Sunday, 21 September 2014

Who do we think we are ? Scots , Brits or “Anglais “ ???

The 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum and  some observations , historical and otherwise 

The 2014 Referendum 

On the 18th of September 2014 residents in Scotland  went to the Polls to cast their  votes on an issue  which had been debated hotly for over  two years , The question  was a simple “Should Scotland  be an independent country ?” The answer to be given was  either YES or NO . Those eligible  to vote  had to be residents in Scotland , 16 years and over and be UK , EU  or British Commonwealth citizens .

The outcome  gave the NO camp  some 2001920 votes ( 55 % ) and the YES side  some 1 617 989 votes ( 45% ) The  total vote was an 84.6 % turnout – an incredibly high figure – the victor  was democracy . How does  this compare  with other elections and referenda in the UK  over the last decade or two ? Since 1945 until to date the highest turnout recorded was in 1950 when 83.61  % of the electorate voted . There has  been  however a  general decline since  then with a mere 59.38 %  bothering to vote in 2001 . Here in Scotland the reconvened Scottish Parliament reflected  perhaps this somewhat disillusioned  attitude to politics and government . In the first election held in 1999 the t/o was 59% , dropping to 49.4 % in 2003 ,rising  to 51.8 in 2007 and dropping again in the last ballot in 2011 to 50.4 % . For the Referendum  to hit nearly 85 % was a reflection on the interest and intensity of individual feelings on the nature of Scottish identity .

The historical background to the Union between Scotland and England

The Treaty of 1707 was not the first attempt to unite the separate Kingdoms of England and Scotland.   King Edward I of England tried to colonise Scotland in the 1290s.   King Henry VIII embarked on another such venture, with his “rough wooing” of 1544-50. Since the Union of Crowns in 1603, when King James VI of Scotland had succeeded to the throne of England, a single monarch had ruled the two nations, but this was not a sustainable situation, comparable with trying to ride two unruly horses at once. The Union of Crowns made the Union of Parliaments almost inevitable.   In 1650-51, Oliver Cromwell invaded and conquered Scotland, imposing a short-lived unified Commonwealth, with a single British Parliament.   Scotland had benefited from the trading privileges this entailed, but the Restoration of the Stuart monarchy in the person of King Charles II in 1660 had swept all these aside.The geographical proximity of England and Scotland had however made some sort of accommodation inevitable .

English ministers showed little interest in a closer constitutional relationship with Scotland during most of the seventeenth century.   Their position changed for dynastic reasons.   Under the 1689 Bill of Rights, the line of succession to the English throne was limited to the descendants of Queen Mary II and her younger sister Anne, the (Protestant) daughters of the deposed (Catholic) King James II/VII.

Scottish opinion turned against Union in the period after 1689, mainly because of the Glencoe massacre in 1692 and the failure of the Darien scheme, for both of which King William III was held partly responsible.  The abolition of the Lords of Articles in 1690 – formerly a means of royal influence in Scotland – transferred substantial powers to the Scottish Parliament, newly elected in 1703, which began to act with new-found vigour and confidence, adopting a position of aggressive constitutional nationalism.

The Scottish Parliament passed a succession of Acts deemed contrary to English interests, notably the Act anent (concerning) Peace and War, which laid down that no successor to Queen Anne should declare a war involving Scotland without first consulting the Scottish Parliament; also the Act of Security, which asserted that the Scottish Parliament, twenty days after Anne’s death, should name as her successor a Protestant member of the House of Stuart. London took the view that the unruly Scots had to be brought to heel and made to discuss the twin issues of the Hanoverian succession and the Union of Parliaments.

This resulted in the formidable economic bludgeon of the Alien Act of March 1705, which proposed that, unless progress had been made on the twin issues by Christmas – specifically that unless Scotland had accepted the Hanoverian succession by Christmas Day 1705 – all of Scotland’s exports to England, being linen, wool, coal, cattle & sheep, would be embargoed or banned, and all Scots would be declared and treated as aliens.

