UK

Scottish referendum: How does England's most northern town feel?

Norham Castle
Image caption Norham Castle, on the English side of the River Tweed, protected against raids from Scottish reivers

Berwick-upon-Tweed has watched the Scottish referendum play out at close quarters. How do the residents feel about waking up to find their neighbours have voted to stay in the Union?

The town is in the most north-easterly corner of England, hugging the mouth of the River Tweed and surrounded by farming land which spills over into Scotland's southern borders.

A sign mounted in the railway station commemorates the site of Berwick Castle, where the claim of Robert the Bruce to the crown of Scotland was declined in 1292.

Before the 16th Century, the settlement changed hands between the kingdoms of England and Scotland several times. Its football team, Berwick Rangers, is the only English side to play in the Scottish league.

Of the 11,000 people who live in Berwick, most work in the service and tourism industries or in agriculture.

For two years, they have lived with the knowledge that the Scots who are part of their extended families and who travel there to shop, work and go to school, could elect to become part of a different country altogether.

So how do people feel about the No vote?

Image copyright Getty Images

Theresa McCluskey, 59, opening up the James Ford bakery, sums it up in one word: "Relief!

She's Scottish, born in Lanarkshire, and believes "it would not have been good for Berwick".

'Seven-day wonder'

"I was very worried about the effect on businesses here. How many Scots would come and spend their cash here if they needed to go to the bureau de change first?"

It won't all be plain sailing for her, however.

Image caption Steve Banks wishes Scotland had voted Yes

"My husband, he was hoping for a Yes vote, so he'll be in a mood for a while."

Brian Anderson, 60, works in the butcher's opposite and is more circumspect, concluding: "It remains to be seen whether it's the right decision".

"It's been all people have been talking about in the shop this morning - but I reckon it'll be a seven-day wonder. Give it a week and the fuss will have died down."

Back in the bakery, Bobby Highrose, 41, is buying a roll on his way to work in a furniture shop after staying up all night to watch the results coming in.

He has customers from both sides of the border and says he's "pleased it's all settled" because "now we can get on with our lives".

What comes across among all those out and about on the high street in the drizzle-streaked morning is a pronounced sense that people in Berwick feel as if they have been marginalised in the national dialogue about Scottish independence.

Neil Fairbairn, a 41-year-old stationer says "a lot of our concerns are the same as on the other side of the border, feeling ignored by Westminster, yet all the debate has been focused on what Scotland gets - Berwick doesn't get much attention".

A similar sentiment is expressed by Steve Banks, 49, a solicitor's legal representative based in Newcastle.

"I wish they had gone 'Yes'," he says. "Feelings towards Westminster are very similar in the north of England to what they are in Scotland - that they don't really care about us."

He thinks change is needed but doesn't believe the referendum will provide the necessary spur to politicians at Westminster "because all that matters to them is getting elected".

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Berwick high street

'We get nothing'

Theresa is optimistic about more devolution coming to Scotland, predicting: "They have to do it now. They've signed a declaration, there's no going back."

But she's highly sceptical about the idea that it could also mean more local control in Northumberland.

"There are camera crews and reporters here now but what happens next week and the week after?

"Is anyone going to talk to us on the border when they're deciding what powers England gets? We get nothing. This is a little place and it gets forgotten."

The impression she gives is that towns like Berwick are caught in a kind of limbo: "We're neither England nor Scotland."

Neil, who was born in England but grew up in Edinburgh, has a different take on Berwick's identity.

"We're both - most people in Berwick consider themselves English - but a lot of people here see themselves as Scottish, myself included," he says.

It seems whatever formula for devolution Westminster comes up with, MPs will have to work pretty hard to convince people that it can offer something meaningful for Berwick.