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 : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M1flBH5kzXA



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


Statistics 


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







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