Families divided as Scotland votes on independence

17th September 2014, Comments 0 comments

Few places are as important in Scottish history as Scone, where no less than 42 of the country's kings were crowned. But like the rest of Scotland, this quiet corner of rural Perthshire, north of Edinburgh, is split down the middle on Thursday's independence vote.

Before the rampaging English king Edward II -- the "Hammer of the Scots" -- stole their Stone of Destiny in 1296, all Scottish kings were once crowned in Scone on the block of red sandstone.

Edward stuck the stone underneath his throne to symbolise the submission of the Scots, though he never quite managed to keep them at heel thanks to a rebel called William Wallace, who got the Hollywood makeover in Mel Gibson's film Braveheart.

Ever since, English kings and queens have planted their royal posteriors on a throne containing the stone in London's Westminster Abbey to symbolise their hold on Scotland's sovereignty.

It was last used during the coronation of the current queen Elizabeth II in 1952, before being given back to the Scots in 1996, and is now held in Edinburgh Castle.

The lords of Scone these days are the Murray family, an aristocratic clan whose seat, Scone Palace, was built in the 16th century on the ancient abbey which Edward II sacked.

William Murray, Master of Stormont and grandson of the present laird, the Eighth Earl of Mansfield, guides tourists around the site that has become a separatist shrine. But he is ambivalent about the prospect of independence.

On the one hand he believes that "if Scotland becomes independent Scone will return to prominence", arguing that "no other place means as much to the Scottish nation". He, however, will be voting "No".

"Scotland would be successful as an independent country, but not as successful as it is now," he said.

But a few minutes down the road in Perth, Alison Rollo, 64, insisted that history has nothing to do with the push for independence -- it's all about the future.

"We are not so much looking to the past but to the future. If we look back to the past we'd hate the English. We are over that. We don't hate them," she argued. "We have forgiven them for everything they've done."

Since women her age are more likely to vote "No", she said, she joined a group called "Women for Independence". Even if the referendum doesn't pass this time, he claimed "there will be another in 10 years", despite the claims of First Minister Alex Salmond, who is leading the separatist campaign.

One Englishman at least will be voting for Scotland to go its own way. Andrew Parrot, who lives in Perth, said he will also vote "Yes".

But taxi driver Kevin Dixon will not be tempted. "The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, but it might not be." He warned the vote would be close.

Alistair Scott-Tyrai -- who has a Scottish father and an English mother -- was undecided for a long time before coming down for independence. "It's a unique occasion," he said.

His mother Christina Tyrai interrupted: "We have been united for 300 years, and it was a Scot James I (of England) who united the country. Why let Alex Salmond divide us?" she said.

"The family is at war," joked Alistair as he walked off arm-in-arm with his mother.


© 2014 AFP

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