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Sunday, February 19, 2012

"Free-Doom"?: The Scottish Independence Referendum


     The Scottish Independence Referendum has been granted by the British government, and it has been tentatively set for autumn 2014. There are many unanswered questions, however, as to what the Referendum actually means and who will be allowed to vote in it. One of the effects of the Union has been cross-border migrating. Therefore the question arises whether or not the Scots in England and the English in Scotland will be allowed to take part in the voting process. Also, the very theory that the referendum is an exclusively Scottish matter counteracts the reality of the union and the fact that the devolution of the country will affect all citizens of the UK. It is only fair that they should have the right to weigh in on the debate.

    I've been trying to stay abreast of happenings through my friends and acquaintances from "the Auld Country." I have found that the Independence question is far from a universal, popular movement. One friend from Glasgow said breaking up the UK would be one of the worst mistakes ever. Another friend from Kirkcaldy said that the referendum and its accompanying endless speculations were getting ridiculous. A friend in London whose father was a Scot said he believed the Scottish people were being manipulated by canny politicians. Other Brits that I follow on blogger often express their patriotism towards all four of the nations that comprise the union. They seem to have come to peace with that, while every government is a flawed organization, pulling it apart piece by piece improves nothing.

    Of course, there are quite a few advocates for independence, but many of them seem to rely on aggressive displays and misleading information to make their point. They say that independence will bring economic prosperity to Scotland by giving her further access to oil and natural gases in reserve on the North Sea. However, they rarely highlight the overwhelming amount of expense that becoming independent in and of itself would entail. They emphasize The Wars of Scottish Independence, which gained a wave of international publicity thanks to Mel Gibson’s woefully inaccurate Hollywood epic, Braveheart, but strongly insist that the modern benefits brought about the union lack relevancy. It all could be truly laughable, if it weren’t so lamentable.

    Sadly, a lack of historical education world-wide may well be the historically rich UK's undoing. It is frustrating to realize how many people are taken in by the deceptions, including many Americans who seem to relish in the concept of Scotland breaking away from “England.” We are cultural rebels, and we are keen to connect to our own struggle for independence by championing similar movements, logical or not. We like to believe that the Scots were laid low by colonialism and are now finally asserting their rights of self-determination. It makes us feel fuzzy inside, and many of us can gleefully join the propaganda train and coyly remark, “It seems the Scottish Lion is finally going to roar!”

    Ironically, just one year after the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn in 2014, the Battle of Waterloo will be remembered on its 200th anniversary in 2015. Waterloo was one of the most important battles in world history, where English, Scottish, Irish, and Welsh troops fighting under the Union Jack succeeded in defeating Napoleon, a tyrant far worse than Kind Edward II of Bannockburn infamy ever was. Logically, Waterloo should gain far more publicity than the medieval Battle of Bannockburn and serve as a source of historical pride and unity for all Britons. However, the Nationalists would rather discount the Scottish soldiers who participated in the Napoleonic Wars as being used as cannon fodder, even though the distinguished careers and high ranks many of them reached proves that this revision is a complete fallacy.

    I can’t help but grow more and more worried with each passing day when it comes to potential outcome of The Scottish Independence Referendum. I feel strongly that Britain’s history and heritage is too precious to surrender to the mercy of those blinded by their own prejudices, and that is why I take an active interest in the ongoing debate. The best bet is to beat the Nationalists at their own game, show them up in front of their potential supporters, and send them off with their tale between their legs two years hence. Of course, this will take a lot of work. And prayer. Lots and lots of that.


The Scottish Thistle on British Military Regalia

32 comments:

  1. Nationalist politicians in Scotland are successfully appealing to the Scottish people's emotions: they are drawing fallacious distinctions between "Scottish politicians" and "Westminster politicians"; pedalling the idea that, because North Sea energy reserves arguably might be Scotland's de jure, they will be under Scotland's control post-independence; and generally applying any cynical, rhetorical trick they can.

    Cleverly, they are also organising a cover-up of their own policies that might prove divisive in Scotland in the lead-up to any referendum... what would most Scots say, for example, if they knew of the SNP's commitment to a further "post-referendum referendum" on the future of the monarch as Scottish head-of-state?

    It's a sad state of affairs that history education in our state schools doesn't impart basic facts about our country's past. Scotland's current generation might be more well-disposed to the Union if they saw how the original unification of Britain, though unpopular, became popular over time because of the mutually-beneficial nature of the arrangement. The Union forestalled Scottish bankruptcy after the Darien Scheme's failure. It brought a greater measure of peace to the Isles by excluding continental interference in Scottish affairs. The Union allowed Scottish access to English (then British) markets.

    In short, the Union allowed Scotland to punch well above its weight on a world stage. Not only that, but Scots have always been more than capable of holding the highest offices of state in a British Union; Scots are not the oppressed minority that Scottish Nationalists would like to portray themselves as, but rather are and always have been active participants in the Union at all levels.

