Scotland – the referendum and the future of the UK

Thursday 18 September 2014 is a very important day for the United Kingdom. That is the day on which Scotland holds a referendum to decide whether the country will leave the union to become independent. It is still very hard to say what the outcome will be. Opinion polls have mainly pointed to a no vote but recent poll showed a small majority for yes.

I shall return to the details. I am a Scot, that is to say my family are Scots, although my whole life has been spent anywhere but in Scotland. Nonetheless, it is my national and cultural identity. That means impartiality is nigh on impossible since I support independence and objectivity may be called into question. I shall, however, try to be objective. So, to begin with here is the background from the origins of the ‘cause’. Bear with me because it is a bit long but also very truncated to begin to give enough of a picture to put the background for the referendum in place.

What is being kept out of the public domain is when this begins. The 1603 Union of the Crowns is when it began with the accession of James VI, King of Scots, to the thrones of England and Ireland. Ireland seceded from that union in 1937. Scotland is not doing that. The bone of contention is the Union with England Act passed in 1707 by the Parliament of Scotland. It put into effect the terms of the Treaty of Union that had been agreed 1706, after negotiations between commissioners representing the parliaments of the two countries. The problem is that some claimed that some people in Scotland thought that the union would enable them to recover from the financial disaster brought about by the Darien scheme. The Darien Scheme was an unsuccessful attempt by Scotland to become a world trading nation by establishing a colony called ‘Caledonia’ on the Gulf of Darién which is on the Isthmus of Panama during 1690s. Poor planning, weak leadership, almost no demand for the proposed trade, epidemics and serious shortages of food led to the colony being abandoned after it was besieged by Spain forces in 1700. The Darien company had been backed by something between 25% and 50% of all the money circulating in Scotland. Failure left the aristocrats and landowners and other parts of the economy almost completely ruined. The very small number of people responsible for the scheme negotiated what became the 1707 Act. Well over 99% of the population knew nothing about it. As Robert Burns wrote about this: We’re bought and sold for English Gold, Such a Parcel of Rogues in a Nation.

Despite recent claims it has worked very well since, history is full of holes as it tends always to be. The treaty was highly unpopular in Scotland. Sir George Lockhart of Carnwath was the only member of the Scots negotiating team who was absolutely against union, noted that “The whole nation appears against the Union” Sir John Clerk of Penicuik, who was an enthusiastic pro-unionist and negotiator, said that the treaty was 2contrary to the inclinations of at least three-fourths of the Kingdom”. There were riots in Edinburgh and the bell ringer of St Giles Cathedral rang out the tune ‘Why should I be so sad on my wedding day?’ The army was called into control angry mobs and threats of further civil unrest caused Parliament to impose martial law.

The Jacobite risings were a series of uprisings, rebellions, and wars in Great Britain and Ireland that occurred between 1688 and 1746. Their aim was to return the Catholic James VII of Scotland and II of England, thus his descendants of the House of Stuart, to the throne after they had been deposed by Parliament during the Glorious Revolution of 1688. In Scotland risings continued, and intensified after George I of the House of Hanover succeeded to the British throne in 1714. In 1715 James Stuart, the Old Pretender, led an uprising that was only one of several throughout Britain, all of them ultimately defeated with James fleeing to France in 1716. Then there were other uprisings in 1719 and subsequently until the best known of all in 1745. Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie or the Young Pretender) landed in Scotland on 2 August and led the rising. An army of less than 6000 men had set out and a larger army under General Wade assembled in Newcastle to confront them, so they made for Carlisle and successfully bypassed the English army. In Manchester about 250 Episcopalians formed a regiment and a number of other Englishmen from rural Lancashire had joined it. An eye witness wrote that 60 English recruits joined in one day at Preston, thus the myth that no Englishmen joined is simply a myth. At the end of November French ships arrived in Scotland with 800 men from the Écossais Royeaux and the Irish Regiments of the French army. They entered Derby on 4 December, less than 200 km from London. Then things fell apart and we probably all know the story of the Charles leaving Scotland in 1746 disguised as a lady’s maid to Flora MacDonald. There was another attempted rising in 1759 supported by France that was short lived.

