With seven months to go until the independence referendum, debate is alive and well in Scotland but has called in sick south of the Border.
Despite the fact that the entirety of the UK could be fundamentally changed by the vote’s result, there is a surprising lack of engagement with a vote that people don’t really understand.
The fact that many who live in Scotland can see enough reasons to go it alone – better healthcare, free education, fewer Tories – makes it seem staggering that those south of Scotland aren’t making more noise about the effects the vote could have on the country as a whole.
The overriding feeling about Scotland is bafflement. This is partly down to personal experience. Whereas my Scottish friends and I spent chunks of our childhood holidays on the motorway to visit friends and family in other parts of the UK, there are many people south of the Border who will openly say “Oh, I’ve never been to Scotland” as well as those who genuinely seem to see it as an extra bit of land tacked on the top of the north of England.
However, amongst those who know about it, there is real affection for Scotland, a lot of my peers who moved north for university are still there nine years later, others go back and visit regularly. In London my local butcher sold out of haggis on Burns Night and ceilidh callers are rarely out of work.
So why isn’t there more talk about the referendum? Part of the problem is the lack of information. Nobody knows how Scotland would be treated as an independent member of the EU – if it is even admitted. Nobody knows how truly independent Scotland will be if it’s still tied to the Bank of England and nobody even knows which politicians will be in charge of managing any potential change.
With Westminster elections set for 2015 and Holyrood for 2016 there could be very different parties in the seats of power.
When there are no hard facts to rely on, the arguments on both sides appeal to hearts, not minds, and the debate is much harder to join if you don’t have any personal investment. There are so many unknowns that it’s difficult to know what to say, but we shouldn’t be staying silent.
• Anne Miller is an expat Scottish journalist now living in London.