Cameron Penny is a financial services lobbyist.
“One thing I want my relatives to be able to say when they claim their Scotch descent, to be able to tell where their ancestors came from, and not be like many who have claimed they were Scotch to me and when I asked where they came from, they then say , “My father was Scotch.” When I asked them where he came from they say, “Well, I don’t know.” They don’t deserve the name of Scotch, and the man who wrote these memoirs is a real Scotchman if nothing else, and he has told his relatives whence he came.”
In one hundred words Alexander Penny finished his short, modest memoirs by encapsulating his pride in being Scottish – and his firm conviction that this was a heritage that was so much more than just a geographic marker for where someone’s people had come from.
You’d need to count several ‘greats’ before reaching back to the day in 1845 when Alexander came into the world on the farm at Hallmos in the parish of Rathen, Aberdeenshire where the Pennys had thrived for 500 hundred years. Alexander went on to travel the world, working in London before starting his own business in Missouri. His story and that of many Scots is not one which rests on myopic introspection.
My family history is something that I have turned to during recent days as the polls tightened ahead of Scotland’s independence referendum. The debate seems to have been stuck on lukewarm – and yet it is at its core an appeal to the heart of every Scot. I don’t mean lukewarm in the sense that it has been quiet: the shouts, chants and egg-throwing have seen to that. I mean lukewarm in that we don’t seem to have yet captured what this decision really means. Better Together has struggled to really find something that will tug at the heart strings – reasoning instead that practical concerns about pensions and the currency will win the day. Even Alex Salmond struggled to match his Obama-like stage prowling with oratory worthy of that inspiration during the two televised debates.
Clearly the practicalities of independence need to be considered, and these aren’t things which can be resolved simply because the SNP says all will be well. On oil; there won’t be enough. On the EU; member states with their own, often violent, separatist movements won’t allow Scottish membership. On the pound; there’ll be no currency union – and besides, even if there were, nationalists need only look to the Eurozone to see how much economic sovereignty is traded to secure one.
These and other issues are worthy of considered debate and, amidst it all, there has been some of that. But, as we enter these final days of the campaign we need more. The United Kingdom needs more. I applaud the organisers of the ‘Let’s Stay Together’ campaign, because this is the positive message we need to reiterate time and time again until polling day. Great Britain, this United Kingdom, has succeeded over 300 years because we are one nation. The recent rise of nationalist parties does nothing to strengthen us, and it is a cruel irony that the SNP share much in common with UKIP.
Both these parties specialise in finding others to blame for problems rather than solutions to them. The SNP believes that the Union and the Conservative Party are the source of all Scotland’s woes. For UKIP, it’s the EU and immigrants that apparently stifle our businesses and strain our infrastructure. It’s always ‘the other’ – and there’s a shared solution that both offer up, namely the destruction of single markets and the erection of new divides between people who share a common history, values and goals.
This is wrong. It is deeply regressive and Scotland and her people have never prospered by looking inwards. I urge all Scots to unite and defend the Union to which we have given so much and which has given much back in return. Similarly, the rest of the UK must wake up and realise that the loss of this country is no longer an abstract idea: it could be but days away. Tell any Scots you know that you want them to stay with us. To paraphrase Ray Peterson: tell Scotland you love her, tell Scotland you need her. As for me, I can’t vote on 18 September, but I’ll be in Glasgow to make sure others can – say yes if you need a ride to the polling booth, but say ‘No Thanks’ once you get there.