In September 1705, the Scottish Parliament agreed to authorise Queen Anne to nominate Commissioners who were to ‘treat’ or negotiate for Union. She naturally nominated persons sympathetic to that objective, thirty-one from each country.
The English Commissioners were almost all Whigs; the Scots mostly so, such as John Campbell, the Duke of Argyll; but including some critics of the proposed incorporating union, notably the Jacobite George Lockhart of Carnwath, who favoured a federal union such as would have retained the Scottish Parliament as a political institution.

However, the English negotiators insisted that an incorporating union was the only acceptable solution, that nothing less would secure England’s northern borders against foreign aggression; to them, a federal union was simply out of the question and was directly vetoed by Queen Anne herself.

The English certainly believed that the advantages of union would be “much greater for Scotland”, mainly in terms of an “Increase of Trade and Money”, and that England would gain from it only “the Security of its Northern Borders” and a “Source of Men for our Common Wars”.

The 25 Articles agreed by the joint Commissioners were to be presented first to the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh in October 1706, then to the English Parliament in London. Of the 25 Articles, which were debated and approved one by one, no fewer than fifteen were concerned with economic issues, of trade, taxation and industry, and it was these which generated the most heated debate.

The Court made major concessions on Scottish access to the English market, and later put through a separate Act protecting the Church of Scotland. The indications are, therefore, that the Scottish side fought long and hard for the best possible deal for Scotland, and for one which preserved distinctively Scottish institutions – the separate and distinct church, and legal and education systems – such that Scotland was never to become a mere province of England, a kind of “Scotland-shire”.

The entire Treaty was passed by the Scottish Parliament on 16 January 1707, by 110 votes to 69. There was a clear majority in each of the three estates, being the church, the nobility and the burgesses, that amongst the nobility being greatest. The mass of the common people were violently opposed to union with England, but their views counted for little in 18th century politicking. The Scottish Parliament had voted itself out of existence, and was formally dissolved on 28 April. The new Parliament of Great Britain came into being on 1 May 1707.

The nature of the debate

The simple question set down in a written agreement in Edinburgh between Scotland’s First Minister , Alex Salmond and the UK Prime Minister , David Cameron made the nature of the ensuing debate somewhat simplified . The controversial Devo Max proposal was excluded in entirety . This  was a   popular  proposition which would have  guaranteed increased  devolved  powers  to the Scottish Parliament – a step back from constitutional separation . What made this decision all the  more incredible  was that in the dying  days of the pre  Referendum debate , the three UK Party leaders – Cameron , Milliband and Clegg united to suggest this  very proposition to the awaiting electorate ! At that date postal votes had  already been lodged . The importance of this is put into perspective  when one is made  aware that the number of voters  involved  was not unsubstantial totalling  some 789 000 persons !  Moving  the goal posts after the game has  started !!

The two opposing  factions became simply the YES campaign and the NO campaign , the latter using the “ Better Together “ title to woo the voters .

The two year period of  debate was in reflection  somewhat lengthy  but in view of the importance of the outcome that  was perhaps acceptable .

How did the factions divide politically ? The Yes side was an amalgam of SNP , Green , Scottish Socialists and  disaffected members of the Scottish Labour Party .The NO campaign was a triumvirate of the  three main Westminster parties , the Conservatives , Liberal Democrats and Labour .

What  proved a relevant factor in the debate  was the attitude  adopted  by press and television . Only one newspaper ( The Sunday Herald ) came out openly  in favour of YES whilst the all others adopted a generally pro Unionist attitude . Some  papers  such as the Daily Mail , Mail on Sunday and the Daily and Sunday Express were vehement in condemnation of the naughty Nats and  on any one  who chose to oppose the status quo .

The BBC was oft  criticised  for its general imbalance in reporting Referendum news and the following was reported in The Herald on the 17th September 2014 regarding the BBCs Chief Political Reporter :

The controversy erupted after Mr Robinson reported from a briefing held for foreign press corps by Alex Salmond at which the senior BBC reporter asked a question. Although Mr Salmond appeared to answer the question at length, but only partially, in a later bulletin Mr Robinson included his question and added simply "he didn't answer".