    As for denying independence despite a pro-independence result in the referendum... constitutionally, this shouldn't present too much of a problem. Parliament is Sovereign and Supreme in this country. Politically-speaking, however, I doubt it would be a viable option. I couldn't speak to the likelihood of re-assembling the Union once it had been broken.

    I think that the only way of retaining Scottish support for the Union would be to make sure that Scotland kept seeing the benefits of it, both in real terms and in terms of perception. Real political effort on the part of all three main political parties in the UK should be expended in hammering home the point that people's jobs are more secure with the Union; that their freedom of movement is guaranteed with it; that Scottish businesses have greater access with it; and that our shared heritage has real, tangible, distinct characteristics that define us as different from, say, a more European tradition.

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  2. "...what would most Scots say, for example, if they knew of the SNP's commitment to a further "post-referendum referendum" on the future of the monarch as Scottish head-of-state?"

    They'd mostly welcome the kind of democratic choice the British state has always denied them.

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  3. "I've been trying to stay abreast of happenings through my friends and aquaintances from "the Auld Country."

    They've been letting you down badly. The "liberals", by which we must assume you to mean the Liberal Democrats (LibDem), are part of the British nationalist Tory/Labour/LibDem coalition and so are as fanatically anti-independence as any of the rest.

    Whatever poison your "friends" have been trickling in your ear, Scotland's civic nationalist movement is about no more than restoring, by peaceful political means, our country's rightful status as a sovereign nation. What you are seeing in Scotland is democracy in action. You may want to reflect upon what it says about you that you find the sight so distressing.

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  4. Hello, Alex Wyndham.

    Thanks again for stopping by. I appreciate your comments.

    Indeed, the Scots have not been a persecuted minority within the UK, and many of them have risen to high places in the realms of politics, religion, military, arts, etc. throughout the centuries.

    To Quote King George III: "I glory in the name of Briton". Note that he said "Briton" and not "Englishman", probably because his tutor, Lord Bute, was a Scot and he wanted to bring together all the people of Britain as one, distinct entity.

    As it is, I am both a Marylander and an American, and therefore I also have a dual identity. My own country was divided over the issue of breaking up the union back in the 1860's when the southern states demanded their right to succeed. Sadly, that wound up triggering the Civil War.

    The end result, however, was quite beneficial for the USA, since the preservation of the union made us strong enough to play a part in global affairs in later years. Plus, we were able to defend ourselves much better than if we had been reduced a squabbling mess of broken republics.

    I fear for what might befall a weakened and broken UK. There's too much Scotland and England shares to make a break anything but intensely painful. It would clearly be a sad state of affairs, and brought about for very little legitimate reason at all.

    Dealing with the UK being re-unified after a possible "Great Divorce", I would think that if the Scottish people became disenchanted with the Scottish Parliament within a few years, another vote might be held determining whether or not there should be a "Great Reunion".

    I'm no expert on British political theory, but since votes seem to have the power to bind and loose in this arena, I wouldn't think a revival of the UK would be utterly impossible. What do you think?

    I agree, educating the British people about their true history and heritage is one of the best possible courses of action there is. I hope to God this generation will come around before it's too late.

    God Bless,
    Pearl of Tyburn

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  5. Hello, Peter A Bell.

    Thank you for reading over the post and taking the time to comment. Just out of curiosity, how did you come to find "Longbows and Rosary Beads?"

    First of all, I want to clarify that when I said "liberals" I meant it in a generic sense of word, not associating it with any particular party. Indeed, those who would like to break up the UK are "liberals" since they want to bring about major change (also known as "demolition").

    Second point: My friends in the UK are not the reason for my strident opposition to the Scottish "Independence" movement. I have reasons of my own, many of which I listed in my blog posts, and I hope you will at least give me the benefit of believing that my motives are sincere. I may not be a Brit, but I do have a head on my shoulders that is capable of reasoning and loving.

    In defense of said friends, they were simply telling me their heart-felt views about the proceedings and not trying to convince me of anything. My opinions were already in place, and it was usually I who brought up the subject to begin with. Admittedly, I was pleased that we had like-minds in this area, but who wouldn't be happy when one’s friends happen to agree with you about something so important?

    As far as democracy and what my opposition to this referendum says about me as a person, I believe that democracy, in and of itself, can be an agent for bad just as well as for good. Mind you, I believe democracy is a blessing, but the mere fact that a majority of people support something does not make it right or even intelligent. The flip-side of democracy can be a whip-lash, as I know from some of things that have just taken place in my own country.

    As a final point, you have yet to bring up one valid reason for severing a union of nations that has been working successfully over the past several hundred years! Achieving the mere status of "independent nation" does not, in my opinion, merit throwing away centuries of history, cultural development, etc. Indeed, because of this development, you are a Brit just as much as a Scot.

    Therefore I am compelled to ask you, why have you turned your back on a part of your identity that is more than worthy of being proud of?