In the aftermath, Scotland suffered enormous oppression under strong martial control. The Gaelic and Scots languages were suppressed, many people forced to leave their land and massively overcrowded cities suffered the most immense poverty and deprivation. Many Scots were put on ships to the colonies for their labour in the new countries, whilst some went of their own accord more were forced to go. It has not been a happy history. It has become deeply ingrained in the memory of many Scots. This is a potted history that I have truly skimmed over. It has been omitted from the background of referendum by all but Scots historians and a few politicians trying to explain that it is a vote for nationality and identity but not an economic one as powers that be try to make people believe.

So, history lesson almost over. In 1934 the Scottish National Party (SNP) was founded. Note well it is the ‘national’ not ‘nationalist’ party which mainstream media (MSM) has repeatedly got wrong and perhaps exploited to misrepresent them. It has always campaigned for independence. They are not the only political group responsible since factions of the main parties also support the motion and a number of other smaller parties however they are the majority party in the Scottish Parliament who have negotiated it. The aims and objectives are: Democracy and national self-determination, whereby the population will possess full decision making powers in the political affairs of its nation. In 2012 the UK Government offered to provide the Scottish Parliament with the specific powers to hold a referendum on the provision that it was ‘fair, legal and decisive’. Negotiations continued until October 2012 when the Edinburgh Agreement was reached. The referendum date was set, the options agreed were a yes or no vote for full independence. The option of full fiscal and political autonomy (referred to as devolution max or devo-max) was excluded by the UK parliament. In the last few days this appears to have been put back on the table.

Part of the agreement was that campaigning be allowed from both perspectives thus the Better Together campaign as opposed to the Scots’ voice through the SNP. There was also an agreement that in the last 28 days until the referendum no new proposals, offers or other propagandist moves be allowed. At present this is no longer being observed. Anyway, the real campaign started about two years ago. Better Together was to represent the parties, organisations and individuals campaigning against independence under the leadership of the unpopular Alistair Darling, Chancellor of the Exchequer under the even more unpopular Gordon Brown’s premiership, officially launched the campaign on 25 June 2012 as director and chairman. Darling, like Brown, is a Scot but since Labour’s defeat in 2010 is simply an opposition backbencher. Since he was unloved and mistrusted in Scotland, a member of the opposition who would appear to be speaking for the coalition in office and also not the best tempered politician in the world he was never welcomed in that post. He led a campaign that concentrated on telling the Scots what is wrong with independence rather than telling them what is right about the union as the name would imply. Alex Salmond as leader of the SNP and First Minister of Scotland went rhetorically for the throat and a war of words began that far too often lost the real issue. I am neither a great fan or Salmond nor his deputy Nicola Sturgeon and have never been keen on the SNP, I am less keen on Johann Lamont and Labour in Scotland though. Labour has been vehemently against independence although around one third of the membership say they will vote yes. Last November ‘Scotland’s Future – Your Guide to an Independent Scotland’ was launched by the Scottish Parliament. It clearly outlines the manifesto and plans. Salmond, I feel, has deviated too far from that manifesto. The arguments have become acrimonious. They have also become very much weighted toward economic arguments. The whole emotional and social dimension, which is why I went through the history, has been overshadowed by acrimony over who does and who controls what, usually with a price attached.

The Better Together campaign picked up a few ‘passengers’ on the way. Personalities began to chip in. That came to a point where it became absurd and people simply began to laugh when David Bowie spoke out against from his New York penthouse having no Scots connection and only having played a very dates there. So stars became irrelevant. Darling and Salmond faced each other for two televised debates which probably come out as a draw although Salmond clearly came out of the second far ahead. What has not gone down well has been David Cameron refusing to do the same with Salmond and basically keeping away from Scotland. So, the pro-unionist campaign that started out with a strong lead began to flag and become all the more bad tempered. Gordon Brown waded in and added salt to the wounds. The yes campaign was benefitting from just about everything pro-unionist were saying. Last week George Osborne broke the ‘purdah’ rule and made some vague promises, Gordon Brown elaborated on them to little effect, then this week Cameron, Clegg and Miliband went off to Scotland on a joint mission to persuade people to vote no. Although David Cameron had explicitly ruled devo-max out originally, they are now offering more or less that if the people stay in the union. Whether that is working or not remains to be seen.

