As a long-standing opponent of national borders (they always seem to cause trouble of varying viciousness) I have long wondered what purpose the Anglo-Scottish border has. As independence becomes a remoter possibility, do we really need a border with England?
Politically, it is important. In my lifetime, Scotland has been a left-wing nation with periods when folk exulted in the creation of a Tory-free zone. The rise of the Nationalists has tended to overshadow this reality. Not so long ago, the Nationalists were labelled the Tartan Tories and doubtless there will still be some of a similar mind. The recent defection of a SNP MP to the Conservatives underlines this fact. The border has been a barrier, however, between a Tory England and an anti-Tory Scotland.
In virtually every other aspect of our day-to-day lives, the border between the nations has no more significance than the old one between Yorkshire and Lancashire. A rivalry echoed between cities like Glasgow and Edinburgh, Manchester and Liverpool. I spent much time in southern Italy where it was Lecce and Bari. These are rivalries rooted in ancient history but they tend to play out in modern times on playing, rather than battle, fields.
Not for a minute am I suggesting that the wonderful cultural, educational and social differences between areas should be abandoned. These are the complexities that create the riches of our lives. The borders, though, are shaped by politics and it is hard to see what good they do.
Seen from space, our world is a tiny place. Borders have not made it any bigger. Scotland could really lead the world by abandoning the one with England.
If you would like to contribute to the Cafe, please email your comments to email@example.com