    God Bless, Pearl of Tyburn

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    1. Pearl of Tyburn

      I stumbled across your blog through my site at www.scoop.it/t/referendum-2014 which trawls various online sources for material relating to the independence referendum. Evidently uncritically.

      Your explanation of the sense in which you use the word "liberal" does nothing to make your comments any more sensible in terms of Scotland's politics. If, as you suggest, the term equates with a desire for change which, in turn, equates (in your mind, at least) with "demolition", then it would most appropriately be applied to the Conservative British government which is currently embarked on a project to destroy, among other things, the NHS in England. Fortunately, NHS Scotland is a separate entity and not subject to the depredations of these "liberals".

      All the old British parties oppose the restoration of Scotland's rightful constitutional status. You seem to be assuming that they are all as reactionary as yourself. In that, at least, you may be right. The Scottish National Party certainly stands out as the most progressive political force in the UK. Which is one of the reasons for its success.

      to be continued...

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    2. ...continued

      I hardly know where to begin in addressing the rest of your post. The anti-democratic, elitist stuff carries a distinct odour of the kind of far-right politics that is anathema to me and to the generality of people in Scotland. No neo-Fascist organisation has ever gained so much as a foothold here. The sovereignty of the people is a principle which is too deeply and indelibly ingrained in the Scottish psyche.

      Those who obsess about the supposed unity and homogeneity of the British state do so in ignorance or denial of the fundamental conceptual dichotomy which has ever been a wedge between Scotland and the British state. Quite simply, the British concept of the sovereignty of the crown in parliament is totally incompatible with the Scottish concept of the sovereignty of the people. This is the point upon which the union was always destined to founder. The wonder is, not that it is happening now or at all, but that it did not happen long ago. The reasons for that are a subject for a separate discussion.

      Then you descend into jingoistic romanticism and the silliness that inevitably accompanies such woolly-minded nonsense. How might it be possible to throw away history? History is established. It has already happened. Scotland's civic nationalism is not about clinging to the past. Far less the plainly idiotic notion of "throwing it away". It is about aspirations for the future.

      Were you to use some of the capacity for reasoning that you claim for yourself you might see that it is self-evidently true that a significant part of the people of Scotland do not share your romantic, rose-tinted view of the history of the union. And even of those who do, to whatever extent, many are more concerned with that future of which I spoke - and you notably didn't. Had the union been the wondrous and beneficent thing of your imagining then the independence movement would have evaporated long ago. Instead, it has always been an important element of Scotland's political make-up. An element that has increasingly come to the fore as discontent with the current constitutional, political and administrative arrangements has grown. And, perhaps more importantly, as that discontent has found its means of expression in the social democratic civic nationalism of the modern SNP.

      Learn this! The demand for independence is not some novel political movement. It has always been there. Its history is just as long as the history of the union. And at least as valid. To have regard for the latter while totally discounting the former is to espouse the distorted perspective of personal prejudice.

      Your comments about personal identity echo the highly suspect and strikingly arrogant notions of superiority evident in your earlier remarks disparaging popular democracy. I am not a "Brit". It is no part of my identity. It never has been. And, much as you might deceive yourself to the contrary, you have no power to force it on me. Get over yourself!

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    3. far-right politics that is anathema to me and to the generality of people in Scotland. No neo-Fascist organisation has ever gained so much as a foothold here
      --

      Hi Peter,
      You cant extrapolate neo-fascism from a simple pride in, or admiration of, British identity and the United Kingdom! Thats crazy!

      Pearl is a keen fan of British history; one cannot blame her for admiring the more romantic aspects of an exceptionally rich tapestry of history, as others do with the Romans for example. As a Scottish Briton myself, I cannot help but share her sympathies! Also, its not correct to say fascist or other unpleasant ideologies do not surface in Scotland from time to time.

      In the early 1900s, a Glasgow gang, (this was when gang memberships counted in the 100s or 1000s), had prominent links with both fascist (BUF, Oswald Moseley etc) and racist organisations (KKK). These "Bridgeton Billy Boys" are still sung about proudly at Ibrox stadium today. The gang itself was originally based on anti-Catholicism, which also remains at Ibrox.

      That organisation was limited in its numbers, but Scottish society at large also has its dirty secrets. Until just 10 years ago, the official papers of the Church of Scotland - a very influential organisation in society, until recently - still claimed that Catholics were "immoral drunks", responsible for most crime and "racially inferior" to non-Catholic Scots. And people say Catholic schools cause divisions! Laughable.

      Anti-Irish racism still remains in sections of Scottish society today, again notably at Ibrox with their "famine song"

      Speaking as a Scot, the Scots can be as racist and fascist as any, but they are good at thinking otherwise!

      --
      The demand for independence is not some novel political movement.
      --

      I agree regarding there having always some form of independence movement, but largely on the fringes until now. I do not detect any great appetite for it among people. I think the public like some SNP policies, but not UK dissolution.