So, here we are with the referendum drawing closer. However it comes out the UK will never be the same. It will have profound effects, call the repercussions even. If there is a yes then independence will have to be negotiated for a year to eighteen months with actual independence around March 2016. With a no vote, and if the promises are kept, a deal with be negotiated on the basis of the new promises. Those promises bring a risk with them. Being inside the 28 days of ‘silence’ lawyers could go to the High Court to have the referendum annulled because of the terms being broken. That would mean starting all over again.

So, to the consequences. There would be a constitutional crisis. The next general election would probably need to be suspended until after independence day and Cameron, despite what he is saying, would almost certainly need to step down. Scotland would be temporarily out of the EU, but whatever is being said in a few years they would join since the policy is rather to have countries in than out. If the UK is so short-sighted that it leaves the EU. The currency issue is unresolved but actually given that Scotland could shadow Sterling as Ireland did from independence until adopting the Euro that is a mountain being made out of a molehill at present. They could issue their own version of sterling that is valued against the existing one. What is being said about political issues is rather propagandistic. Of course Scots MPs would have to resign, there is no constitutional question there but as for there only ever being a Conservative government for the rest of time in the rump UK is an absurd view to hold of the electorate who decide on the basis of how parties have performed generally. Passport? Silly one, Scotland would remain in the EEA so under the present agreement that Ireland has had since long before they joined the EU the answer is no it would not be required. The Trident and oil revenue questions are quite clear. The one would be out, the other would see the revenues staying in. The 1603 Act would not be affected without another referendum to ask if the Scots would want to become a republic, otherwise the queen would remain as is. The UK would have a problem with its P5 seat at the UN Security Council, but probably have to change its status and that would be that. Would big companies leave? Perhaps some would, others have said they would go there. The saltire would need to be taken out of the union flag, so all of those things on sale with it in worldwide would become obscure or mementos.

On the other hand, with a no vote then the tax payers of the rest of the UK are eventually going to be fuming. The taxpayers will have to pay for the changes that will give Scots privileges that other parts of the UK will not have. Calls for devolution and a federal structure would be demanded from the regions without doubt. That would mean a written constitution, one of the very things the right wing political forces are set against. The question I have seen today asking whether in the event of an EU membership referendum Scotland would be allowed a separate one is interesting. The rest of the union votes to leave but Scotland wishes to stay in. Only granting independence would resolve that, so how will that question be dealt with? It would be another constitutional crisis.

As I have said, I am pro-independence. The UK is not one country but a union of three countries plus a province of Ireland that remained under UK control. Things will change either way. Whereas once Northern Ireland was very divided with the IRA wishing union with the Republic. Now a strain of mutuality is emerging with things being said about full autonomy or independence. Wales is quiet at present but no doubt Plaid Cymru will resurge with new demands. The Kernow movements in Cornwall are gradually coming together. The north-south divide in England is growing with increasing resentment of London and the south east. If Scotland becomes independent the shock might just make the government and their successors take a good hard look at the state of the ‘nation’ and find their way back to the people to see what to do and where to go. I believe, therefore, that not only would Scotland benefit from independence, be allowed to make its own mistakes and all else, but also the rest of the people in the UK would benefit in the long term. So, YES for me.

Hi Mike, re the sport aspects, yes in theory one would have to agree, but when we see the lunatic behaviour of 'fans' notably in Football, I sometimes wonder if it isn't just another log on the fire.

If you were to ask Mr Putin, you would discover that all those are Russian inventions.......!

But I am with you on nationalism, Norman. Members of my extended family are from many different ethnic origins. I tend to think of myself as a European, but only because that is where I happen to live.

I don't have much enthusiasm for "sport" especially as it is now mainly about money, but you must agree that it is much better than war as a way of settling differences between nations.

Brian, I really must take issue with you on who 'invented' the bicycle. I think most would accept that the term 'bicycle ' must surely be applied to those who introduced the 'pedal' which took it up from the Velocipede? Of all things the bicycle is identified as 'pedal-powered'?

That was done by the French company of Michaux et Cie which appeared on their Velocipede Michaux in 1868. The earliest reference to the invention of a bicycle, according to my records is to Karl von Sauerbronn in 1816.

