Visit England's Strange Border With Scotland

3 minute read

It might be the end of the line for the U.K. The Scottish vote on independence is happening tomorrow, with millions going to polls to decide whether their country should secede from the union with England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Scots seems almost evenly split on the issue. With the nays saying a withdrawal will jeopardize the country’s ability to use the British Pound and its membership of the E.U., and the yays arguing that the country could better control its own future, free from London rule.

The U.K. already has one international border — where Northern Ireland meets the Republic of Ireland — but Great Britain (the island consisting of just England, Scotland and Wales) hasn’t had one since the act of union joined England (which had already annexed Wales) and Scotland — in 1707.

So what would happen if it did?

That’s the question Jo Metson Scott explores in her project Borderland, which is loosely pegged to tomorrow’s plebiscite. Fascinated with life in the geographic extremities of Britain, Scott spent months documenting the northernmost parts of England, where towns and parklands skirt the existing Scottish border.

“I wanted to do something on people that were living on a potential [international] border,” she tells TIME. “And how that affects someone’s identity and their culture. Not just looking at the wider political implications, but on the smaller daily activities, too: like how it will affect what hospital they go to.”

To do this, she traveled with writer Sarah Saey (who penned witty prose to accompany the work) to places such as the very Scottish-sounding Berwick-upon-Tweed and Kilder Forest Park, areas that are, in fact, in England. Here Metson Scott photographed locals who do cross-border business on a near-daily basis and whose lives are deeply rooted in both countries – people who live in towns that might seem Scottish to a Londoner but likely pretty English to someone from Aberdeen. But the work, she adds, was in no way meant to act as political commentary – this is straight up documentation of a way of life.

The images that emerge are an intimate look at life in a buffer zone. Here, signifiers of both nations seem to blend: we see rolling green hills, English townspeople sporting kilts and a mist-shrouded rock that could be mistaken for something in the Scottish lowlands, if it didn’t have “England” emblazoned across its front.

“As the border goes from west to east, it starts to veer north,” Metson Scott says. “So the most southern part of Scotland is further south than the northernmost part of England. A lot of the time you would get confused — not sure of what country you are in,” she adds, laughing. “I screeched to a halt when I saw a highland cow in England!”

Jo Metson Scott is a photographer based in the U.K. Her work has appeared in the London Sunday Times, and many other publications. See more of The Borderland on Scott’s website.

Richard Conway is reporter/producer for TIME LightBox

The vast rolling heather clad hills that straddle the Anglo-Scottish border are known as the Cheviots. In the 14th and 17th century Border Reivers, raiders who dominated the region during that time, were able to maintain control because of their knowledge of these hills.Jo Metson Scott
Archie, a Scottish shepherd from Dumfries who works for an English farmer in Northumberland, England. He thinks Scotland should go for independence but does not understand why he does not have the vote.Jo Metson Scott
A burger van parked on A68 at Carter Bar on the English-Scottish border. Depending on the flow of traffic, the owner decides whether to park on the Scottish side or the England side of the road.Jo Metson Scott
A large stone marking the English side of the border with Scotland on the A68 between Jedburgh, Scotland and Newcastle, England. Jo Metson Scott
Virginia lives a mile from the border and shops in Scotland. She thinks the idea of Scottish independence is madness. Jo Metson Scott
Glen lives half a mile from the border and has an English address but a Scottish postcode. He is a trained gamekeeper and also likes to fish. In Scotland you do not need a rod licence to fish but in England you do so he mostly fishes on the Scottish side of the river.Jo Metson Scott
A Scottish Highland cow bred in Northumberland, England.Jo Metson Scott
Retired English and Scottish farmers at Cumberland and Dumfriesshire farmers Mart, Longtown, Cumbria.Jo Metson Scott
The Union Jack is a combination of the English, Scottish and Northern Irish national flags. Jo Metson Scott
Iris playing bagpipes outside Berwick-Upon-Tweed’s town walls, which were built in the early 14th century under Edward I, following his capture of the city from the Scots.Jo Metson Scott
Ed, Chief Marshall of the Riding of the Bounds event where horsemen ride along the boundaries of the town to check that they are still secure. Jo Metson Scott
Scottish Highland dancers, Berwick-Upon-Tweed, England.Jo Metson Scott
Riders at the Riding the Bounds event, Berwick-Upon-Tweed continuing the tradition of riding along the boundaries of Berwick-Upon-Tweed to check that they are still secure from the Scots. The town swapped hands 13 times but has remained English since 1482.Jo Metson Scott
A young rider at the Riding of the Bounds event, Berwick-Upon-TweedJo Metson Scott
The Black Middens Bastle House. A 16th century fortified farmhouse built to defend and protect farmers and their livestock, Tarset Valley in Northumberland.Jo Metson Scott
Julian, a farmer, businessman, landowner and conservationist Northumberland, England. Jo Metson Scott
A farmer ploughing the land, Northumberland, EnglandJo Metson Scott
Archie, a Scottish Shepherd, Northumberland, England.Jo Metson Scott
Looking at the hills of Dumfriesshire in Scotland from Cumbria, England, across the Solway Firth Jo Metson Scott
Northumberland has more castles than any other county in England, evidence of its violent past.Jo Metson Scott

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