With a name like Jamieson, my Scottish ancestry is clearly advertised. I am named after my Fifer Grandfather who left Scotland to work on Clement Atlee’s new nuclear project on the remote western coast of what was then Cumberland. Atlee deemed such a facility necessary after the US withdrew from nuclear collaboration with other nations after World War II. That project became Sellafield.
My Grandfather’s country was my country. I considered myself fortunate to be British and my identity was forged by two countries who combined to make a greater country. Born in England, passionate about Liverpool Football Club, as a child I wanted to play football for Scotland. My national identity? British.
Like millions of others south of Hadrian’s Wall, Scottish blood flows through my veins. The independence debate was always going to be emotional and hard fought; feelings were always going to run high.
A Conservative government was always going to spur the hopes of Scottish separatists and the particular kind of privileged Conservatives we have been landed with were always likely to turbo-charge negative sentiment. But recently, the ‘Yes’ campaign has sought to conflate England with Toryism. Westminster, and London. Beneath it all, the ugly insinuation is that to be English is to be Tory.
This is a shameful tactic and millions of English people will be rightly offended by it. England, the country of the Tolpuddle Martyrs, Clement Atlee, George Orwell, William Morris, William Blake and countless other figures whose lives shaped left wing thought not just throughout Britain but the world.
This knowing lie also suggests that the people of England are content with London’s dominance of the national economy and happy with how Westminster functions. Nothing could be further from the truth. In the North of England, in cities like Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and Leeds dissatisfaction with how London runs the show is about to erupt. Westminster is remote and detached? True, but you can get there more quickly from Glasgow than you can from my constituency in England.
They’re dissatisfied in Bristol, too. And Exeter. And Norfolk. And right across the Midlands. Tory England? Get real. And within London, the divisions are astonishing. Whatever the differences between England and Scotland, there is no gap in Britain so wide as the brief walk from Hackney into the gilded streets of the City of London. Far from being an imaginary flat-tax, Home Counties caliphate, England is a country of real contrasts, containing millions of working people who want and need progressive government. The pro-separation camp has caused a lasting distaste with its knowingly false depiction of England and the English.
I’m thankful for those Scots, still in the majority, who understand England as it really is and who refuse to believe the twisted Tory England of Alex Salmond’s imagination. Thankful too for their solidarity with constituencies like mine and the people within them. They know that the fight against poverty and inequality is a collective fight, whether in Carlisle or Cowdenbeath.
In nine days, the Scottish people will determine their own future. That is only right, but in making that decision I hope the wicked lie of Tory England is seen for what it is.
Jamie Reed is MP for Copeland and Shadow Health Minister