“So. No means yes then, right?”
“No, Joshua. No ALWAYS means no.”
I can’t remember what we were discussing, and to be honest it’s not really that important, but is there ever an unequivocal, black and white, straight down the line, with no explanation, no? Does anyone ever get a simple no. Try it. Did you say ‘no’ and there followed an uncomfortable silence as the other person waited for you to give a reason for your response? Did you start gabbling away to fill the void and thereby explain your no? Hmmm. Thought so.
Last week the Scottish people voted, unequivocally, to say ‘no’ to leaving the United Kingdom. What was interesting about the immediate analysis wasn’t that an explanation was being sought. Everyone seemed to understand that this no was a definite ‘no’. However this one little word has sparked a ‘constitutional revolution’ (thank you Andrew Marr) that will now see all four nations in the United Kingdom examine the way that they govern themselves. Our whole system of governance is undergoing a duvet shake. We have various political parties and constitutional organizations holding one end of the duvet whilst the rest of us cling on, clutching at the corners of our cultural identity.
This has also made me examine my own patriotism and nationality. Do I consider myself British, English or, on becoming an expat am I simply a global citizen with no cultural identity? Have I lost the right to call myself British, or English? Am I now just required to embrace the culture and traditions of the country in which I live? What about my children?
Some will believe that I have lost the right to vote in any UK democratic elections. I mean, I no longer live in the country, the rules and regulations no longer apply. I no longer pay income tax, national insurance contributions, council tax. The financial institutions were very quick to turn their backs on us; re-mortgaging with a British based bank seems to be a virtual impossibility. Even the ‘world’s local bank’ won’t consider us. However, and I make no apology for this, I am English.
I have always known it, but it has only been leaving my homeland that I have realised just how fiercely proud of it I am. Note as well that I say English rather than British. I find comfort in the rolling hills of Somerset, a pint down the local, a family roast dinner on a Sunday, a Church of England village school with an eccentric vicar, a village fete, the NHS (the most remarkable organization in the world), driving on the ‘right’ side of the road, the monarchy and our Prime Minister. I love too that history confronts you in every street you walk down, our love of the underdog and our free press. I am English. I am proud to be English.
The Scottish Referendum didn’t call into question this identity with being English but it threatened to wreck the United Kingdom. Four nations, each with their own traditions and idiosyncrasies joined together under one title, one monarch and ultimately one government. However it is for this very fact that these four nations should be, and soon will be, if David Cameron is to be believed, constitutionally recognized in their own rights. We will still be ‘better together’ as a global player but the English (and the Welsh, and northern Irish, and the Scots) will be able to claim the right to make decisions that are right for our everyday lives that align within our individual cultural identities.
Yes, I am an expat. For the moment I am even Switish (as Joshua calls us). But my heart is most definitely English and I am excited by the fact that the Scottish no really did mean ‘no’. We are living in exciting times.