BERWICK-UPON-TWEED, England — Sheep farmer Dougie Watkin ignores the lashing rain as he stands among his flock on a crest of land overlooking the river dividing England from Scotland.
It’s a good spot to explain how a violent history has shaped life along the border.
To the east loom the remains of Norham Castle, built in the 12th century to keep out the Scots, besieged 13 times and wrecked by Scottish artillery in 1513.
Below, Watkin points to fords across the river Tweed used by the Border Reivers, outlaw gangs that wreaked havoc along both sides of the frontier for generations.
Just hidden by the mist to the west is the hilltop where Scotland's King James IV was hacked to death at the Battle of Flodden along with much of his army during a doomed 16th-century attempt to invade England.
The beautiful rolling landscape here has been peaceful for almost 300 years. But Watkin fears life along the border may become a lot more complicated depending on the result of Scotland's September referendum on independence from Britain.
"Once you create something separate like that, you really don't know what you're going to let out of the box," says the Englishman, who farms 900 acres of land spread across both sides of the frontier.
"It's usually the things you never think about that creep up and bite you on the ankle," he adds. "If you went into a situation where you had different tax regimes, different policing regimes, different employment regimes, it would be a nightmare."
Border business is tricky
Riders on horses take part in the Riding of the Bounds on May 1, 2014 in Berwick-Upon-Tweed, England. The annual event, in its 405th year, is a celebration of the traditional fifteen-mile ride to check the security of the boundaries of the town. (AFP/Getty Images)
A Liberal Democrat Party councilor in the English border county of Northumberland, Watkin is particularly concerned about the prospect of trade restrictions if Scotland secedes. That, he fears, could seriously affect trans-border business, particularly for farmers like himself who regularly move livestock across the border.
In the nearby town of Berwick-upon-Tweed, such worries are widespread.
England's northernmost town has changed hands 13 times during its turbulent history.
Today, the handsome coastal settlement of 13,000 sits within a ring of fortified walls built on the orders of Queen Elizabeth I as a 16th-century bulwark against the threat of Scottish incursions.
Residents here often feel neglected by the rest of England. Scotland's capital Edinburgh, just 55 miles away, is closer than the nearest English city. London lies some 340 miles to the south.
The local soccer club, Berwick Rangers, is unique as an English team playing in the Scottish league. The great barrier Hadrian's Wall, which the Romans built to defend their British colony from the unconquered barbarians to the north, stands 65 miles to the south of Berwick.
The sense of isolation has led many here to claim a distinct “borderer” identity that’s neither wholly English nor Scottish.
"At the moment, we all get on great, we're borderers, it doesn't matter what side of the border you're on," says Brian Martin, who runs a guitar shop and cafe off the main street. "To suddenly redraw the border and split people up and have different prices and taxes, I just don't think it's a good thing."
The risk to the local economy is a major concern in a region where cross-border commuting is the norm.
Gordon Naysmith is a Scot who operates a butchers' stall selling haggis, Ayrshire bacon, Scotch pies and other Scottish delicacies at markets on both sides of the line. He worries that having to deal with two national administrations will double the bureaucratic burden for small business.
"We're struggling right now, is it going to make it worse?” he says while doing a brisk trade at the Saturday morning market in Berwick's main street. “Is it going to put businesses further down the scale again and make things more difficult for them? Better the devil you know than the devil you don't."
The Scottish government, which is leading the independence campaign, says it would keep the British pound and leave the frontier open to unrestricted trade.
British officials warn matters may not be so simple.
And the European Union has cautioned that an independent Scotland would have to reapply for membership, adding to fears that free passage across the border could be limited.
"If they bring in this stupid thing about the border and having controls ... there are people to-ing and fro-ing to work, how are they going to get backwards and forwards?" says Edinburgh-born Englishman John Marshall, who sells flowers at Berwick market. “That's not going to work.”
What will change?
Farming in Berwick-Upon-Tweed. England's most northern town awaits the outcome in Scotland's referendum vote happening on Sept. 18. (AFP/Getty Images)
Concerns go beyond the economic. Health worker Caroline Douglas, a Scot who works in England, lives a mile south of the border but sends her children to school in Scotland.
"There's also a lot of rumors about: will you need your passports?" she says. "We cross the border at least eight times a day, so that would be a bit of an issue."
North of the border, pro-independence campaigners are striving to allay such doubts. They accuse unionist opponents of whipping up unwarranted fears.
"Life will continue exactly as we know it," insists Kenny MacAskill, justice secretary in the Scottish government.
"Border posts are coming down all over Europe," he says during an interview in the central Scottish city of Livingstone. "The day after independence, it will be the same currency, it will be the same crown that will remain, there will be no border posts. The difference is decisions on all issues will be made here in Scotland that matter to the Scottish people."
As an example, MacAskill points to the free passage between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. He says that Scotland with its oil and gas reserves will be a bigger trading partner for what's left of the United Kingdom than Brazil or Russia — so London will have no interest in erecting barriers.
Some borderers agree.
James Cook runs a multimillion-dollar business exporting Scotland's renowned seafood from just north of the border in the little fishing port of Eyemouth. He's campaigning for a "yes" vote in the Sept. 18 referendum even though his trucks laden with lobsters and langoustines must cross the English border to reach their principal markets in mainland Europe.
"We're on the front line, so anything will impact very heavily on us," Cook acknowledges, but adds that the fishing industry would welcome having a government closer to home.
"It will be more directed at our coastal communities ... decision-making in Scotland, based on what is happening on the ground, will be very beneficial for us."
More from GlobalPost: 700 years on, Scotland is still debating independence from England
Although Cook admits that a transition would be complicated, he's confident politicians on both sides of the border will see a common interest in resolving any trade, tax and currency issues.
If they can't, some over the border in Berwick see a radical solution. More than 60 percent of voters in the town would support returning to Scottish rule, according to a 2008 poll organized by Britain's ITV television network.
Brian Martin, the guitar-shop owner, wants to go further. He's set up an independence for Berwick-upon-Tweed campaign. "It's turned from being a total tongue-in-cheek joke thing into something people are really keen to support," he says.
There could be one big disincentive, however. Local legend has it that an anomaly in a 19th-century peace treaty means that Berwick is technically still at war with Russia.
Given Moscow's current bellicose mood, standing alone might not seem like such a good idea.