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Londoners Turn Out to Ask Scotland to Stay

Polls show the English don't want to see the end of the Union. But they don't have a vote, so they staged a big rally instead.

by Chris Giles
Sep 17 2014, 11:30am

Images via Chris Giles

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Turns out Londoners love Scotland. They have no reason not to, of course, but I didn't realise quite the level of affinity until I arrived at Tuesday's Let's Stay Together event in Trafalgar Square. Thousands of Unionists, Scottish expats and people really into waving mini flags had gathered to have their voices heard in the lead up to Thursday's independence vote, and they were all saying pretty much the same thing: Vote No.

The polls have tightened dramatically since last week, rendering Thursday's result too close to call. The Westminster trio of Prime Minister David Cameron, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Labour Party Leader David Miliband have all hurried on up to Scotland in a last-ditch effort to save the Union, while Scotland's first minister, Alex Salmond, has kept himself busy flying around the country on the campaign trail, accusing the BBC of political bias and questioning Westminster's promise of more powers for Scotland in the event of a No vote. UKIP - to the mass frustration of the No campaign - even held a weird press conference in a bid to keep the UK together.

The Let's Stay Together campaign is backed by a bunch of English TV stars who were popular in the mid-2000s and aims "to give a voice to everyone who doesn't have a vote in the decision to break up Britain". Comedian Eddie Izzard and historian Dan Snow were there on Tuesday giving speeches to that effect to a hugely enthusiastic reception.

According to the polls, English people "overwhelmingly want Scotland to stay in the UK". However, those poll results weren't accompanied with sound bites explaining everyone's reasoning, so I had a walk around the rally and asked some people why Scotland is their BFFL.

VICE: What brings you here?
Despite my confusing accent, Scotland is my home. I spent the majority of my life there, but I decided to come to university in England because I didn't get into any universities in Scotland. I've come during a time of a referendum, so basically I can't vote.

That's not great. How do you feel about that situation?
I feel a little bit disenfranchised. I want to do my bit, and being here is all I can do. Edinburgh is my home and I don't want to lose it. Britain is also my home. They're both part of me.

Do you reckon you'll move back to Scotland?
Like I say, Scotland - Edinburgh - is my home. However, the Scotland I'm seeing at the moment isn't my home. This referendum has opened a Pandora's Box of the very worse characteristics of nationalism. I've been in Scotland a lot recently and it's revealed a dark underbelly of society.

What are your views on Alex Salmond?
He's a dreadful, horrible man. He bullies and puts people down, like when he speaks in Parliament. Anyone who disagrees with him he accuses of scaremongering. These are all the hallmarks of a dictatorial mind. I'm not a fan.

Hi Tom, why are you here today?
Tom Brake MP and Deputy Leader of the House of Commons: I think we're better together. I would hate for the friends I've got in Scotland to be separated from the UK. There are so many reasons why Scotland is better as part of the UK. The government has already made a commitment to give further powers to Scotland, so I think they can get the best of both worlds. They can have greater responsibility in tax and benefits, but at the same time be a part of the UK, which has a really important global presence.

Many might be voting for independence because of the cuts your government has implemented.
Well, of course one of the issues Alex Salmond has made during this campaign is the alleged privatization of the NHS (National Health Service). Alex Salmond already has responsibility for the NHS; he could privatize it if he wants to. The government is offering more powers in terms of tax and benefits. And then it will be down to the government in Scotland to decide the levels and quality that they want to provide.

How do you think Nick Clegg has done in keeping the Union together?
Latterly, I think all the party leaders have just grabbed it by the scruff of neck. I think that, until now, Alex Salmond has had it a bit easy. He's been pulling the emotional heartstrings on this. But I think those who support Scotland staying in UK have started to respond more aggressively. The fact that Scottish businesses employing 40,000 people saw £3 billion ($4.9 billion) wiped off their value because of separation means things are swinging back in our direction.

Hi Will. Why are you here today?
I want to express that I don't want Scotland to leave the Union. I think we're better together. It's all a load of rabble-rousing nonsense. We can adapt to what Scottish people want. I share a lot of the political views that Scottish people are expressing, and it's frustrating. I want to work with them to make everything better.

You say you share political views with people in Scotland. Would you vote Yes if you lived there?
I don't think I'd vote Yes, because I think that Scotland is going to be a worse country to live in than now. I think that a lot of the campaigning has been very negative. I'd hope that if I was in that country I wouldn't be listening to stuff like that.

What do you like most about Scotland?
Are you trying to make me say something that a Londoner would say, like "the Edinburgh Festival"? Well, I do like the Edinburgh Festival.

Glad to hear it. Cheers, Will.

So you reckon Scotland should stick with Britain?
Naomi (on the right): I'm Scottish and my parents are English. But essentially I feel we are stronger together.

I take it from your poster you don't like Salmond?
I think it's important not to get tied up in personalities. Saying that, I don't trust him and I don't think he has answered enough questions. He's been very manipulative.

Do you trust politicians in Westminster?
I have to say, it's looking kind of bleak. I wouldn't say there's a huge amount of faith, but hopefully this campaign can show that changes need to be made all over.

Who do you think is going to win?
It's very close, but I feel that the No campaign will succeed.

Follow Chris Giles on Twitter: @ChrilesGiles

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