      If people think seriously, they can only credibly say "no", but I wouldnt be surprised if it happens almost "by accident"!

      We would be giving up being part of a nation which helps to shape the world, to become one fully shaped by the world.

      We would have no G8 seat, no permanent UN security council seat, no permanent UN veto, no major EU influence, no major global influence, no nuclear deterrent, no conventional military power, no fiscal control over our own currency etc

      As part of the UK, we currently have all of that.

      I think people would get a shock in an independent Scotland. I don't think our coffers would be able to support the large number of public sector jobs the country depends on*. And this is before all the extra ones needed if independent.

      (*Before recent cuts started 1 in 4 employed by the State in Scotland, compared to 1 in 5 UK wide)

      Lets not forget the many Scots communities, often isolated, who depend heavily on local British bases and military installations to drive their economies. All that would be gone if we split from the UK. Recall the utter panic recently when the Government was closing RAF Tornado bases in Scotland to save money.

      That independence is still on the agenda at all, following the financial crash, is just amazing (horrifying) to me. How would you like to live in Ireland / Iceland right now?

      --
      I am not a "Brit". It is no part of my identity. It never has been...you have no power to force it on me
      --

      Well, I hope you have never traveled on a British passport, or you are a hypocrite! haha!

      Many people are proud of their British identities. We are not especially vocal about it - that would be quite un-British indeed - but that doesn't mean its not there

      We have just as much to be proud of as Britons, as we do as Scots. The identities arent mutually exclusive and I am proudly both. Here's to a prosperous + proud Scotland within a happy + strong UK!

      Cheers!

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  6. "They'd mostly welcome the kind of democratic choice the British State has always denied them."

    So I suppose you believe every country has the right to self-destruct, politically and socially, through a mere vote? History, heritage, loyalty, patriotism....all that stuff is mere sentimentality, right? Mo chreach!

    Besides all that, there are enough "concrete" reasons for staying in the Union dealing with finances and structure (mentioned elsewhere above).

    Frankly, I don't believe the British people as a whole (both sides the Tweed) are going to buy this long term. "You can fool some of the people all the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can't fool all the people all the time."

    God Save the Queen and the United Kingdom!

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    1. I note your not unexpected descent into jingoistic British nationalist ranting with undertones of religious dementia. Like any fanatic, you are doubtless content to be your own audience.

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  7. "The Scottish Independence Referendum......
    has been granted by the British government..."

    What a remarkably silly lie this is! The referendum is not in the gift of the British government. And in any case, those who have even a passing familiarity with Scotland's politics know that successive British administrations of all hues have put a huge effort into trying to prevent such a referendum. And even since the were forced by the Scottish electorate to accept that the Scottish government was mandated to hold a referendum they have continued to try and sabotage it.

    To now pretend that the British state is actually facilitating a referendum on Scotland's constitutional future smacks more of fantasy than mere ignorance. To further pretend that the British state is doing this out of altruism or respect for the democratic rights of the people of Scotland takes that fantasy into the realms of pathological delusion.

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  8. "Sovereignty of the people" is a nifty phrase. However, it can only act as a general statement of political principle, suggesting where legitimacy resides. It is not, nor ever has been successfully, something that can form an absolute guide for the conduct or structure of a state. The Declaration of Arbroath, for example, refers most notably to a Scottish nation and the right to alter one's ruler to protect one's liberties. But the Declaration was not a democratic document. It was produced by Scotland's own political and religious elite to provide a rhetorical justification to other monarchs for their own choice of King. Sovereignty can reside in the nation; the state can be organised, ideally, in whichever way gives form to the nation's values and interests. Scotland's apparent long tradition of popular sovereignty did not lead to democracy before the Union - Scotland accepted the realities of monarchy along with most other states of the era. Portraying the sovereignty of Parliament as some sort of statist arrangement utterly incompatible with natural rights, natural law, and individual liberty is to ignore the near-overwhelming complexity of the British Constitution's nuances and subtleties, within which Scottish aspirations can comfortably reside with room to spare. Equally, portraying the British state as an anachronism antithetical to modern democratic values belies the fact that far more "democratic" states have been far less successful at surviving and prospering in the modern era than the United Kingdom has been.

    It doesn't follow, then, that the British state naturally, inexorably frustrates a Scottish citizen's God-given right to live within a state of their own choosing. That position assumes that national statehood is the inevitable conclusion to the realisation of one's natural rights. That the Union has existed largely without Scottish rebellion against it is testament to the fact that the Scottish nation was reconciled to the Union a long time ago. This acceptance of Great Britain is because of Great Britain's appreciation of the Scottish nation's continued existence and rights. The Union has never subsumed "Scottish" institutions beneath "British" ones. This flexibility is part of what makes the Union work. Constitutional protection has always been afforded to a separate Kirk, education system, &c. Legislation, boards of control and state departments have been established in response to Scottish concerns over Scotland's needs. Development of devolved institutions continues today. If one believes that Scotland should become an independent, sovereign nation again then of course it is laudable that the process is peaceful, and through the political process. But that the process exists, has an historical presence, and is a viable route for future change - even if that change is independence itself - is a factual rejection of the idea that "Britain" somehow tyrannises the Scot.

