Living amongst the English continues with an account of the author’s belief that we’re all essentially the same in these islands; one of a series of guest posts by Scots who have lived in England and feel positive about their experience. You can find an introduction to the series here.
My husband and I have a child in high school and we both work.
I grew up in a council house in the time when Thatcher was hated in Scotland. I remember when places like Ravenscraig closed.
Since then I’ve lived in England twice. While studying I spent a year working in Essex. I had family in England but this was my first time living there. It was a bit daunting moving down South but everyone made me feel so welcome when I arrived. Not long after I started a workmate offered me a lift to work as I was walking in or getting the bus.
I made new friends and had a really great year. I visited London with those friends and, just like living in Scotland, the last train home on a Saturday night was entertainment alone. I celebrated my 21st there with a meal and night out paid for by work. When I left I was really touched by the many goodbye presents. A gift of a key ring with white stilettos to commemorate me being an ‘Essex Girl’ was cherished until it broke.
I never once received a negative comment about being Scottish. The company I worked for supported the Uni placement scheme for years before I went. I remember the site manager was Welsh and most of the staff were from different parts of England.
I met my English husband while we were both working here in Scotland. He was offered a new job in the South of England and not long after I found a new job and moved down to join him.
We lived there for over ten years and it was terrific. At work I never experienced anything negative about being Scottish. If anything, people at work or at the shops would comment on lovely Scottish accents, how beautiful Scotland is and if I enjoyed the better weather.
Work had a mix of Brits and Europeans. The senior team had a Scot on it. Being Scottish never held people back from being successful in their careers. In general, people I knew at work who were Scottish tended to have moved to England to move up the career ladder.
You didn’t have to go far to find another Scot living in England, we had one living next door to us. All our neighbours were friendly and no different to our neighbours here.
Before I moved, I’d heard people in Scotland complain about England never doing anything for Scotland.
I remember money spent per head in UK came up at work, I think it was on Sky news at lunch. People were well aware that London and the South made more money and accepted that rural places and places with less industry would need more. No rants like ‘That’s our money, it should be spent here’. We were soon back to the usual lunch time chat.
We got married in England and family and friends from across the UK came to the wedding. My husband decided to wear a kilt because he was marrying me.
Our wedding photographer was excited when he heard that the groom, father of the bride and best man would all be wearing kilts. Some of our wedding photos were on display in his photography studio because of the men in kilts. Honest, I was there for the wedding too.
Our child was born in England and the NHS were excellent, just as they have been for my family living here. I’m so glad we live in a country with free healthcare.
We returned to Scotland for work and I thought a benefit would be our child getting an excellent school education like I had. I was wrong. The SNP have ruined what was once an advantage to living here. Previously, education levelled the playing field between kids like me from council houses and kids from wealthier families.
It was the referendum campaign and what was said by Alex Salmond, the SNP and Indy campaigners that put me in the No camp. Promising we would be a Scottish Dubai with a £600 indy-oil bonus (or was it an iPad each?) to spend on Scots didn’t sit well with me. Probably living in England and having family and friends there made me feel that this was just wrong and unfair. Us having more when a family in the rest of the UK could have less was just selfish. Especially when it was oil that would be financing it. We didn’t create or produce the oil in the North Sea, we were just sitting closest to it. It was pot luck.
Overall, there were no negatives from living in England. We visit family and friends in England regularly (or we did up until covid restrictions last year). The people are great and we enjoyed loads of nights out, dinners, weddings, christenings, birthdays and never once thought that it was all that different than living in Scotland. There’s still nights out with workmates and friends, drinks with your sports team after a match and drunken hen nights and stag dos too.
I find English people just like Scottish people. We’re all warm, friendly and helpful. We’d never see anyone stuck. And the kettle is always on for a cup of tea. We might have different accents but we all worry and care about the same things; relationships, money, families, jobs, education, healthcare and our homes. There really wasn’t much difference to me living down South apart from the glorious summers there.
My siblings live in the rest of the UK. Our nieces and nephews were all born in England. One of my grandparents was Northern Irish and a great grandparent was Irish. As a family of partners, aunts, uncles, cousins etc. we’re a mixture of Scots, English, Welsh and Northern Irish.
I’ve got family and friends all over these islands and could never support breaking up the UK. Most recently, many in Scotland have been helped by the furlough scheme and that’s been a lifeline to them. I’m very glad that the UK has been there to support them. We’ve also seen some great collaboration across the UK to deliver testing, build hospitals, test possible medicines and develop a vaccine. Scientists, NHS, industry, the Army and academics from all over the UK have worked together and shown how excellent we are. It makes you proud to be Scottish and British.
When I look back at our time living in England, I think about our first house together, where we got married, places we visited, the friends we have, where our child was born and the memories we all made. I think of England as our home just as I think of here being home.