'Understanding Scottish Independence' was originally written, in March 2009, as a guest post for the blog 'New England Tartan Day Initiative' which is now no longer available.
After over 300 years it is no surprise that the idea of an independent Scotland should be considered, by many Scots, as a matter of wishful thinking or fantasy. However, that opinion has to be viewed against the background of the neglect of Scottish history to the extent that most Scots, including the most vociferous advocates of the British Union, are now unaware of the history of their own country -
'Equally, the study of English history and the comparative neglect of Scottish history led to the acceptance of the false idea that the two countries share the same historic background. How far this can go was illustrated in 1965, when it was proposed that the seven hundredth anniversary of Simon de Montfort's parliament and the seven hundred and fiftieth anniversary of Magna Carta - both events which took place in what was at the time a foreign country - should be commemorated in Scotland...Scotland's past tends to be viewed through the eyes of English historians, who regard anything not English as quaint, backward or even downright barbarous.'
SOURCE: 'Scotland: The Shaping of a Nation' by Gordon Donaldson, p.117,
the blow to the national self-confidence of the Scots resulted from the rigged referendum in 1979 -
'Labour MP George Cunningham succeeded in amending the bill to ensure that a referendum required the support of 40 per cent of the electorate (not those voting), for devolution to become law.' - p.149
'...but the 40 per cent rule was to have a decisive impact on the outcome of the referendum. Whilst 51.6 [per cent] of the votes cast supported the establishment of a Scottish Assembly, they represented only 32.9 per cent of the [electorate]: well short of the requirement for 40 per cent of the electorate to vote 'YES' before devolution could be instituted.' - p.152
SOURCE: 'SNP - The History of the Scottish National Party' by Peter Lynch,
and the way in which one particular political party, the Labour Party, has exploited the support of voters in Scotland for its own political self-interest -
'However, while the Labour party paid lip-service to Home Rule while out of office, its promises were forgotten when it was in office. Many of the Labour men were not only internationalists in principle, but had so fallen under the spell of England as to have little sympathy with Scotland.' - p.127,
'It was even harder to believe that the Labour party could decide to further Home Rule - even apart from the practical advantages to it of Scottish support at Westminster. The party's philosophy is based on the division of men into social classes rather than into nations, and the whole structure of organized 'Labour' stands for the negation of nationalism.' - p.130
SOURCE: 'Scotland: The Shaping of a Nation' by Gordon Donaldson.
Fortunately there is a political party in Scotland, the Scottish National Party, which has as its aim the restoration of an independent Scotland in today's modern world and has, since May 2007, formed the elected government of Scotland in the devolved Scottish Parliament.
In any debate about the Treaty of Union in 1707 there are certain inconvenient truths that British Unionists prefer to omit -
- that in the three months that the Articles of Union were being debated by the Scottish parliament there were riots throughout Scotland,
- that, during the same period, English troops had been moved to the Scotland/England border,
- that the majority of the Scottish commissioners appointed to negotiate the Articles of the proposed Treaty of Union were chosen because they were in favour of an incorporating union,
- that the Equivalent (the financial recompense for Scotland's contribution to payment of the English national debt (Article XV of the Treaty of Union in 1707) was grossly underestimated.
A 1954 legal finding by Lord Cooper in the Scottish Court of Session contained the following -
'...The principle of the unlimited sovereignty of Parliament is a distinctly English principle which has no counterpart in Scottish constitutional law...I have difficulty in seeing why it should have been supposed that the new Parliament of Great Britain must inherit all the peculiar characteristics of the English Parliament but none of the Scottish Parliament, as if all that happened in 1707 was that Scottish representatives were admitted to the Parliament of England. That is not what was done...'
"Scotland is too small and too poor to be independent"
An important feature of Scottish democracy is the fact that sovereignty rests with the people and not parliament. This fact was recognised by the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs (a committee of the UK Parliament) -
'greater power can only be granted to Scotland by the UK Parliament and here there is potential for conflict. To take the extreme example, constitutional matters are reserved but it is hard to see how the Scottish Parliament could be prevented from holding a referendum on independence should it be determined to do so. If the Scottish people expressed a desire for independence the stage would be set for a direct clash between what is the English doctrine of sovereignty and the Scottish doctrine of the sovereignty of the people.'
SOURCE: 'The Operation of Multi-Layer Democracy', Scottish Affairs Committee Second Report of Session 1997-1998, HC 460-I, 2 December1998, paragraph 27.
The Scottish Government has launched a consultation document titled 'Choosing Scotland's Future: A National Conversation - Independence and responsibility in the modern world' which includes a suggested Bill for an independence referendum. The following quotation is to be found on the inside front cover of that document -
'No man has a right to fix the boundary of the march of a nation: no man has a right to say to his country, "Thus far shalt thou go and no further ".
- Charles Stewart Parnell (1846-1891)'
The Unionist parties in the Scottish Parliament have clearly indicated that they will not vote for such a Bill when it is introduced in 2010 denying the people of Scotland the opportunity of a say in their own future. Since 1973 the status of the referendum in the United Kingdom has been the subject of much debate -
'In the last resort, all arguments against the referendum are also arguments against democracy, while acceptance of the referendum is but the logical consequence of accepting the democratic form of government.'
- Professor Vernon Bogdanor, English constitutionalist.
'Those who would deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves'
- Abraham Lincoln, April 6, 1859