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    1. "The Declaration of Arbroath, for example, refers most notably to a Scottish nation and the right to alter one's ruler to protect one's liberties. But the Declaration was not a democratic document."

      We are not living in 1320. The Declaration of Arbroath was signed by the politically enfranchised of its time. The parallel is with the politically enfranchised of our time. Then, it was the land-owning aristocracy. Now it is the people.

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    2. "It doesn't follow, then, that the British state naturally, inexorably frustrates a Scottish citizen's God-given right to live within a state of their own choosing."

      Merely to deny is not to disprove. The fundamental fact for which you show such scant regard is that the sovereignty of parliament asserted by the British state is incompatible with the Scottish principle of the sovereignty of the people. Your effort to resolve this by dismissing the latter as a "nifty phrase" is unworthy.

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    3. "That the Union has existed largely without Scottish rebellion against it is testament to the fact that the Scottish nation was reconciled to the Union a long time ago."

      This is no more than ignorance of Scotland's history. There has never been a time since the union was formed that there has not been a movement to regain Scotland's rightful status as a sovereign nation. That this movement has not been violent enough to satisfy such as yourself is a matter of some pride to those of us who have been active in the political campaign all our lives.

      That campaign has waxed and waned over the decades and centuries. Its form and its means of expression have changed. But it has always been there. And to suggest that your ignorance of the existence of the movement equates to resigned acceptance of the union on the part of the people of Scotland is as arrogant as it is just plain silly.

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    4. "We are not living in 1320. The Declaration of Arbroath was signed by the politically enfranchised of its time. The parallel is with the politically enfranchised of our time. Then, it was the land-owning aristocracy. Now it is the people."

      "Democracy" is a form of government. Mention of the Declaration, above, was to underscore that ideas of national sovereignty and the social contract exist independently from choices on form of government. The 1988 Claim of Right could have been used to identical effect - its first paragraph claims a sovereign right to determine a form of government. This is a Scottish distinction between two separate issues.

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    5. The assertion that British parliamentary sovereignty "is incompatible with the Scottish principle of the sovereignty of the people" is asserted again. On the contrary: it is a direct historical consequence of it. Sovereignty can be transferred, if the possessor freely chooses to do so. This is what happened in 1707. Scottish sovereignty, through free and independent Scottish institutions, was transferred to the British parliament. There is no incompatibility here. There was a right to choose, and a choice was made.

      The Claim of Right differs from the Declaration of Arbroath in that the latter was a declaration against encroachment on Scottish sovereignty by foreign military aggression, and so was legitimate; the former made claims to Scottish sovereignty that simply did not exist in 1988, any more than they do now. Sovereignty can be transferred back to the Scottish nation in a way that Scots are an integral part of. "Sovereignty of the people" is a slogan, a rallying cry, an assertion of a desired arrangement of things at this point and nothing more.

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    6. Movements to break Scotland away from the United Kingdom have indeed been present since the Union itself. That is not in question. What is in question is the claims of right made by these movements, and their resonance with the Scottish people themselves. The laudable nature of peaceful, political action to achieve an end is clearly stated above, which is enough to allay any suspicion of bloodthirstiness.

      The claims of right are addressed above. As for the resonance of Independence with the Scottish people: nothing prevents every single Scot in Scotland from voting for the SNP in any upcoming election. They have not in the past. They will not in the future. The Scottish nation was resigned to the Union because the Union has served the Scottish nation well. It has delivered real, tangible benefits.

      Any group advocating Independence has been unsuccessful because their opinions have been in the minority. That is the political reality. There is no absolute right to independence because sovereignty was voluntarily transferred. Sovereignty can be transferred back as a result of a British political process, but that is all - however, it is enough because Scots have historically found the Union sympathetic to Scottish concerns.

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    7. "Sovereignty can be transferred, if the possessor freely chooses to do so. This is what happened in 1707."

      The Acts of Union were not supposed to transfer sovereignty but to pool it in an equal partnership of two nations. That England/Britain has never respected the basis of this supposedly equal union is just one of the chickens that is now coming home to roost.

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    8. "There was a right to choose, and a choice was made."

      There still is a right to choose. And that right belongs entirely to the people of Scotland.

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    9. "The assertion that British parliamentary sovereignty "is incompatible with the Scottish principle of the sovereignty of the people" is asserted again. On the contrary: it is a direct historical consequence of it."

      This is just nonsense. The concept of the sovereignty of the people pre-dates the union by many centuries. It's historical spoor is to be found in the traditional title of monarchs - Kings and Queens of Scots (not Scotland) - going right back to the very first monarch, Kenneth MacAlpin, nearly 1200 years ago.

