NEWS that the long-mooted referendum on whether Scotland should become an independent state could be held in the autumn of 2014 fills me full of dread and relief in equal measure.
In one sense, it is correct to try and bring the debate forward. Reports this week suggest investors are becoming cagey about pumping money into Scottish businesses due to the ongoing uncertainty. This is the last thing our economy needs at this moment.
A swift resolution to this debate, which has raged on and off since the Treaty of Union was signed in 1707, needs to be made.
But as a proud Scot who has lived in Yorkshire for most of my life, I find the prospect of a referendum on whether Scotland should become an independent nation for the first time in more than three centuries to be one which reflects poorly on the whole of the United Kingdom.
The reason why the debate has gained such prominence can be attributed squarely to the rise of the Scottish National Party.
Alex Salmond has arguably been one of the UK’s most effective politicians in recent years, having taken his party from its longstanding position on the periphery of politics to one which leads the devolved Edinburgh government after polling more than 45 per cent in last year’s Holyrood elections.
Opinion polls from both north and south of the border suggests a growing appetite and interest in making Scotland independent. If they are to be believed, the issue is on a knife edge.
Mr Salmond’s party claims that Scotland would become a state akin to Norway or Sweden when freed from the shackles of union – one that uses its strong manufacturing and tourism sectors, along with rich natural resources, to fund high public spending and sustain a high quality of life for its citizens.
Mr Salmond and his party repeatedly tell Scots that they will have a greater chance of prospering without the “Westminster Government” on its backs.
Given the way Yorkshire has been overlooked time and time again in favour of the South East, it is impossible not to sympathise with this viewpoint.
The idea of being able to directly control our own revenues and put them to good use locally is an attractive and appeals to people’s better nature and common sense.
What is missing from SNP rhetoric, however, is any semblance of how utterly inter-connected and co-dependent Scotland and the rest of the UK are.
Half of all Scots have relatives living in England while nearly half a million English now live and work in Scotland.
We share the same currency, health service, head of state, embassies, passports and armed forces. Our Members of the European Parliament represent constituencies within the United Kingdom.
Perhaps mindful of this inter-dependence, the savvy Mr Salmond has tried to add in another option to the referendum, one known as “devolution max” which would bring vastly increased powers to Edinburgh, leaving only matters pertaining to defence and international affairs in the hands of Westminster.
However it is still unclear whether the “devolution max” option will be put before voters, with some suggestions that any referendum will offer a simple “in or out” question.
Regardless of the outcome, the ongoing debate needs to be resolved soon, not just for the sake of the economy, but also for that of our country’s image.
If history has demonstrated one truth to us, it is that we are better together than apart. Recent events such as the Stephen Lawrence trial and Diane Abbott’s ill-considered remarks laid bare the painful divisions that still permeate our society.
To begin rebuilding a metaphorical Hadrian’s Wall in the 21st century would send a message to the world that, rather than a forward thinking and dynamic nation, we are still a country obsessed with ancient boundaries and minor cultural differences.
With a flatlining economy, mounting national debt and an increasingly bleak future for our children on the horizon, the last thing we need is more division in our country.
I feel as proud to be Scottish as I am to be British because I am both at the same time. All of my family, save for my younger brother, were born in Scotland while my wife and virtually all of my friends are English.
Whenever I drive north to see relatives, or watch my football team, I always give a short beep of the horn upon crossing the border to mark the crossing, a practice I have inherited from my father,
The idea that one day I may have to instead pull over and show my passport not only saddens me but it embarrasses me.
In its 300 years, the UK has been the most successful political union history has ever seen.
Imagine what another 300 years could achieve if were frain from rebuilding ancient walls.