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My son, a young British boy aged five, came to me yesterday with an anxious look on his British face. ‘Dad,’ he said, ‘if Scotland votes for independence, will I still be British?’ ‘I don’t know, son,’ I replied, as paternally as possible given the impending referendum. ‘We’ll have to send some blood samples to the lab on September 19 to find out.’
He put his cuddly toy Alex Salmond and his eerily lifelike Alistair Darling action figure down on the table, staring at them with the democratic love of freedom, equality and justice that only a British child can possess. ‘Dad, is it true that going independent will make Scottish people richer?’ he enquired. ‘Yes, son, that is what they say.’ ‘Is it true that staying in the union will also make Scottish people richer?’ ‘Yes, son, that is what they also say.’ ‘How can that be, Dad?’ he asked. ‘That’s democracy, son. Fun, isn’t it? You must remember that economic statistics are like Hollywood film stars: if you chuck enough money at them, they will say what you tell them to say and it will be reported by the media as unarguable truth.’
A pregnant pause gave birth to another awkward question. ‘Will the Queen have to have her “I heart UK” tattoo surgically removed?’ ‘Just the Sean Connery bit, son. She’ll keep the Roger Moore, but it won’t be the same, and her back will always look really odd. But a constitutional duty is a constitutional duty.’
The boy leafed absently through the kids’ edition of the Financial Times, the furrowing of his brow carving a Union Jack of concern into his forehead. ‘How much oil does Scotland have?’ he inquisitioned mildly. ‘Plenty,’ I guessed, ‘enough that they can dream that, just five or ten years after independence, a Scottish oil billionaire could be piddling away his nation’s geological birthright on an English Premier League football club. Now stop asking silly questions and watch the telly like a good boy.’
I put on my strongest possible if-it-was-right-for-Britain-307-years-ago-it-is-right-for-Britain-now face and hoped his worries would subside. But he posed the question I had most feared. ‘Dad, will Team GB’s Olympic medal haul go down if Scotland votes “Yes”?’
The stark reality of what our national divorce would entail hit me like an aggressive haddock in a jacuzzi. ‘Yes, yes,’ I wept uncontrollably. ‘Please, somebody think of the armchair sports fans! Won’t somebody please think of the armchair sports fans?! This is the single most critical factor in the UK’s emotional GDP, and yet Salmond wants to split the Kingdom of Team GB apart.’
‘Will we have to boo Chris Hoy whenever he comes on the telly?’ asked the boy. ‘Yes, son, I’m afraid we will. Hazel Irvine too. Tough times lie ahead for Britain, lad. Tough, tough times.’