      But I really don't see the point of all this harking back to ancient history. There are only a handful of people on the entire planet who question the validity of Scotland's claim to nationhood. And they're all dismissed as cranks.

      As a nation, the people of Scotland have a right to self-determination. A right that is enshrined in international law. We have no need to prove any sort of pedigree by reference to the distant past.

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    10. "Any group advocating Independence has been unsuccessful because their opinions have been in the minority. That is the political reality. There is no absolute right to independence because sovereignty was voluntarily transferred. Sovereignty can be transferred back as a result of a British political process, but that is all - however, it is enough because Scots have historically found the Union sympathetic to Scottish concerns."

      You're not short on arrogance, that's for sure. With what might with great generosity be characterised as a tenuous grasp of contemporary Scottish politics you presume to lecture somebody who actually lives in Scotland and has been involved in the independence movement for more than half a century.

      You are wrong in just about every respect. It cannot even be stated with certainty that those supporting independence are in the minority. The proposition has never been formally tested. The British establishment has steadfastly refused to allow the people a say in the matter. It is only lately that they have been forced to do so by a massive electoral mandate having been won by one of those "groups" you dismiss with such ill-informed frivolity.

      You are wrong about the process by which Scotland's constitutional status will be normalised. It will be - indeed, it already is - A distinctly Scottish political process, driven by the people of Scotland through the agency of their elected representatives, and with the British state increasingly reduced to reacting to events that are beyond its control.

      Independence is not given. It is taken.

      I don't know by what authority you claim to speak for the people of Scotland with knowledge of their "concerns" - both historical and current. But this is where you are probably most wrong. The union is not now nor was it ever generally regarded as "sympathetic" to those concerns. Not even the majority of those who favour retaining the union in some form would portray it in such terms. The evidence is staring you in the face if you but care to look.

      The last century and more has been a story of gradual, piecemeal reform of Scotland's governance in an effort to assuage the discontent and hold back the tide of nationalism. From the establishment of the Scottish Office (subsequently the Scotland Office) through devolution to where we are now, the historical trend is there for those prepared to take off their blinkers and look.

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    11. "The Acts of Union were not supposed to transfer sovereignty but to pool it in an equal partnership of two nations[...] There still is a right to choose. And that right belongs entirely to the people of Scotland."

      The Acts of Union could not help but transfer sovereignty. Parliament is sovereign in an absolute sense within the Kingdom, and does not yield to any competing claim. Any notional, nebulous "right to choose" that might exist must be expressed through Parliament's own processes; this was the arrangement agreed-to and created in 1706/7. The concept of popular sovereignty is indeed a venerable one. However, the practical realities of where sovereignty lays in the UK are indisputable and a matter of historical record. Referring to established history in this way sets-up the legal and constitutional situation in a way consistant with the rule of law - to ignore the decisions freely made in the past by the Scottish people and their accepted consequences is to risk overturning them on a whim, eschewing the foundation of law, and all to achieve transitory political ends. It is not crankiness (or even difficult) to see the dangers here.

      There is a disturbing idea present that Independence is taken, not given, and that processes of devolving power are a result of power being seized as a result of irresistable public pressure. What is disturbing about it is that it encourages an ahistorical and dangerous view that sensible compromise within a legal context can be legitimately trumped by claims to "speak for the people". The devolving of power to Scotland has always happened by process of law (and not, to use an historical example, through the setting-up of genuinely popular "shadow institutions" legitimised by public support). That law is made by a sovereign Parliament. That that law is created is proof in and of itself that the Union as an institution can adapt to circumstance, and that choices were made to accommodate Scottish desires and address Scottish concerns. That adaptiveness is an inherent strength in the system that doesn't require power to be brutally applied, at the ballot box or elsewhere. The situation is far more delicate and nuanced, and is underscored by common acceptance in British political culture that flexibility and give-and-take is healthy for the Union.

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  9. The point is raised that the unity of the United States brings benefits that wouldn't be available to several independent states. The point is valid, although the UK's constitutional arrangements are very different. Historically, the British Union has been such a success because of the benefits that arise from one contiguous state occupying the British Isles. It allowed each nation to focus on peaceful commerce with each other and to focus their pooled military and diplomatic potential outward. Access to the markets this created and maintained could be shared as opposed to being competed for. In modern times, a great deal of this can be achieved through institutions such as the WTO and EU, but how would the necessary self-limitations in policy and sovereignty of an independent Scotland differ from those necessary for the UK? The nations of the UK share a common language and infrastructure and an integrated economy, as well as an emotional bond coming from a shared heritage - all this allows the UK to pull-together as a heavier hitter than several independent states would be able to separately (again, much as the United States can). This is the Union's continued relevance in today's world; Scotland's interests are protected by the Union to a greater degree than independent Scotland's would be, and the sacrifices necessary for political and economic gains are reduced.

