My wife and I became proud grandparents the year before last. On Christmas morning just after eight thirty Alfred William Alexander Cook entered this world. He was born in Bath Royal United Hospital.
My son David had taken up teaching in Wiltshire some seven years before. He soon met a local lass and settled down in the lovely small town of Bradford On Avon. Before long they got married and a little more than a year later Alfie appeared.
Even before wee Alfie was born David had got to work on establishing his expected son’s identity. David, an avid Hearts fan and a member of the Tartan Army, bought Alfie his first Scotland strip. Before Alfie could even crawl he was outfitted with a kilt.
Much as rock star Rod Stewart’s father must have done a couple of generations earlier, David naturally sought to reinforce his son’s Scottish roots. Rod was born in North London and is famously one of Scotland’s greatest football fans. His dad came from Leith.
With the referendum on separation looming we’ve often discussed what this would mean to our family. We must admit that our first response is an emotional one and a pretty basic one at that. Our daughter-in-law Alix and her family have repeatedly expressed the sentiment so simply and effectively put earlier this year by singer David Bowie “Scotland, stay with us”.
Independence for Scotland would mean separation of our countries. If nationalism itself has an emotional appeal, our sentimental response to the prospect of separation is perhaps as understandable and justified. As a family we are simply dismayed at the prospect.
Compounding our dismay is that David unlike his younger brother Richard will not have a say in the future of his country. Our family’s emotional response is further heightened by the simple observation that Alfie’s maternal grandparents are no different to us. We live in Edinburgh; they in Wiltshire. They have the same worries and anxieties, the same hopes and dreams.
The banking crisis, global warming, so-called demographic time bomb, pensions crisis, pollution and all the other threats and challenges to humankind affect them in just the same way as us. As most people would recognise, these threats and challenges are much broader than national boundaries.
The needs of a bairn such as Alfie as he commences his life journey are just the same for a child living in Edinburgh as they are in Wiltshire. On reflecting about my own grandson’s future I think of what my own grandfather Charles McGhee would have made of all of this.
A third generation working-class immigrant Charles McGhee served in the British Army. As a Royal Scot he saw action in the Great War. I wonder if he would have ever imagined that on the hundredth anniversary of one of this country’s greatest conflicts that the Union that brought his ancestors to Edinburgh would be at risk?
Independence or separation isn’t just an abstract thought; something that only affects countries. Separation of our countries will have a real and tangible impact on families like ours.
As the debate progresses, it’s clear that my fellow countrymen and women increasingly recognise the common bond that working people have right across Britain. This has somewhat settled our anxieties. As a family we hope and pray that Scotland will vote for the unity that has served us so well.
Bill Cook is a Labour councillor for Edinburgh’s Liberton/Gilmerton ward