How will Seasiders living in Scotland cast their vote?
Many Scots in Blackpool are frustrated that they are not entitled to vote in next Thursday’s referendum.
As I discovered yesterday, it seems almost all of them are against independence. And while some may feel it is unfair that English people who have moved in the opposite direction will get to cast a ballot, they will take comfort from the fact it appears that many of these voters will share their opposition to the break up of the UK.
There is already speculation that a Yes vote could spark an exodus from Scotland of both English people and pro-UK Scots.
Former Fleetwood Grammar School pupil Karen McGuinness says she would “definitely” consider returning to England in the event of a yes vote.
Karen left South Shore for university in 1978 and her job as an oil industry geo-physicist took her to Aberdeenshire via the south east of England.
She says she will be voting against independence, which she describes as “divisive”.
“Being English, the emotional aspect of it does not affect me,” says Karen, a member of the Seasiders in Scotland Blackpool FC supporters club.
“I do not feel that I’m not represented because I am living in the UK – with democracy your specific views may or may not be represented.
“There’s no clear indication of how Scotland would operate if it was independent.
“Would I be expected to become Scottish? I wouldn’t want to. And the Scottish National Party are promising all these things but they might not even be in power. If they are I think I would be worse off because they will have to tax people more to pay for their promises.
“Some of these things, like childcare for example, they have the power to do now anyway and they seem to be extremely reliant on the North Sea oil continuing as it is now.”
John Reynolds moved from Blackpool to Aberdeen 45 years ago.
He is now an independent councillor on Aberdeen City Council, having formerly been a Liberal Democrat, and also holds a civic role as depute provost, promoting business in the town. Coun Reynolds, 65, says that the prospect of Scotland applying for membership of the European Union in the event of a yes vote would be enough to make many people, including himself, vote against independence.
“We feel we do not get the best out of Europe,” says the former Blackpool Grammar School pupil. “So for many people, whether they believe in independence will be immaterial.
“It’s a strange time here. Families are not talking to one another and friends are not being friends any more.
“It’s divisive and I’m just hoping that whatever the result is, people can get back together,”
Coun Reynolds warns that if Scotland joins the EU as an independent country, it was likely to lose the current VAT exemption enjoyed by the UK on items including food, children’s clothes, newspapers and books. He says this would “hit every single poor family in Scotland”, undoing the benefits of any increases in welfare spending.
Coun Reynolds adds that he did not believe the outcome of the vote will have a big impact on people in Blackpool, and that because Scotland wished to be part of the EU there would not be any borders.
But he says it is possible a yes vote could lead some pro-UK Scots to move south of the border, including to towns like Blackpool which have long-standing links with Scotland.
“I think that’s possible because there are people who are very pro-UK and want to remain part of it,” he explains
“I’ve got friends who have said ‘if independence comes in I’m going down south, I don’t want to be taxed to the hilt’.
“Blackpool is a possible destination because of the historic links and there are quite a few people here who come from Blackpool originally.”
Predicting a “tight” vote, he says the Coalition and Labour have been “complacent” and were “now trying to make up ground they’ve lost”.
Damian Bates, editor-in-chief of the Press and Journal in Aberdeen, grew up in Thornton and was a pupil at Cardinal Allen School in Fleetwood and St Mary’s Sixth Form in Blackpool. He is tight-lipped about the way he will vote, because his newspaper is taking a neutral stance on the issue.
But he says he is not surprised to hear that Scots in the resort are opposed to independence.
“Just by nature of the fact they have left Scotland to live in England there’s an obvious connectivity in terms of them wanting to retain the union,” says Damian, 45, whose parents still live in Cleveleys.
“But here in Scotland there is a real dichotomy of opinion and there are people who think independence would be great for Scotland, including English people. The vote is going to be tight and it’s up to people to make their own minds up. It would be arrogant of us as a newspaper to tell people what they should do but we can give them information.”
Damian says he has not encountered any bitterness from Scots irritated that he would get a vote in the referendum as an Englishman.
“When I first came up here 11 years ago friends warned me I might face some anti-English sentiment but I’ve not seen that at all,” he says.
“This is a really key election and we should have a voice because we live here.
“However, I do understand the antagonism of Scots who live in England and feel they should have a vote.”
Damian says he believes a yes vote would affect people in England, including in Blackpool.
“I think if that happens we might see the Welsh saying ‘why not us’, and it could spread to areas like the South West and the North West too,” he explains.
“The region is a power-house in its own right with Manchester and places like Blackpool, which has had some success in trying to re-invent itself.
“People might think, ‘why can’t we have more power to make our own decisions’ and ‘what does Blackpool get out of decisions taken in Westminster which seem to benefit the south east’?
“I’ve also heard both English people here and Scots saying they would leave if the vote is yes, and I know people who are preparing to sell up already.
“But I’ve got friends who are pro-independence who say it would be an opportunity for Scotland to make its mark on a global stage and make the most of the entrepreneurial environment here.”