On May 11 Lord John McFall, the former Labour MP and current Senior Deputy Speaker will replace Norman Fowler on the woolsack and preside over the House of Lords. Born in Dumbarton, he attended St Patrick’s secondary school where he left without any qualifications at the age of 15. Through his own efforts he later gathered enough qualifications to become maths and chemistry teacher and, later served as a junior minister before becoming chair of the Commons Treasury committee in 2001. Famously, he chaired the committee during the financial crisis and accused the deputy governor of the Bank of England of having been “asleep in the back shop while there was a mugging out front” over the Northern Rock disaster. Lord McFall’s career is a wonderful example of how within the union of Scotland, England, Northern Ireland and Wales it is possible to rise to the highest offices from the humblest roots.
Along the corridor in the House of Commons, Eleanor Laing who was born in Paisley, the daughter of a local councillor is now Deputy Speaker and the first ever woman chairman of Ways and Means. They are vivid examples of the opportunity of the Union in action.
Today, around 750,000 people who were born in Scotland now live south of the border, more than the population of either Edinburgh or Glasgow. And it is not just in public or political life where they have taken the opportunities that the United Kingdom has offered them. From the city of London to the dugouts of Premier league football clubs, it is hard to get away from the influence that Scotland has, indirectly, brought to bear on the rest of the country. These are the things that the SNP with their narrow, introspective and anti-English sentiments would like the people of Scotland to forget. They would deprive the next generation of young Scots of the same opportunities as their forebears.
Indeed, throughout the years of the British Empire, Scots were central to its operation whether as traders, colonial governors, missionaries or bankers. If you ever take a trip to the Assam region of India, it may come as a surprise to see how many McDonald’s or McGregor’s you come across. And of course, then as now, Scots have played a central role in the UK Armed Forces and the defence of the nation more widely. How often have you looked at a picture depicting the British Empire that showed a picture of kilted Scottish soldiers. Today, careers in the British Armed Forces continue to offer a ladder of opportunity to young Scottish men and women, irrespective of their background.
We are no longer just a Union on paper, a mere political agreement. We are a nation that has moved, married and merged together to create something quite unique. We must not allow narrow-minded and destructive nationalists to break it apart.