational argument - not very Kevin Hague at all. Scots voters are entitled to have the vote on their own management of their affairs and I suspect the day will come soon

Robert Pringle

Well said Neil. I am actually pro independence but this piece of writing is one of the finest pieces of journalism I have ever seen. It actually got me re-thinking my stance on the subject, but only for a few seconds. Nice try though.

Tony Johnson

What a great idea to start a "movement" with such a heartfelt, creatively crafted paean. How inspirational! Well done Neil Oliver. I am English [born in Yorkshire actually] and for almost 40 years have had a strong family connection with Scotland. So much so that I moved up here to live 4 years ago. I have always admired this beautiful country and its inhabitants ... their accents, culture, traditions, achievements. Afterall the Scots have always punched above their weight. It would be heartbreaking if they were to leave us.

Robert Key

Brilliant , this should be sent to all schools for children to learn . including adults .

Bridget Gunston

You made me cry Neil. Wonderful piece of writing which should stir the heart of every Briton, no matter which part of this incredible domain they are from. Says everything I want to say about our precious homeland. Thank you. God bless and keep you.

Bruce Nicol

When, as a teenager, I once bemoaned the fact that I had been born in England, my Scottish mother retorted, "You are an Anglo-Scot, and have therefore won first prize in the lottery of life". A proverb also taught me that "Unity is Strength"

Joan Pennie

I was so pleased to read your essay. Please come on TV and make your thoughts more public. I’m in despair about the current moves to drag Scotland away from the Union. Nicola Sturgeon’s personal popularity should not be used in this way. When she retires, what and who would we be left with. The divisions and turmoil of Brexit are nothing compared to what would happen should the SNP get their way. Nationalism is a destructive force.

Brenda Oakley-Carter

Thank you for these beautiful, very wise and true words. I was lucky enough to grow up in the Highlands and then live in England and love both as you do. We are very lucky people to live on this wonderful island and are always stronger when united.

Chris Franklin

I’m British first...

Nicola Drake

Well said from an English woman who lives in the United Kingdom

Ian Miller

What about the thorough mess the sitting Scottish government’s misguided Wind Farm energy policies are making of our environment aided and abetted by the lunatics in Westminster ? I don’t see Scotland’s landscape and previously precious scenery ever recovering from such wholesale industrialisation and vandalism, being imposed on it. - Certainly not in my lifetime.

Stephen Hunneysett

I live in the borders and my dna is apparently 32% Scottish. I love the country with a passion, own a home there and hope to retire there one day not too far from where my Gran’s family are from.. I find the ‘little Scotland’ brigade as unattractive as any other ‘nationalists’. We are A British people on this island and this pitiful popularism is just Nigel Farage or Nicola Sturgeon nonsense.

David Mackenzie Evans

Excellently written. As a "Scotty/Taff", born in Wales, schooled and for the past 55 years resident in England, I consider myself totally British. Five generations and more of my family have served the Union as well as they were able. I sincerely hope the concept of Britain continues for all the reasons so eloquently expressed by Mr. Neil Oliver. Thank you, Sir.

alan reid

I am Scottish, British and European, AFTER independence I will still be all these things. English/ British nats do not have the power nor right to take away my British identity.

alan reid

"In spite of that decision, that clean and clear “once in a generation” decision – that decision that both Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond swore, in writing, they would accept and uphold – the question has never gone away." That is a lie! The once in a lifetime phrase, it was actually only ever meant to reflect the political significance/uniqueness of the event itself and was NOT, as some people have insisted, a binding condition/clause contained within the legal framework of the referendum. The phrase has, in my opinion, been highjacked by those who want to use it to make charges of hypocrisy against the SNP leadership. It was not written into the Edinburgh agreement, it was mentioned in the white paper, but that was not a legal document. So unionists crying about “once in a generation” are completely trying to deflect away from the fact that the Scottish people, by voting in SNP by 48 seats, have the right to ask for another independence referendum. Also can you direct us to the paragraph in the Edinburgh Agreement (i.e. the "rule book" on which basis the 2014 referendum was run) in which it was stated to be a once in a generation decision? You can find the full text here: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/313612/scottish_referendum_agreement.pdf The No vote was not an endorsement of the UK, it was a stay of execution. Like any contract if you renege on the deal it cancels the result. The morning after the Scottish referendum, Cameron announced that it was time for “English votes for English laws”. A virulent English nationalism was let out of the bag and never looked back. That was a clear breach of the Edinburgh Agreement (referendum rules). But cheating is ok for you......right. ps We are still in this godforsaken Union. For now.

