CONSERVATIVE MEP FOR SCOTLAND

The polls open in less than seven hours

18.09.2014.

The polls open in less than seven hours. I am pondering how best to express my thoughts, the emotions inside my head.

Let me start simply: vote. Get out and vote. Whatever side of the argument you find yourself on, vote. We live in a country in which the democratic right is before us, in our hands. That isn’t true everywhere. Spain has been much discussed during this campaign. Let me make no political point but rather state that an independence referendum will also take place in Catalonia on 9 November. The difference is that the Spanish Government has declared categorically that it will not recognise the result. This troubles me. For all the condemnation of the UK government I have read, this is an accusation that cannot be made.

So what of the big question? I don’t suppose it will surprise anyone to read that I have voted, ‘No’. I have a wealth of arguments I can make to support my position. The decision was a heart decision as well as a head decision. I could give you a whole story about why I am a Tory, but I will save that for my memoirs. Let me focus more upon why I feel British as well as Scottish.

I was raised in a village called Alyth, on the eastern edge of Perthshire. It isn’t on the road to anywhere. You have to want to go there to go there. Before the Internet all that we had to connect us in to the rest of the UK was the TV. I experienced the UK through the box in the corner of the room. From Mr Ben of Festive Avenue to Shughie McFee the chef at Crossroads Motel (played by the late lamented Angus Lennie), from Phil Drabble of One Man & his Dog (my grandfather’s influence) to Peter Duncan and Simon Groom of Blue Peter.
I went to St Andrews University, which draws its students from all corners of the globe, and then I went to Bristol. My mother visited me there; it was the first time she had left Scotland. I worked in London before heading north to Aberdeen. On my travels I met people like me and people not like me. The unifying feature was not my nationality. I found Scots who seemed foreign to me, and Welshmen who shared my world view. Scots who were like brothers and Londoners who were not on my page. I didn’t feel that the border between Scotland and England represented a border of views or experiences or aspirations or ambitions.

When I worked for Scottish fishermen, although there were differences between their needs and the needs of fishermen in the rest of the UK, they were as nothing compared to the differences between British fishermen and the fishermen in the rest of the EU.

Of my two grandfathers, one was a staunch Tory, the other a bicycling Communist (and believe me they were rare in Perthshire). In any general election one was happy and the other wasn’t. No one can ever really always gets the party they vote for. Unless they operate in a country very different from out own. I have voted in each Scottish parliamentary election, and I have yet to get the government I have voted for. That being said, I haven’t always been disappointed by the individual policies pursued by parties not my own, either in London or Edinburgh.

Of the last 20 years, we have experienced fourteen years of Labour Government and six of the Conservatives (with a wee dash of Libdemmery thrown in). In Scotland we have had about eight years of SNP Government and eight years of labour/liberal government. We have also weathered a financial crisis the likes of which we have not experienced in our lifetimes. Politics is about striving for what is best. I would argue that the freedom granted by the devolved parliament in Edinburgh, and the certainty granted by the UK to which we send our MPs (and which has been dominated in so many ways by Scots) we are well served. But I am a unionist; I would say that.

This time tomorrow we will know whether the bonds that tie us together are stronger than the bonds that tear us apart. The important thing is that the decision is in our hands.