To be honest I have never heard of the blacksmith chappie you refer to - but then again the Chinese are also very good at claiming 'firsts' aren't they? eg Gunpowder?, Paper? Magnetic Compass?

James Boyd Dunlop was indeed the inventor of the pneumatic tyre in 1888 but only through the work of work done on vulcanised rubber done by the American Charles Goodyear in 1839.

The first automatic rifle was by James Browning (USA) in 1918 and so it goes on.

You can't just list a series of inventions, improvements by Scots to prove any sort of case, as there are dozens of equally or even more impressive inventions from all 'Nations' that dreadful word.

It all rather supports my Notion of the Nonsense of Nations?

Hi Margaret, sorry but I don't understand your reply. Probably my ignorance showing but I thought this was about independence from 'Britain' - presumably to set up a new 'Nation' - so I don't quite see where the humanism comes in.

I am not being tricky in anyway I can assure you, just looking for a bit of explanation.

I agree entirely with you Norman, but the referendum was NOT about Nationalism! It was about humanism!

Well, here we see it all, with the ogre (in my mind) of Nationalism creating Nastiness. Thus it has been throughout the ages - and on what basic grounds as the 'Nations' are all human-created? -Scotland has 4 million people, Estonia has 1.5 million - so what? Russia and America 300 million or so, Australia 20 million - seriously people who cares?

I have railed against Nationalism ever since I started to see it for what I believe it to be- a way of saying 'I/we are different' and I have never EVER heard that said without the implicit or direct statement that automatically follows i.e. 'therefore I am better than you'. I have never heard it said 'that makes me the same as you' or even unsurprisingly 'therefore I am worse than you'.

Personally I hate, loathe and detest Nationalism. I hate it on the sports field, and I hate it in Politics and above all I despise it as it is pure garbage. Where I was born was pure accident as far as I was concerned, and I see no great wonderful advantages of being British or German, or Scottish, or whatever. We are ALL human beings, and we ALL share the same planet - and waving different flags about seems sheer nonsense to me.

I recognise with distaste that the idea is propagated in all Officialdom, from Passports to Income Tax returns. I think these things can be addressed without resorting to flag-waving Nationalism. I know I fight (feebly) a losing battle as the moment the Olympics or the assorted World Cups start - here we go again. We haven't moved very far from tribalism have we?

I will continue to judge others and hopefully they will continue to judge and even condemn me for what I am, who I am and by my actions, and not by what piece of rag waves above my head (metaphorically). Actually as apparently one of the 'concerns' expressed was the possibility of propagating another batch of small 'nations'. Interesting - maybe I should declare my house as the 'Independent Nation of Norm Clark' ? Maybe by extension I could rent rooms out to even smaller 'nations'?

I am relieved that Scotland has voted no. It is also very interesting that the distribution of the votes shows that it is the country people and not the townies who have won the day.

I am also pleased that the vexed Mid Lothian question will at last be addressed, as that is a far more unfair state of affairs than not liking the outcome of a general election.

Almost half the population does not like the outcomes of general elections and for the SNP to stand on a platform of no more Tory governments for Scotland totally debased their argument.

On a personal point of view I was delighted to see a morose Alex Salmond in the back of his chauffeured limousine!

As somebody who used to live in Kent don't forget the divide between Men of Kent and Kentish Men!

Over the years our little island has played host to many "kingdoms" , as a man of Kent our history goes back a long way & kings have been around before 512 AD. Kent residents must therefore have the right to a referendum, too, in all fairness.

I was also interested in the numbers of voters - under 4 million, & a good turnout - so how many tax payers would a Scottish government be able to call on?

But a big question. Supposing the question had been "Do you want Scotland to continue to be part of the UK?" & had been addressed to non Scottish persons? The debates would have been VERY interesting!

Brian, et al,

I enter this debate on a philosophical basis, that is to debate and learn not to insult, to share opinions for mutual benefit. I make this clear now as many of these supposed discussion provoke emotions which some people are not able to contain and the element of intellectual debate is lost. That maybe because those who demean themselves in this way are not capable of this level of debate! That said I think that the backlash to the Scottish vote will not be from Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, it will be from England, and it will be a movement for English independence from these small and argumentative 'countries' who we continue to subsidise and tolerate.

