English town wants to move to Scotland

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Berwick-upon-Tweed from across the river.

Two recent polls have shown that the residents of the town of Berwick-upon-Tweed, England would prefer to live in Scotland.

Located 57 miles from Edinburgh, Scotland and over 300 miles from London, Berwick was a frequent bone of contention in the border wars between the independent kingdoms of England and Scotland, changing hands at least 13 times between 1147 and 1482. Under the Treaty of Perpetual Peace agreed in 1502 by the English King Henry VII and the Scottish King James IV, Berwick was declared to be "of the Kingdom of England but not in it". This resulted in Berwick having to be named individually in legislation until the British Parliament passed the Wales and Berwick Act in 1746 which stated that unless specially specified otherwise, the term "England" in laws included Berwick and Wales; in 1853 the declaration of war on Russia specifically mentioned Berwick, but the 1856 Treaty of Paris did not, leading to the urban legend that the town was still at war with Russia until the Mayor signed a peace treaty with a Soviet diplomat in 1966.

Since the creation of the Scottish Parliament in 1999, Berwickers have noted that Scottish residents receive about £1500 more government expenditure each year than English residents, including free care for elderly people and free university tuition, both of which have to be paid for in England.

The town already has a strong Scottish influence - famously both its football team and rugby team play in the Scottish leagues, a minority of the town's banks are Scottish, and the Church of Scotland has a large congregation in the town.

A poll conducted for the ITV television programme, Tonight, to be broadcast on February 18 has shown that 60% (1,182 for, 775 against) of those polled would prefer the town to be in Scotland, while a poll for The Berwick Advertiser newspaper showed 78% in favour. This has resulted in a motion being proposed by Scottish National Party MSP Christine Grahame, calling on the Scottish Government to negotiate for Berwick's "restoration" to Scotland. A spokesman for Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond said "The Scottish Government has no territorial demands on our friends in England. But it's clear most people in Berwick would rather be part of SNP-governed Scotland than Labour-run England."