The Debatable Lands and the last hours of #indyref

By Jill Segger
September 17, 2014

As the child of a north Cumbrian family, all of whom are addicted to story, the Debatable Lands have always made an appeal to my imagination.

That historic area which for so many centuries never quite defined itself as either English or Scottish, has ever been exciting and romantic to me – a land of potential where the conventional usages of power and identity did not apply. Growing up with a concept that borders could be fluid and proximity to them might offer possibilities not available to the less fortunately situated isn't a bad idea to hold on to.

The many identities of which we are all constituted necessitate bounds of some kind. The geographic demarcations are the most obvious but there are many others and how we perceive and use them is critical. If we make them ramparts against difference and dig their footings down into insecurity, our behaviours will differ considerably from those which arise from understanding them as the markers of areas where cross-fertilisation and the encountering of diversity may offer great enrichment.

It may be that when we are willing to bring ourselves nearer to our borderlands, even to spend a little time wandering there without being too precious about the address labels, we will make unexpected discoveries about ourselves and fellow borderers. It is in these regions – both physical and metaphysical – that both difference and similarity can appear most acute and where the imperial and imperious absurdity of lines drawn without reference to, or reflection upon, adjoining experiences are clearest.

Rather too much of the Scottish independence debate has centred round projecting fear onto borders.This is a stock-in-trade of impoverished politics and its practitioners are to be found across allegiances, parties and issues. It is when we reject the fear to acknowledge and live the hybrid gift that we open to movement away from narcissism and towards transformation.

These last few hours of campaigning are loud and strident. It would be surprising if they were not. But if we decline to make bounds into bonds, they could also be an opportunity to spend a little time wandering in the quieter Debatable Lands of our minds and hearts.

* More on the Scottish independence referendum from Ekklesia:


© Jill Segger is an Associate Director of Ekklesia with particular involvement in editorial issues. She is a freelance writer who contributes to the Church Times, Catholic Herald, Tribune, Reform and The Friend, among other publications. Jill is an active Quaker. See: You can follow Jill on Twitter at:

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