The Scots: No Longer British First? Nae!
The Scots lost the Battle of Falkirk (1298) during the First War of Scottish Independence. Some 700 years later, they may prevail for good.
Three hundred years ago this week, the marriage of England and Scotland was sealed by treaty. This union was unpopular in Scotland then and is unpopular now, and many Scots say that it is time for a divorce.
My mongrel pedigree includes large dollops of Scotch and English blood, and I have a deep fondness for both peoples. But in the 10 years since the Scottish parliament that was dissolved by the 1707 treaty reconvened because of the initiative of Prime Minister Tony Blairâ€™s Labor government, I have come around to the view that an independent Scotland would be a good thing for Scots and not a terrible thing for England.
Blair called the recreation of the Scottish parliament â€œdevolution,â€ a fancy term for covering Laborâ€™s political flank. (There also are provincial parliaments in Wales and Northern Ireland.) But things havenâ€™t worked out that way and the Scottish National Party (SNP) could out ballot Labor in an election being held today after spending years in the political wilderness as a fringe group.
Blair, born and educated in Scotland, has called the drive for Scottish independence â€œpure self-indulgenceâ€ and says the impact on business would be disastrous. Gordon Brown, Blairâ€™s successor-in-waiting, also is a Scot and calls independence â€œdangerous and disastrous,â€ and says that as PM he would find it impossible to work with an SNP-led provincial government.
Surprisingly, at least to those who do not follow British politics, two key issues surrounding independence are the Iraq war and oil. The SNP and Scots in general were against the war from the outset, while the province of 6 million is rich in North Sea oil.
At the heart of calls for a referendum on independence â€“ which a vast majority of Scots tell pollsters that they favor and would be a logical result on an SNP victory — is a renewed sense of Scottish nationalism and deep dislike of being taxed and ruled by politicians in London. Independence-minded Scots point to the economic success of Ireland, which won independence from Britain in 1921, and say it could happen there, as well, if it were able to woo foreign investment on its own.
The English are not so sanguine about the potential breakup of Great Britain.
They note that the Edinburgh parliament gets $60 billion a year in the form of a block grant from the central government, as well as other economic arguments, none of them particularly convincing.
Beyond economic considerations is a deep-rooted feeling that the union of England and Scotland is a primary reason for Britainâ€™s greatness. Scots and English alike once considered themselved British first, but that is no longer the case for many if not most Scots.
First the loss of the empire and now this. What’s an Englishman to do?