The vision of a united Britain and of a United Kingdom was promoted by the Scottish king James VI who was invited to take the throne of England and became king James I – the first king of Great Britain.
In modern terminology, it was a reverse take-over by a Scots king. This does not fit easily with the narrative of the Scottish National Party, which likes to agonize over the union of the Parliaments in 1707.
The Union of the Crowns 1603
In his first speech to Parliament in 1603 James I outlined his vision for one country, one law, one parliament and one king, “to perfect the union in my blood”. He did not get his way, but nevertheless he called himself the king of Great Britain, with more justification than the SNP Scottish executive unilaterally called itself the Scottish Government.
In 1606 James created the Union Flag, flown from British vessels all round the globe, and popularly known as the Union Jack in reference to James.
He minted a pound coin called ‘a Unite’ and even the smaller coinage had an English rose on one side and a Scottish thistle on the other side. He even wanted to remove the term Borders for the area between the two countries.
Scotland was an independent nation in Great Britain and continued to be so at the Union of the Parliaments. The SEUP (aka SNP) claim that it wants to make Scotland ‘an independent nation’ is eyewash, especially, once it is ‘independent’ it wants to change one English-speaking Union with a European multilingual Union. What does it mean by its independence?
The Union of the Parliaments 1707
The Union of the Parliaments in 1707 took place because Scotsmen mismanaged their own affairs. Having invested and bankrupted themselves in the Darien scheme, they were bailed out by ‘English gold’ with the added cost being the Union of the Parliaments, and thereafter the two nations were known as the United Kingdom. The Scottish nation retained its own church, legal system and education. This changed the administration of the two independent nations. It was a mutual benefit. Scotland gained from the international trading opportunities through the English control of the seas and England gained from the input of Scottish military regiments and the Scottish ‘brain-drain’ to the centre of power in London.
Scottish has much to be proud of, but it worth noting that its leadership has had a habit of failing its own people. The Darien scheme is not the only failure. Scottish landowners cleared their tenants off their Highland crofts with the help of the Scottish legal system, and many Scottish investors enriched themselves from Caribbean slavery. It was the Free Church of Scotland which protested against the Highland Clearances and William Wilberforce, motivated by Christianity and encouraged and supported by Christian leaders, persevered against vested business interests to abolish slavery through the UK Parliament. The SNP leader Alex Salmond supported the Royal Bank of Scotland’s disastrous and uncosted take-over of Dutch bank ABN-Amro. This threatened to bankrupt the British economy and it was the Bank of England that bailed out Scotland. Ungrateful SNP supporters want to blame Westminster for their troubles and they choose to forget these and other bail outs from England. Similarly, in current times the deep pockets of the United Kingdom have financed the coronavirus pandemic lockdown and Brexit has enabled the UK to roll out an effective vaccine schedule, while the European Union is languishing in disarray over its vaccine policy and programme. If Scotland was in the EU, it would be far behind in the vaccination of its population. For example, when the UK had vaccinated 30% of its population the EU had vaccinated 5% and frustrated EU member-states broke ranks with the centralised EU Commission to negotiate for vaccines for its citizens.
Scotland is still an independent nation in the United Kingdom. The Scottish EU Party (aka SNP) is happy to ‘pool sovereignty’ with Brussels but it complains that the Scottish relationship with Westminster somehow means Scotland is not an independent nation. If this was so, then England would not be an independent nation either.
The growing sentiment in Wales for national separation from the UK is recent, following the growing SNP sentiment. Being a recent phenomenon, it is astonishing that this massive constitutional issue is considered to be the solution to local and temporary issues, such as the management of the coronavirus pandemic.
The unrest created by the grievance politics of the SNP in Scotland and Wales merits discussion, diagnosis and solution. The separatists will not be appeased by anything less than separation. SNP administrative failures are blamed on Westminster’s restricting them with inadequate powers of one kind or another, particularly fiscal at the moment.
SNP unrest is created by its daily exposure on national television during the coronavirus pandemic, its grievance propaganda at every opportunity, and more insidiously by its propaganda through the school education curriculum. Scottish historian Professor Tom Devine said that the history curriculum in Scottish schools “reads like a simplistic piece of arrant propaganda”, and “self-evidently arrant and dangerous nonsense”.
Solutions do not merit separation
There is a need to consider anew the best form of administration of the United Kingdom in its constituent parts with appropriate power devolved to the appropriate level of administration. Such is the unrest at different levels of government that it seems clear that decision-making power must come closer to the people affected by these decisions, and the ability of large business with deeper pockets than local authorities to keep appealing these decisions is counter-productive, interfering with justice and creating local grievance.
What does it take to separate nations?
Norway separated from Sweden in 1905 after a 99.95% Norwegian vote for separation. Who could argue with this? However, 50% +1 is not enough for the separation of Scotland from England. Even changing the constitution of a local club usually requires a two-thirds majority. If Scotland thinks separation is such a good thing, it should be possible to persuade people over a period of time, like the Norwegians did. Over what period of time? A generation seems a good period of time to test this, during which time the young people from any earlier referendum will grow up and learn more about life.
Quebec’s referendum for separation from Canada in 1995 had a close result. Wikipedia says: “The fast rise of the “Yes” campaign and apparent inability of the personalities of the “No” campaign to counter their message created an atmosphere of great uncertainty, both in the federal government and across Canada.” However, since 1995 it has gone off the agenda but the issue has never gone away because of the dogmatism of separatists who cannot take No for an answer. The French language seems to be central to the Quebec sovereignty movement. Welsh nationalists seem also to fear the loss of their language. This cannot be so with the SNP but the Highland element of the SNP seems to want to enforce Gaelic on the population. The Scottish EU Party (aka SNP) needs to produce better reasons for separation than “we want it”.
12 Mar 2021: this Wikipedia article on Scottish monarchs does not call James VI “King of Scots” but omits it and refers to him as “James VI became King of England and Ireland”. With history like this on the world stage, at least we could have improved education in Scottish schools. The Wikipedia article on the Union of the Crowns in 1603 speaks of ‘realms’ – “the consequential unification for some purposes (such as overseas diplomacy) of the three realms under a single monarch”. Whereas this is a relevant word, it could as easily be ‘the three nations’. Did England cease to be a nation? Did Scotland? Did Wales? Did the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil and the Algarves mean that Portugal ceased to be a nation? It was a form of administration just as the Scottish Parliament administers devolved matters in Scotland and the UK Westminster Parliament administers the United Kingdom on behalf of the monarch. The British Commonwealth compromises independent nations with some elements of administration involving the monarch in order to be a member of the British Commonwealth – this does stop them being ‘an independent nation’ as the SEUP (aka SNP) knows very well, shown by its desire to rejoin the EU as ‘an independent nation’ after its planned separation from the UK. It is a matter of administration. The SEUP wants the Scottish nation to be administered with ultimate authority from the EU in Brussels rather than from the UK in Westminster. In SNP-speak, an independent Scotland means simply ‘independence from the UK’ , not ‘an independent nation’. It is separation, not independence.