In the email, which was sent to senior editors and then distributed to all news staff at Pacific Quay by BBC Scotland political editor Brian Taylor on Sunday, Mr Robinson does not admit culpability.However he says he understands colleagues may have been annoyed.”

To get the correct perspective to this assertion by me  please look at the video of  what actually was said – quite revealing ! Check out :

Reasons for Scotland’s Scepticism For Westminster Based United Kingdom Government

Let us be historical as opposed to hysterical !  Why is there an in built scepticism towards  the Westminster UK parliamentary set up and why was Devolution hatched as  the  ultimate answer ? The answer lies  in what our land owning Scottish forbearers considered to be perfect  solution . Their lands south of the Border would  be intact and it  would  quieten the vociferous populous .

At the time of the Act of Union in 1707 Scotland had a population of some 1 million  people and England and Wales  some 5 million . The representation in the new Parliament , per se , would have been logically  , in the ratio of 1: 5 in favour of England . Incredibly that was not  what was agreed . Our representation  was agreed as being  based on tax revenues , which , surprise  , surprise was 40 : 1 in favour of England . Not really a very  clever piece of negotiation by our “ parcel of rogues in a nation “ ! At any rate, Scotland sent only 45 “commoners” to join the 513 from England & Wales. 

In England it was what is termed bicameral government with legislation   being passed  by two Houses of Parliament . The House of Lords , stacked out with Bishops of the Church of England , accepted the incredible  number of 16 Scottish Peers to join their 190 English equivalents !.

 This suggests that tax revenues per capita in Scotland were only about one-eighth of those in England, which may be an indication of how much poorer a country Scotland was relative to England in the years before Union. Taxation, however, did not need to be as high in Scotland as in England, for the simple reason that Scotland consistently avoided getting into military conflict with other nations. 

War Casualties

A total of 147,609 Scots lost their lives in the four-year-long conflict between 1914 and 1918. While Scotland had just a tenth of the UK's population, its soldiers accounted for a fifth of Britain's war dead. Or, to put it another way, twice as many Scots died per head of population than was the case south of the border. As an observation , it would appear that in the Referendum debate , those individuals who had  a military background tended  to think of themselves in a British rather than  having a Scottish mind set . 

The Politics of Unionism in Scotlan

There have been 27 UK general elections since 1900 . It is interesting to note the voting pattern and support for the Union over that period .

In 1900 in the aftermath of the Victorian 19th Century an election was  held . In Scotland , it was a straight battle between Conservative ( known then as Unionists and  guardians of the status quo ) and the Liberals . It was a close run thing but the Tories  triumphed with just over 50 % of the vote .

By 1923 Unionist support had  dropped  to 30 % in the aftermath of WW1 but thereafter  gradually climbed  by the use of coalitions and a depressed populous suffering from the effects of the “ slump “ . In the period after WW2 , the Unionist or Conservative  vote in Scotland revived and climbed up and up peaking  in the 1955 election with 50.1 % of the vote  The SNP out on the fringes  hit   0.5% half  their  total  in the election of 1950 . The advent of Thatcher and a series of draconian measures  decimating Scottish industry proved  a turning point .A disillusioned Scottish electorate awoke  to what was  happening . Tory support evaporated . MPs  lost their seats and it was a new  ball game . The Tory vote in Scotland  is  around 15% . Their Liberal coalition partners  look as if they are heading to oblivion . The Scottish electorate is now strongly social democrat in attitude  and the fascinating factor is that both Labour  and SNP share a similar platform . This may well explain the fact that so many Labour  supporters defied the party whip and the pleas  of the somewhat hapless Mrs Lamont to vote YES . This is really the critical point as  now  some 80 %  of the Scottish electorate are  singing out of the same hymn sheet ! 

The Demographic of the Referendum


A poll orchestrated by Lord Ashcroft a Tory Peer produced  some interesting results based on those wo had actually voted 

1, A majority of voters  between the ages of 16 and 54 voted  YES Those in the 25  to 34  year catagory were recorded as 59% voting YES and 41% NO . 
2. 47 % men voted Yes and only 44 % women .
3. Those voters over 65 indicated 27% voted YES and 73 % NO 
4. 37% of those who voted Labour in the 2010 General Election voted YES

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Pictish Strathearn and a lost or misplaced Kingdom !

