It was John F Kennedy who said “ask not what your country can do for you, but ask what you can do for your country”.
As the US President he was of course trying to inspire Americans with his oratory, but his words ring true for people of all nations, including those of us here in the United Kingdom.
Over the past 300 years generation after generation of Brits have responded to these words made famous by Kennedy and put the national interest ahead of their own.
On the battlefield, on the home front, in business, in politics, in the arts, in medicine in sport, in a whole range of areas people from across the centuries, from all walks of life, have put the national interest ahead of their own.
And when it comes down to it, it hasn’t mattered whether people are from Penzance or Perth, Birmingham or Belfast, Aberystwyth or Aberdeen.
English, Scottish, Welsh or Northern Irish – when the national interest requires it we’ve put our regional differences and rivalries aside for the greater good.
It’s not even really about what England has done for Scotland, what Scotland has done for England – ultimately it’s all about what we’ve done for each other.
In the trenches of Flanders, on the beaches of Normandy, in the jungles of Burma, in the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan servicemen and women from all four corners of the British Isles have stood together, fought together, died together.
We’ve won wars together and we’ve also won the peace.
The establishment of a welfare state and the National Health Service wasn’t an English invention or a Scottish creation – it was a British one.
In the same way it doesn’t matter where in Britain a soldier, sailor or airman comes from when in the heat of battle, it doesn’t matter where a frail, elderly person lives when it comes to receiving their pension.
And in industry the Clyde shipyards don’t build Scottish ships for the Royal Navy, they build British ones.
Business and commerce across the United Kingdom is inextricably linked and its prosperity in danger if pushed apart. While those who support independence might claim their vision for Scotland is a forward-looking, positive, one there’s nothing progressive or positive about turning the clock back more than three centuries and re-establishing barriers, borders and differences on our small island.
In the modern world, countries are working ever more closely, are ever more dependent on each other and ever more interlinked.
Breaking up Britain would run contrary to the new world order of greater co-operation and integration.
Strength in numbers, particularly in these tough and testing economic times is also essential.
United we’re more capable of battening down the hatches and weathering the storms and making our voice count for something in the world.
Britain has been such a success story because we’ve become one nation by joining forces when it matters while retaining our separate identities, traditions and customs. The whole has become greater than the sum of its parts.
Just because the home nations are capable of making their own way in the world (as they undoubtedly are) it doesn’t mean they must do so.
Come autumn 2014 Scots will be asked to make Scotland’s most important decision since 1707. When casting their votes people should ask themselves what they can do for their country.
In our opinion, the best thing they could do is vote ‘NO’.