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  10. The role and continuance of the monarch as Scotland's head of state is one that commands a range of opinions within Scotland, just as the monarchy as an issue provokes debate in every nation of the UK. The SNP as a party has been committed since 1997 to holding a referendum on the monarchy when independent. However, Alex Salmond has quietly shelved this policy so as not to complicate the independence referendum; prominent SNP politicians have held their peace "for the greater good". This has everything to do with practical politics; it has nothing to do with a democratic respect for the opinion of the Scottish people, or of the SNP rank-and-file, or of the Scottish people's ability to understand an argument. The practical political matter at hand is that referenda tend to become reflections on the general state of affairs and not simply their strict subject. By striving to divorce "Independence" from other policy implications the First Minister has shown himself to be an able politician, pursuing his larger political aim as efficiently has possible. But it is hardly a testament to any larger faith in the Scottish people's ability to spontaneously act in a rational manner. It is more the hard-headed cynicism of a realistic, driven, modern politician.

    More-so, it betrays Mr Salmond's ability to square circles by being economical with his public strategy. He has led a democratically-elected party within a democratic institution of the Union while simultaneously decrying the un-democratic British political system, for example. A referendum on independence may not be within the gift of the UK government but nor is there an absolute constitutional obligation on the state to either provide one or to abide by its results; modern convention, of course, demands both to be in fact the case if sanctioned by significant popular demand. Mr Salmond has adroitly ushered-in this demand by tapping the natural antipathy felt towards any government and established political groups in difficult times, within a Scottish context, and concerning issues besides that of independence. Even so, active political support for the SNP across Scotland (though considerable) is hardly overwhelming; it has translated into a small Scottish Parliament majority but local councils, Scottish House of Commons seats and Scottish European Parliament seats are still in the main occupied by parties committed to Union. Led by one of the most able, pro-independence Scottish politicians in memory, this is the current political landscape - it is hardly a picture of overwhelming rejection of Scotland-within-Britain.

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    1. "...it is hardly a picture of overwhelming rejection of Scotland-within-Britain."

      It might be wise to wait until the votes are counted. And it might also be smart to have some cognisance of the fact that every stage in the process leading to where we are now has been held to be an impossibility right up until it happened.

      Devolution was never going to happen. And if it did, it was going to "destroy" the country.

      Devolution happened and we are still here and doing rather well under difficult circumstances.

      Devolution was going to "kill nationalism stone dead". Rather obviously, it didn't.

      Scotland's entire devolved political system was contrived to prevent the SNP taking power. That was a quite spectacular failure.

      There was never to be a referendum on independence. Right up to 6 May last year the British state was determined to prevent such a plebiscite and utterly assured that it could do so. They were wrong again.

      Now we have self-appointed pundits and overnight "experts" in Scottish political affairs pontificating that there is no possibility of a "YES" vote in the referendum that was never going to happen, brought about by an SNP administration that was not supposed to be possible, in a parliament that was never supposed to exist.

      These "bawbags", as they are not entirely affectionately known in my country, will rattle on about how polls indicate there is only a minority in favour of independence. Their smugness tends to blind them to the fact that this minority has almost doubled in size over the past few years bring the split, according to some polls, close to fifty-fifty and with the trend always upwards for a "YES" vote.

      It certainly looks like the so-called experts are setting themselves up for another embarrassing fall.

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  11. "It cannot even be stated with certainty that those supporting independence are in the minority. The proposition has never been formally tested."

    It can be stated within a reasonable margin of error. To say that the proposition has never been formally tested is simply to say that the question has never been put in a particular form (here, presumably, a referendum which, as stated previously, is hardly an absolutely accurate barometer of popular will on a particular subject). That position denies that other forms, of methods of polling and methods of research - conducted in impartiality and in a suitably academic fashion - cannot provide useful information. They can, and do. Furthermore, independence has not emerged out of a responsive British arrangement of political processes in more than a century of it being feasible for it to do so. It is asserted that the British state does not grant concessions to Scottish positions willingly. On the contrary: willingly-enacted flexibility is at the core of British political arrangements with regards to Scotland.

    The alternative could be, of course, that a widespread popular desire for complete Independence simply isn't there. It follows that any claim that pro-Independence views are natural and overwhelmingly popular could simply be the result of narrow (if vociferous) political focus. A wider view, across the political spectrum and across time, might show that Scottish and British politics are and have always been about more than simple political slogans. They are tied-up with the practical, daily realities of the real lives of real people.

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  12. Hello, Peter A. Bell and Alex Wyndham.

    Thank you both for taking the time to share your opinions on this very important subject. I am honored to have hosted such a lively discussion on my blog!

