Berwick-upon-Tweed is the northernmost town in England, on the east coast, four kilometres south of the Scottish border. It serves to highlight basic economic considerations of a possible independent Scotland. Many of its small businesses-owners are nervous about what that might bring.
Skelly’s has been providing meat since 1760, which was just 53 years after the two countries’ union. John Skelly, who also sells sliced haggis, said: “I honestly think it’s not going to be a good thing for Berwick itself, I don’t think, because a lot of our customers come from the Scottish side of the border.”
Gavin Jones also carries English and Scottish products in his shop. He’s worried about the effects of a currency division: “We’re using Scottish notes and English notes; they mean the same to us. A five-pound Scottish note is five pound sterling. If Scotland goes independent, five pounds could become three pounds sterling or seven pounds sterling. It adds complexity to our pricing and it will add bank charges to our business.”
Berwick has changed hands 13 times over the centuries, only in 1482 definitively becoming English, officially.
The people here are so used to coming and going unhampered, the Mayor Isabel Hunter is concerned about that: “There could be borders, and if they’re actually putting up borders where you need passports, people in Berwick go back and forward across that border on a regular basis, hourly, daily.”
Slightly bigger businesses are riled, too, over in Scotland, about what rupturing the United Kingdom could bring, including the effect on employment and on exports. And the views are by no means uniform. A group of 200 leading chefs all signed a petition in favour of independence.
One of them, Andrew Fairlie, king of the kitchen in Glasgow’s five-star Gleneagles Hotel, said: “We think in an independent Scotland that business can flourish, it can be successful, and there’s a lot more opportunities for small or medium-sized business in Scotland.”
In contrast, in a bid to hold things together, 130 Scottish employers insist that strong economic links with the United Kingdom underpin almost one million jobs in Scotland.
Keith Cochrane, Chief Executive of Weir Group engineering, said: “I’m a proud Scot. I’ve lived and worked n Scotland all my life but at the end of the day that is not inconsistent with being part of the United Kingdom.”
Further burdening the Scots is how the country fits in as part of the European Union.