We'll be keeping some blue in the flag...... fae the noo!

Sorry Brian, after such a good piece you're starting to sound like just another "chippy Scot" and should defend your view on it's worthy merits not retire in a "huff".

My good friend John Black, Kent Scots and proud of it, was friends with Roy Williamson who was apparently sufficiently "chippy" to write an anthem solely out of anger at the last verse of the UK National Anthem. John loved the man and the song but hated this motivation and frequently defended the Scots nation thus "not really in the Scots character to hold such a grudge against such a trivial thing".

I too dislike the last verse of the National Anthem. I don't like the first verse either or anything much in between so I moved to France to escape the "slave nation" mentality that pervades much of English daily life. But I don't "chip on" about the English institutions that offered Scottish genius the chance for greatness and how "one eyed" some people may be.

I'm also disappointed that the vote was "No" as it will affect some of my family and friends, many of whom are already thinking of leaving the UK for more egalitarian climes.

Write more please, Brian, your perspective is very appreciated.

I think I'll take that as an au revoir not adieu!

Even vindicating what politicians do from a distance is 'copping out'. I am not, but many are UK voters including in Scotland and it is my antipathy to the state of the UK against your own avid support. Each to their own opinion and you are welcome to yours and I choose mine. That you tell me I am wrong, thus you are right, is the utmost arrogance in its purest form. Now argue on. This post is finished as far as I am concerned, the referendum is done but what will inevitably follow is another story.

Thank goodness.

It's not just Scots, educated or otherwise, who move to find work or opportunities. They along with millions of others from all round the world chose and choose to be part of Britain. The Scottish people have voted and it's clear that large scale changes in "ownership" of the political process are required. Many English feel just as disenfranchised as many Scots do. It's useless to keep on about Thatcher as economic decline was evident in many places, not just Scotland, long before she came into power. Labour governments piled wasted millions into Scotland in a desperate bid to hold on to power. You seem to ignore the relative economic progress that is being made in Britain presently, and, after London Scotland is benefiting from that. Now is the time to reflect and reconcile. Your vision that Britain will "go down" is one I don't recognise. It will be for all Britons to participate.

David, Scots were moved forcibly out of Scotland and formed 'communities' where they were settled. Those have always attracted other Scots. You might also have noticed that for centuries Scotland, despite many achievements, was kept under the heel like Ireland and Wales. There was often no incentive to stay. Educated Scots often had to leave to find work. Relative prosperity only came after the 1970s, albeit Thatcher killing off much of large scale industry and mining did nothing for them.

As for the Braveheart sarcasm, it does not become you. You are wiser than to use patronising expression like 'Calm down dear' too as a rule. However, it is now the total ruination of your beloved party in which a large number of MPs are already saying that they will vote down new measures promised to Scotland. Now the troubles will begin as no voters become disillusioned and wish they had voted differently. Cameron has probably stabbed himself and his party in the back. Now for Miliband and that is little to look forward to either. The UK is now a gradually sinking ship. Rather than now it will go down later.

How come so many Scots leave Scotland Brian if it's so wonderful? Scots have of course played a major part in the development of Britain, and we admire Scots including those that our friends and indeed family. Britain is about something more than just Scotland, England, Wales or Northern Ireland. Thank God for Britain! I'm not going to list the achievements of other Britons, there isn't enough space here. Certainly give more parts of Britain more localism, but it's not just about Scotland, although one could be forgiven for thinking so over recent weeks. It's simply a part of Britain along with others. Good to see that you are using the internet too Brian, and i'm surprised it wasn't invented by a Scot, and that you are expressing yourself so well in the language of, as the French say, Shakespeare. There's many a Briton who wished he had never heard of Scottish politicians, the Bank of Scotland, or the Royal Bank of Scotland. I think you've been watching Braveheart too much, no doubt fuelled by the amber nectar! Calm down dear! And as for the miner's strike well whatever next.....I remember something rather different happening to Britain in those days, it was Britain adjusting to live in the late 20th century and that adjustment was well overdue.

and thank you Brian for your wonderful pertinence!