In March and April 2012 , some two and a half years ago, I blogged in some  detail about the Pictish heritage  of Strathearn and its ancient capital  located at Forteviot . The Kingdom of the Picts occupying the lands of Menteith and Strathearn has been generally known as Fortren or Fortriu .

Historians perhaps  have the fault  of attempting  to compartmentalise great  wads of  history under convenient labels . We  have , it seems , made  some errors  or  basic assumptions  that stand  to be corrected . These refer specifically to Fortren or Fortriu and in the interests of exactitude let us start at the beginning !

A handful of Irish annals refer to a Pictish Kingdom or region called  Fortriu . Historians  for many years  have equated this with Strathearn and its  neighbour  to the west , the district of Menteith .We can trace  this back to the 19th century and the writings of  a respected scholar William Forbes Skene . Skene wrote  a scholarly tome in three volumes entitled Celtic Scotland . In this  he placed the Kingdom of Fortriu in the lands between the Rivers Forth and Tay which were  to become in later years the Earldoms of Strathearn and Menteith .

There were according  to legend in Scottish and Irish texts , seven Pictish provinces or Kingdoms based  on the tale of Cruithne , legendary ancestor of the Picts . Amongst these  were Fib – modern Fife, Fotla or Atholl and Cat which corresponds  with modern Caithness in the  far north east of Scotland . It was however Fortriu or Fortren which seems  to have  caused the problems ! Let  me quote from the erudite  writings  of  modern historian Tim Clarkson :

The name Fortiu derives  from , or is closely related to , the latin name Verturiones which the Roman writer Ammianus  Marcellinus  applied to one of two divisions of the Picts in the late Fourth Century . The other division , the Dicalydones , was plainly a manifestation of the Caledones or Caledonians who had  resisted Rome’s first invasion of Scotland three hundred  years earlier The place names Dunkeld, Rohallion and Schiehallion all contain a Gaelic form of the root term “ Caledon “ and show that the heart land of the Caledonian Picts lay in Perthshire along the Tay valley. A perception that the Verturiones , the Picts of Fortriu , dwelt south of this area in a region between the Forth and the Tay became part of the bedrock of Scottish medieval studies throughout the 20th century . Few people paused to wonder if Skene and his contemporaries were wrong in placing Fortriu south of the Caledonian heartlands . Few questioned the wisdom or necessity of trying to match the seven provinces in the Cruithne legend to the seven territories described  in 12th century writings ( De Situ Albanie ) . Guesses and unsupported assertions  went unchallenged   for more than a century .

In 2006 , a book  written by historian Alex Woolf and entitled “ Dun Nechtain , Fortriu  and the geography of the Picts ” became , to  certain extent , the revised gospel ! What it  stated and backed up with factual information which stated :
1.     The Battle of Dun Nechtain in AD 685 was not fought at Dunnichen in  Perthshire but at Dunachton in Badenoch , much further north .
2.    Fortriu and the Verturiones were  not based in Perthshire  but indeed in Moray to the east of Inverness .
Woolf makes  references  to the Venerable Bede whose learned  prognostications are still regarded as authoritative in most circles. Bede belief  was that the Picts were divided into two parts , a northern  and a southern , separated  by the Grampian Mountains .   This  ties  in with the Roman  writings some 300 years earlier . The people  dwelling  south of the Grampians were the Dicalydones  or the Caledonian Picts of Perthshire . Those  living north of the Grampians were  the Verturiones , the ancestors of the Picts of Fortriu .

