Corby’s hopes and fears for Scottish independence

The people of Corby voted against independence at a vote at this year's Highland Gathering
The people of Corby voted against independence at a vote at this year's Highland Gathering
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Corby Scots may not get a say on the future of their nation next week, but that does not mean they don’t care.

The spotlight has fallen on Corby, known as Little Scotland, in the run-up to the referendum on independence on Thursday, September 18.

But, despite the fact no-one here will have a vote – only residents of Scotland will have a say in determining whether to go it alone or remain part of the UK – the thousands of Scots living here still want to make their voices heard.

And, with opinion polls showing the result is on a knife-edge, there is plenty of concern that the outcome does not go the way most people of Scots heritage here want.

A mock referendum held at the town’s Highland Gathering in July resulted in an overwhelming “no” to the prospect of Scotland going for independence, with 72 per cent of almost 600 participants voting against. The poll was only a snapshot, but was welcomed by unionist politicians including Labour’s shadow secreatary of state for Scotland, Margaret Curran.

She said: “Scots here in Corby don’t have a vote, but they do have a view, and it’s right they make it heard.”

The town also made those voices heard when it hosted the opening leg of Dan Snow’s campaign to keep the UK together. The TV historian declared: “Corby is a place that represents what people can achieve in Britain when you work together. This is a symbol of Anglo-Scottish co-operation – it’s a town where Scots and English have been working together to become world beaters.”

Snow was followed by Scottish stand-up comedian Kevin Bridges, who came to the town to seek people’s views on independence.

Groundwork North Northamptonshire’s Anne-Marie Lawson is one of the thousands with Scottish heritage.

She said: “I can understand the appeal of an independent Scotland but I think ultimately unity is always better than division and we are stronger together. I do not want to become bitter neighbours with the land of my birth.”

Her views were echoed by the folk playing bowls at Corby’s Grampian Club on Tuesday afternoon.

Under the late-summer sun at the club in Patrick Road, there is no doubt as to their hopes for the result, although there does remain a simmering concern that the outcome might not go their way.

The bowlers, chatting to the Northants Telegraph before stepping on to the green, oppose independence.

They cite concerns including fears that it will be more costly and difficult to return to visit friends and relatives north of the border.

There is also unease about the concept of establishing more borders, rather than knocking them down.

Even if they had not moved away from Scotland, most people here say they would still be voting no to independence – even if, for some, it is for no more positive a reason than better the devil you know.

Yet there is worry that the vote might go the way of the Yes campaign, spearheaded by First Minister Alex Salmond.

Ian Middleton, originally from Ayr, said he wanted to see a No vote.

But he added: “I think it’s very close at the moment, and it’s causing a lot of bitterness between families.

“I think a lot of people are voting with their hearts, and they want a free Scotland.”

Annie Dawson, born near Banff – a town in the north-east of Scotland whose MP for 23 years was Mr Salmond – said her prediction for the outcome of the referendum had changed in recent days.

“At the moment I think Yes will get a majority,” she said. “But I hope not.”

“The island is too small to split up,” added Chris McAllister, orginally from a small town near Loch Lomond.

Eunice Bain, who was born in Aberdeenshire, understands why Scots might be drawn towards voting for independence – but she, too, hopes they resist that temptation.

Scotland only has one Tory MP out of 59, and Scottish Nationalists say a Yes vote would mean Scotland would never again have a Conservative Government.

Eunice added: “You can understand why the Scots might want independence for that. But I don’t want us to split.

“We have been a good country together.”

Back at the bar inside the club rooms, Peter McEwan veered away from predicting the result, saying it was too close to call.

Born in Greenock, 25 miles west of Glasgow, he moved to Corby in 1977.

And he said: “It’s a very hard one to judge. I hope the majority of people in Scotland see the benefit of the Union.

“I think it would be a total disaster if Scots were to go for a Yes vote. You can be a Scot and still be part of this great Union.

“I think people here in Corby care what happens to their country. My feelings are that the country would go down the tubes if Alex Salmond got his way.

“But in this town you have got fifth or sixth-generation Scots, and they feel English.

“You don’t see people marching here.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s a Yes or a No, I will still be here in England.”

Those Scots living in Corby who do feel passionately about the outcome are unable to influence directly the outcome of the referendum.

And, whichever way the result goes, the Grampian Club bowls matches will continue as normal for those who have adopted north Northamptonshire as their home.

As Chris McAllister said: “We belong to Corby now.”

The arguments for and against

YES

The Yes campaign, led by the Scottish National Party – who took charge in the 2011 Scottish Parliamentary election – says Scots would always have a Government in line with what they alone thought.

Yes Scotland says wealth created in the country, including from oil fields, would sustain the country – following models including that of Norway.

It adds that an independent Scotland would be able to safeguard the NHS, keep university tuition fees free and provide a business-friendly economy.

NO

Better Together, led by former Labour chancellor Alistair Darling, think Scotland is stronger and safer as part of a Union alongside England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It says the Yes campaign has left too many questions unanswered, including over pensions, currency and Scotland’s membership of international organisations such as the EU and Nato.

A number of business have warned they could relocate in the case of a Yes win.

Many Scots also do not want to give up a shared British identity.