    Peter A. Bell, I am sorry if some of my comments struck you as being "anti-democratic" and "elitist". This was not my intent whatsoever. I was simply trying to make the point that people can be easily manipulated and democracy itself can be misused by those who have ulterior motives. This does not mean that I have a low regard for democracy, but it does mean that I believe the democratic process should be exercised with caution and sound reasoning. This Referendum, I believe, is teetering on the border of abandoning said reasoning. It was brought about by various forms of manipulation, and it will no doubt be carried out in the same manner.

    You claimed that I descended into "jingoism" and "religious dementia", and that I was content to make myself the audience. In truth, I was using faith and reason to appeal to a very real sentiment of healthy British patriotism and religious fervor that still exists within many people in all four nations in the UK. I respect the fact that you are not one of these persons, but I do not believe you are in the majority. Calling these heart-felt convictions "woolly-minded nonsense" is pathetically short-sighted and narrow-minded. In reality, the British identity is an indelible mark that cannot be so easily snuffed off.

    I would hope that you might at least come to respect our position, even if you don't agree with it. Clearly, history shows that many Scots have benefited and become patriotic citizens of the Union. We don't want to throw away that heritage. We're not senselessly "clinging" to the past, as you implied. We are merely trying to keep faith with history and build on it into the future, working out the kinks and supporting policies that will guarantee the rights of all the British people. I agree that there is much in the UK government (as well as in my own country’s government) in need of serious reform. Personally, I would list pro-abortion and pro-homosexual “marriage” laws at the top of the list. But reform cannot be carried out if the structure itself if torn apart.

    To many people, the identity of being British is something to be quite proud of. I do not know why you have rejected this part of your identity, but I can say for certain that to many people it stands for a love of liberty, the supremacy of law, a refusal to surrender to tyrants, a continuity of history, and a rich cultural legacy. A loss of identity, I believe, rests at the heart of this entire debate. Succeeding in pulling Scotland out of the UK will only turn this condition into a national identity crisis.

    Regarding the outcome of this vote, speculating at this point is rather futile. Two years have yet to elapse and many things have yet to be settled. The Nationalists will try to project their version of events onto the Scottish people, and the Unionists will attempt to bring to light their message. We must agree to disagree and go our separate ways, bearing no malice towards anyone.

    Again, thank you both for taking the time to post your educated commentary. I will keep you both in my prayers.

    Pax Tecum,
    Pearl of Tyburn

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    1. Hello Pearl of Tyburn,

      Thank You for your kind thoughts, and for the opportunity to discuss matters of importance. Thank You also for your prayers; I wish every success for your blog in the future, and will continue to follow with interest.

      Yours, &c,

      Alex Wyndham

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  13. I may be commenting a wee bit late, but allow me join the party. The upcoming referendum, does appear to have a minority of support amongst Scotsmen. While the idea of separation has indeed been on the mind of Scotsmen for hundreds of years now, it is important to look at the great benefits of remaining a part of the United Kingdom, to keep it the United Kingdom. Now it seems the debate has been closed, and hopefully let's keep it that way, but one thing here sticks out to me. There is never ever anything wrong to say God Save the Queen and the United Kingdom, and yes, that is patriotic nationalism, if you will.

    God Bless!

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  14. "You cant extrapolate neo-fascism from a simple pride in, or admiration of, British identity and the United Kingdom!

    I didn't. Read more slowly.

    "Pearl is a keen fan of British histor..."

    But evidently not much of a student.

    "I agree regarding there having always some form of independence movement, but largely on the fringes until now. I do not detect any great appetite for it among people."

    The polls say differently. But they are not encumbered by your prejudice.

    "I hope you have never traveled on a British passport, or you are a hypocrite!"

    You may be shallow enough that your personal identity is defined by a document issued by the state. I'm happy to say I am not.

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    1. I didn't. Read more slowly.
      ---

      Yes you did!

      ---
      The polls say differently.
      ---

      My understand on polls is that currently most Scots reject independence.

      And no wonder - you haven't addressed a single one of the points I made about the various serious issues/challenges which breaking away would throw up.

      If you had a good argument, you might convince me that breaking away was a good idea, or even had some kind of point to it. But the fact you didn't even try just affirms my current stance.

      --
      You may be shallow enough that your personal identity is defined by a document issued by the state. I'm happy to say I am not.
      --

      Aha, so your principles extend only so far as to how convenient they make your travel arrangements!

      The first major issue which cedeing throws up is that we immediately have to give up control of our currency.

      We have to either take the euro (assuming we even got into the EU - not guaranteed) and let the EU control our currency, (that's going really well for Greece right now), or we keep the pound and let the Bank of England control our currency.

      The Bank of England currently controls our currency, but does so while taking us and our economic circumstances into account (along with the rest of the UK). Post independence, they would still be in full control, but the Scottish economy would not feature in their considerations whatsoever, as they no longer have any duty to us.

      This then has grave implications for anything our Government would try to do: fiscal plans, the economy etc.

      Answer me one question - why would sane person, who was not intoxicated or under duress, freely vote to give up fiscal control of their own currency?

      (It's madness!)

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