In Scotland's borderland, enthusiasm for independence elusive

Thu Sep 12, 2013 9:43am EDT
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By Hannah Vinter

COLDSTREAM (Reuters) - The old battlefields where Englishmen and Scotsmen once shed each other's blood are a reminder of historic enmities in the border region.

But with a year to go before Scotland votes on independence, enthusiasm for a break between the two countries is hard to find in its towns and farming communities.

The 96-mile (154-km) border cuts across mainland Britain from the North Sea to the Irish Sea, through an area that was fought over and the scene of cross-border raids for centuries.

The apparent lack of support for independence, gauged by conversations with borderers, suggests Scots here will not be swayed by old rivalries - something that the "Yes" campaign has tried to capitalize on.

"I think it's introducing one level of uncertainty that we do not require at this time," said Stephen Rendle, managing director of a tweed and cashmere mill in the Scottish Borders town of Hawick.

"Everybody I know feels Scottish enough, the identity of our company is Scottish enough, it's not going to be enhanced. And we only see it as an additional cost coming."

With just a few percent of Scotland's 5 million population, opinion here is not necessarily a barometer for the rest of the country. But polls show the Scottish National Party's (SNP) push for independence, something opposed by the British government and the opposition Labour party, faces an uphill struggle.

A survey this month showed only 25 percent of Scots backed independence, while 47 percent opposed. However, with just a year to go before the September 18, 2014, referendum, enough voters are "don't knows" to swing the vote.   Continued...

Scottish and English flags flutter in the wind and rain at the border between England and Scotland at Carter Bar September 6, 2013. REUTERS/Toby Melville