Simon O'Connor

This is very nice, but in reality, and unfortunately, the Tory supporting section of England, has set itself apart as being superior to the Scottish. In fact, Scottish people no longer have representation in the Government at Westminster. Anyone can see this is not a sustainable union. Dreams are nice, but equality is more important.

Robert Bylett

A beautifully written and clear piece and I agree with every thing you say. I too support the union and believe we are stronger together than apart.

Catherine Forde

I read this piece with interest but puzzlement. It is a well argued piece but one thing mystifies me. Ireland is not part of Britain do why does Oliver claim that it is?? I have heard him repeatedly refer to the "British Isles" and Britain as including Ireland but with respect Ireland is a separate island, a separate people, a separate nationality and a separate political entity. Does Neil know this, I ponder?? To be Irish is to be NOT British, by definition. Even the archaic term "British Isles " is problematic for the Irish. Leave Ireland out of it Neil. We gained independence 100 years ago and are very happy about it.

Chris Shaw

An incredible piece of writing, supporting the union. So pleased to have come across this today. Thank you Neil Oliver. You certainky represent the views of the Scots who have married into my English family and would hate to see these islands torn apart. We stand better united by far.

Janette Wark

A beautifully written piece about the pride that we feel in the Union

Alan Chynoweth

As an ex-pat Briton from the England part of Great Britain, this beautiful essay captures so well the way I feel about the frightening directions those who would fragment our beloved island might take us. The focus, beautifully expressed, is on vital subtleties that seldom enter any debates on the more mundane pros and cons of breaking up but which are truly of fundamental value. Living in the US has made me appreciate all the more the unique magic that Britain has achieved. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Richard Dorman

Brilliant piece. My very proud Scottish father would never have voted for the break up of the United Kingdom as he would have viewed it as an insult to his beloved English wife, my mother, who was from Hastings. I hope every voter in Scotland will read this article in order to educate themselves in regards to the simple benefits of being part of a United Kingdom.

Andrew Gordon

Brilliant and stirring. Also correct! Get it into every voting hand in Scotland, and even the whole of the UK. Well done

Jean Gillies

Please Neil Oliver use your magical words on TV to let everyone hear your thoughts. We need someone to speak for us to save Britain. Ordinary people will listen to you. Please.

Stuart Millson

Very few commentators - and hardly anyone on BBC or Sky News - have pointed out that the SNP is not offering the people of Scotland a pre-1707 state of independence at all, but rather, total dependence - upon the undemocratic Eurozone and European Union. As part of the United Kingdom, Scotland has its own Parliament, Government, legal system and Scottish banknotes - and its MPs also help to decide the future of the UK at Westminster. If Scotland is prised out of the Union of Britain, it will become nothing more than a territory of the Eurozone, governed not by Ms Sturgeon but by Ursula von der Leyen.

PATRICIA KELSO

I am living in Australia but never, ever have I not loved Britain with a passion. I married a Scot, here not at home. Yes please keep together it is ALL such a beautiful place. Thank you Mr. Oliver I am with you every step of the way.

Jeff Green

I'm a British Englishman and, like you, my affinity to Britain exceeds my affinity to England. Your piece is bang on. The media don't seem interested in giving airtime to anybody making a passionate case for Britain, and I wish they would - voices like yours, on this subject, need to be heard. Blair started all this, to my mind, with his naive devolution policies which (utterly predictably) gave a platform to nationalists intent on causing division between us. Tragically, the wind is behind them. The divorce deal, if it comes, will be horrible for Scotland and cause grief between our previously united peoples. Many European countries, I suspect, would be overjoyed to see us split - but, also, utterly bemused that we've gone ahead with such an act of national self-mutilation. The Commonwealth, I'm sure, would slowly drift apart - why hold together if its founder member can't ? Yet, as you say, Britishness is a state of mind, and I, for one, will remain British until the day I die.

Rightonpierre

Beautifully put Neil. Publish your article as widely as possible. And for my two-pennies' worth there is no such thing as 'independence'. Scotland will always be dependent upon outside agencies and some of its prospective bedfellows will have divergent if not malign intent.

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