I'm happy to be a new 'Wee Voice. My voice has been wee all my life. But I live in hope.
Between now and September I intend to blog here weekly, offering a personal view on the road to the Independence Referendum. For those who don't know me (that will be everyone?) I'm big into advocacy and I like to combine advocacy with creativity. Thus I shall be using my blog posts and the research which goes into them as the inspiration for my next collection of short stories.
I should state from the get go that I’m for Independence, so if you are a rabid, die-hard ‘Better Together’ person you’d probably best give this whole thing a body-swerve. If, however, you have the time to engage in what is probably the single most important political action in your lifetime, and/or feel that perhaps you don’t quite know as much as you would like or should about the Independence debate, feel free to call by on a weekly basis and I’ll be sharing my personal thoughts about the whole deal. Call it an advocacy work in progress if you like.
Personally, my life I’ve wanted independence. To me it's equated with freedom. And it's not just about economics or politics. It's emotional. But even those carried away with emotion need to look at the bigger picture and where else to start than with history?
Recently I’ve been amazed by how little people seem to know about the Union between Scotland and England. And yet how happy they are to talk about it. I hear far too many vague comments about how Scots voted for the Union 300 years ago and have done so well out of it, so why are we whining about being ‘independent’ now. I know that 300 years is a long time ago, but it’s not that hard to find out some background (I won't say 'facts' because of course we all know in this post modern world that truth is not just a casualty, it's a dodo as a concept.) Nevertheless, Here is a potted history of how I understand the whole thing... for what it's worth.
Where I can, I'll link the 'history' or 'facts' to things that particularly annoy me in the everyday barrage of Independence related media pronouncements and personal conversations. Hold onto your hats, we're in for a bumpy ride.
From 1603 Scotland and England shared a monarch. As independent states. So independence in 2014 does not mean Scotland would have to ditch the current monarchy. The devil in the detail is that in fact there were two separate crowns held by the same person, in the first instance James V1 of Scotland who then became James I of England, so he is indeed rightly referred to as James VI and I. English people tend to forget that, I find! For me James I was a monarch in 15th century. Living in a ‘Union’ where people don’t even have the courtesy to acknowledge that distinction is just one little example of why I feel the need for independence. How hard is it to say James VI and I? He was not James I of Great Britain or the United Kingdom. He was James VI of Scotland AND James I of England. And when we come to that, the English might have Elizabeth II on the throne at the moment but isn't she Elizabeth I of Scotland? For some people this is splitting hairs. For some people it's important. The ones it's important for are generally the ones who want independence.
Attempts were made in 1606, 1667 and 1689 to unite Scotland and England through Acts of Parliament. These all failed, suggesting that there was no great appetite for Union amongst the majority of people who had a say (and most people didn’t. They didn't have a vote after all. ) During that time of course the state of the monarchy was pretty fluid – Stuarts and Hanoverians in conflict – and with the Hanoverian Queen Anne finally established on the throne The Treaty of Union was agreed on 22nd July 1706. Until that point Scotland and England were separate states with separate legislatures but the same monarch. The Treaty of Union established a single, united kingdom named ‘Great Britain.’ (If you don't mind I'll save the whole immensely confusing Great Britain/ United Kingdom and what these actually mean for another post!)
It is worth noting that the Acts of Union followed negotiation between commissioners representing the parliaments of both countries. It was championed by the Duke of Hamilton on the part of Scotland, who was not exactly a representative for the majority of the Scottish populace. Most of the Scots who did have a say wanted a federal union but the English would only accept an Incorporating Union and because of a range of economic and political pressures, that's what happened. But do not be mistaken into thinking that this was the settled will of any number of the Scottish people!
Two Acts of Union were signed. One by England. One by Scotland. The Scottish Parliament signed the Act of Union with England on January 16th 1707 and the English Parliament signed the Act of Union with Scotland on March 4th 1707 (at this point the Kingdom of England already included Wales as a territory.) approved by the monarch Queen Anne on March 6th.
The Two Acts took effect on 1st May 1707. The Parliament of Great Britain was formed and was sited at the Palace of Westminster (the home of the English Parliament) where it remains to this day.
Once again I’ll point out that both countries negotiated the Union. So when David Cameron tells you that Scottish Independence is ‘none of his business’ but only that of the Scots, I feel that’s a bit disingenuous. It’s not like ONLY Scots have the vote. People living and voting in Scotland have the vote. English people, Polish people, anyone who has a vote in Scotland can have a say. Because of course it is very difficult to actually determine who IS Scots. Personally, I’d have limited the vote to anyone who in the last census actually declared their ethnic origin as Scots rather than British, but then I’m a bit of a radical in that respect. Before you start shouting at me, I am aware that the decision affects everyone in the United Kingdom. But yes, ultimately it should be Scottish people who decide if they want to undo the union. In a spirit of fairness maybe it would have been good to have a Referendum in each country to see what the people thought – probably best include Wales and Northern Ireland too then, and for once just give people a chance to vote for or against the United Kingdom.) Obviously, if one country wanted out then the others would have to respect that. It would be interesting to see how everyone in the 'Union' feels about it after all.
I’m trying to restrict my weekly comment to an acceptable blog length of 1000 words, but there are loads of other informative things you can read about the subject. Here are a few:
You can read the terms of the Scottish Act of Union with England here http://www.legislation.gov.uk/aosp/1707/7
And the terms of the English act of Union with Scotland here http://www.legislation.gov.uk/aep/Ann/6/11
And for much more background on the whole thing, I’d recommend this site http://www.educationscotland.gov.uk/higherscottishhistory/treatyofunion/