This  perhaps  clarifies a  wrong assumption as to where  the Kingdom of Fortriu lay . It does  not in any way remove the strong Pictish heritage  that is found here in Strathearn . We have  at St Fillans ,the ancient Pictish fort of Dundurn which is described in the Canmore – the site of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland :

 Dundurn fort occupies an isolated rocky knoll and consists of a series of ruined walls which form defended compounds and courtyards all over the flanks of the knoll, the uppermost measuring about 70ft in diameter, while the total area covered is 325 yards by 180 yards. This fort is presumed to be the place mentioned in the Annals of Ulster as being under siege in 683, and to have been a principal Pictish stronghold; it may have originated in the Iron Age.

Limited excavations were undertaken in 1976 by the Dept of Archaeology, Glasgow University to establish the date and origin of Dundurn. At least two periods were recognised in the fortifications of the citadel and the uppermost terraces. The defences, revealed by the tumbled stone of their walls, are in the form of a citadel-like boss of rock surrounded by enclosures on two levels. No wall faces could be detected in the tumble. Excavation was carried out in two areas:
1.     (NN 7081 2324) on the S slope of the summit and on part of the summit area. The latter had been levelled in two phases but no structures were detected in the excavated area. On the slope there was evidence for an approximately 4.0 m wide rubble and timber-laced rampart. This rampart overlay a layer of burnt stone and charcoal which probably represented an earlier timber-laced rampart. From the evidence gained, an oval citadel may be inferred, measuring 20.0m by 15.0m internally, defended by a rubble wall 4.0m thick laced with nailed timbers.

2.    (NN 7080 2325) One cut was placed where a supposed hut circle appeared to butt against the western rampart of the upper terrace enclosure but no trace of a house was revealed. A second cut was sited on fairly level ground at the eastern end of the upper terrace (NN 7086 2327) where nettles and black soil suggested human occupation; an extensive pit found here yielded only charcoal and burnt bone. Datable finds, among them a glass ornament and a silver strap fastener, were few, but they point to an Early Historic - probably 7th century - Pictish occupation.

Recent excavations at Forteviot have  confirmed  much about the later Pictish period here in the Strath .The first acknowledged King of Scotland - Kenneth macalpin – constructed a timber palace some 1200 years ago .The structure  was believed  to have been about 100 feet long and  30 feet high . Close by archaeologists have discovered a Pictish “ barrow “ which they believe contains the graves of early Scottish nobility.

Perhaps  the most famous  of our Pictish relics is the Dupplin Cross which  stood on a hillside overlooking Forteviot for many decades It is now  housed in St Serf’s Church  in nearby Dunning and has a fascinating history .

The extraordinarily rare and impressive Dupplin Cross was carved around AD 800. It is now on display in St Serf’s Church, Dunning, but once stood near the palace of the Pictish kings at Forteviot, 3 miles (5km) away.

It was made for King Constantine, son of Fergus, who reigned from c.789 to 820. We know this because a panel on the rear west face of the has been translated from the original Latin. It was during Constantine’s reign that the kingdoms of the Picts and the Scots began to merge, before finally uniting under King Kenneth around 843.

Symbol of power
Free-standing crosses were more commonly erected in Ireland, western Scotland and Northumbria than in eastern Scotland. In fact, the Dupplin Cross is the only complete example to survive in Pictish territory.

Its style and content would have shouted important messages to its Pictish viewers. They would have been left in no doubt that King Constantine wanted his political authority and association with the church to be recognised.

In the carvings, images of contemporary royal authority are skilfully juxtaposed with those of the biblical King David. The Picts clearly saw David – the psalmist and protector of his flock from wild adversaries – as a warrior king and saviour of his people. The proud horseman carrying a sword or sceptre, depicted on the front (east) face, is almost certainly Constantine, surrounded by his warriors.

A rare work of art
The 3m-high cross, carved from local sandstone, is richly decorated on all four faces. Its form and content derive from a combination of the Pictish sculptor’s innovations and external sources of inspiration. The head of the cross, with its prominent central boss and vine-scroll filling the arms, is inspired by Northumbrian art. But the double-curve of the arms was probably influenced by Iona.

The figures, though, are purely Pictish. King Constantine, astride his horse, has a prominent head and moustache to show his authority. The four young warriors below him have plain clothing and no moustaches. The hunting dogs in full chase are common on Pictish sculptures.