Wednesday, 10 September 2014

A Kingdom facing disunion

Suddenly it’s almost upon us. In just eight days’ time a vote will take place that could have a profound effect on everyone in what is still, for now, this country.
Yet neither you nor I will be able to take part. Unless you live north of what we already call “the border”.
Ever since the referendum was called, the outcome has looked pretty much a foregone conclusion. Until now, just when it’s on the point of happening.
Now it seems the United Kingdom could be facing disunion after all.
The pollsters who have all along been predicting a resounding ‘No’ vote now say it’s too close to call.
Partly, no doubt, because the “Better Together” campaign has been so dreary, so negative, so threat-based that it’s worked for the other side.
Partly, perhaps, because Scots feel like doing whatever David Cameron, Hillary Clinton, the King of Spain and the premier of China tell them not to do. And who could blame them for that?
If it turns out to be ‘Yes’ after all, it will mean an awful lot of change. Not all of it in Scotland. And not all of it predictable.
It’s a fair certainty that David Cameron and his Government have made no serious plan for that possibility.
More strangely, it rather appears as if Alex Salmond and the SNP haven’t thought it all through properly either.
If I lived there, I might well answer ‘Yes’ to the question: “Should Scotland be an independent country?”
If it’s about keeping a non-privatised NHS, the answer’s Yes.
If it’s about keeping university education free, that’s a Yes too.
If it’s about getting rid of the expensive, dangerous and unnecessary Trident nuclear programme, it’s a definite Yes.
But I might want answers to a few other questions first.
For a start, I might want a look at the proposed constitution. Oh, wait, there isn’t one. Or if there is one, we haven’t seen it.
Will the currency union with England continue?
If so, does that mean key decisions affecting Scotland will continue to be taken in London?
And if not, then what?
And – this one could concern me even though I’m not (yet) Scots – will the free movement of people between the two countries remain?
At present, the plan is that it should.
But what if Scotland is denied its wish to remain in the European Union? Which looks likely, with Spain – worried by the ambitions of Catalan separatists – sure to cast its veto.
How would the EU look upon an open border with a non-member state?
And how about if it then flips round? Which it surely could – the Little Englanders getting UKIP’s crazy wish to leave the club just as Scotland is allowed to join.
The future, in so many ways, is uncertain – as the ‘No’ campaign has been so keen to stress.
But if the alternative is the “certainty” of continued rule by the globalised fat-cat interests of the City of London, I can see the appeal.
There doesn’t seem much hope of escaping that fate for the rest of us. For whatever the rump UK would have to start calling itself.
Before Wales, Northern Ireland, Cornwall, Northumbria etc embark on their bids to go their own way.


When did the English lose their taste for wild food?
Have they not read the inspirational writings of adoptive Norfolk bor Richard Mabey, whose book Food For Free has been a steady seller since its first appearance in 1972?
And have they not noticed that this year’s mild winter and wet summer have filled the hedgerows with the earliest and best crop of luscious blackberries I can ever remember?
Not to mention producing another good year for wild mushrooms.
OK, you have to be careful with fungi.
We’ve eaten some good field mushrooms and perfect parasols from the hillside outside our back gate. But there are also some destroying angels in the same field, and I’ve seen death caps in the vicinity – both, as the names suggest, are killers.
Unless you know your mushrooms well, and/or have a very good book, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
But you can’t go wrong with blackberries. As long as you’re prepared to pay the price of a few minor scratches and nettle-stings, anyway.
Yet I’ve seen very few people taking advantage of the present glorious bounty.
I was collecting a punnetful from the lane the other day when a woman out walking her dogs stopped to wish me a good harvest.
She too, it seems, likes blackberrying. And so does her whippet.
Put me in mind of a Staffie I had years ago which would accompany me on blackberry-picking trips and carefully pluck and eat any that were growing low enough for him.

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