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Scottish flag and the Union Jack

Scotland: the road to independence

Scottish independence referendum, 2014

In August 2009 the SNP announced a Referendum Bill would be included in its package of bills to be debated before Parliament in 2009–10, with the intention of holding a referendum on the issues of Scottish independence in November 2010.

The bill did not pass due to the SNP’s status as a minority administration, and due to the initial opposition to the Bill from all other major parties in the Scottish Parliament.

Following the Scottish Parliament general election, 2011 the SNP had a majority in parliament and again brought forward an Independence Referendum Bill.

The Scottish Government also suggested that full fiscal autonomy for Scotland (known as “devo-max”) could be an alternative option in the vote.

The negotiation of the Edinburgh Agreement (2012) resulted in the UK government legislating to provide the Scottish Parliament with the powers to hold the referendum.

The “devo-max” option was not included, however, as the Edinburgh Agreement stipulated that the referendum had to be a clear binary choice between independence or the existing devolution arrangements.

The Scottish Independence Referendum (Franchise) Act 2013 was passed by the Scottish Parliament and campaigning commenced. Two days before the referendum was held, with polls very close, the leaders of the three main UK political parties made “The Vow”, a public pledge to devolve “extensive new powers” to the Scottish Parliament if independence was rejected. They also agreed to a devolution timetable proposed by Gordon Brown.

After heavy campaigning by both sides, voting took place on 18 September 2014. Independence was rejected by a margin of 45% in favour to 55% against.

Lire la suite

Definitions : the State, the Nation, Home Rule and Devolution photo

Scotland: the State, the Nation, Home Rule, and Devolution

The State and the Nation

For Benedict Anderson, Nations are “imagined communities”: it means that there is a will of the people to do things together and this group of people is so large that people cannot know every member: hence, they imagine the other members like them, sharing the same value.

The State is an independent polity, a political unit with a fully independent legislature. Scotland is not a State but she is a Nation.

Until 1999, Scotland was described as a “stateless nation”. Now it has a legislature: she is referred to as a “partially-stated nation”.

Home Rule – Devolution

“Home Rule” is a concept developed by the Liberal Party at the end of the 19th century. The whole concept was “Home Rule All Around” (i.e. Home Rule in the UK).

Then, it meant self-government (independence, autonomy), and later: devolution proposals of the Labour Party.

For Scotland, Home Rule means Scotland governed by Scots in Scotland: it underlines Scotland’s sovereignty. On the other hand, devolution underlines the sovereignty of the British State.

Vernon Bogdanor defines devolution as “the transfer of powers from a superior to an inferior political authority. Devolution may be defined as consisting of three elements:

  • the transfer to a subordinate elected body
  • on a geographical basis
  • of functions at present exercised by ministers and Parliament

The Scotland Act of 1998 set up the Scottish Parliament, its rules etc. Section 28: “this section does not affect the power of the British Parliament to make laws for Scotland”.

In theory, the British Parliament can still make laws for Scotland in Education for instance. The Scottish Parliament is subordinated to the British Parliament.

  • Devolved areas: education, health, environment…
  • Reserved areas: defence, foreign affairs, constitution…

Differences between the 2 electoral systems

England uses the single ballot simple majority system, also known as “the first-past-the-post” system: one round is always sufficient since the party which gets the largest number of votes wins.

This system was designed for only 2 political parties at the time. If there is more than 2 parties, it is unfair for parties whose electors are not located in the same area.

Example : General Election in Scotland in 1997 for the British Parliament:
Conservatives:    17.5%     0 seats (they never came first)
Liberals:                13%     10 seats (they came first several times)

The British Parliament is bicameral (2 chambers: House of Lords and House of Commons). Scotland uses a completely different system: there are 129 seats in the Scottish Parliament:

  • 73 seats for the 1st vote: first-past-the-post system (vote for a candidature),
  • 56 seats for the 2nd vote: additional member system. It restores some balance between the votes cast and the number of candidates: adds up some proportional representation.

The Scottish Parliament is unicameral: decisions are usually made quicker than in the British Pt since it is more constructive and consensual.

Therefore, the Scottish Parliament is more representative of the people of Scotland than the British Parliament is.

Sommaire de la série Scottish Politics: devolution

  1. Scotland: the State, the Nation, Home Rule, and Devolution
  2. Scottish Home Rule
  3. The Act of Union of 1707
  4. The rise of the Scottish National Party (SNP)
  5. The Scottish Parliament
Scottish Home Rule photo

Scottish Home Rule

Introduction

After the Union of 1707, Scotland started to export goods massively: especially linen, cattle, and tobacco (Glasgow was nicknamed the “tobacco metropolis”).

Gradually the Union came to represent career opportunities for the upper class and middle-class scots: some joined the Army in India, some became merchants in London and some others migrated to North America as settlers.

1760’s: 1st Industrial Revolution in Scotland. Until then, Scotland was a rural country. It became rapidly urbanized.

1760-1830: Scottish economy based on the textile industry (cotton, linen and wool).

After 1830, new industries appeared: the steel industry and the shipbuilding industry.

During Victorian Scotland (1837-1901), all industries were owned by the Scots. They were prosperous and exported their goods all over the world. There was no feeling of discontent for they were pride to be contributing to the Empire, adding up their prosperity.

In the 1880’s, Scottish home rule (more autonomy) emerged as an issue in Scottish politics. It was the result of 3 factors:

1. A growing feeling in Scotland that the Government was not devoting enough time and attention to Scotland

In comparison with time devoted to Ireland, Scotland felt neglected by the Government. The Irish people was rewarded for their violence when non-violent Scotland did not get any attention.

In 1853 was created the National Association for the Vindication of Scottish Rights. It was close to the Conservative Party and complained about the fact that Ireland received more support from the British Government than Scotland and that Westminster lacked of Scottish MPs.

2. The conversion of William Gladstone to Irish Home Rule

In 1886, William Gladstone (a Liberal MP) introduced a Bill before Parliament: the Irish Home Rule Bill. It was due to the pressure of the Home Rule Association created in 1870 in Dublin. The association wanted a Parliament responsible for domestic affairs.

In 1871, in Aberdeen, Gladstone (not converted yet) said that if home rule was granted to Ireland then the same should apply to Scotland. In 1885, the Post of Secretary for Scotland was re-established (it had been abolished after the battle of Culloden in 1745) to promote Scotland’s interests and voice its grievances to the British Parliament.

The Scottish Office was created the same year: it was purely administrative (the Post of Secretary for Scotland led it). When Scots compared what they had (a people in London) to what Ireland had (its own Parliament), anger progressively arose.

In 1886, the Scottish Home Rule Association was set up. It was not a political party but a nationalist organization close to the Liberal Party. They wanted a Parliament responsible for Scottish domestic affairs and did not want to end the Union.

3. A growing nationalist sentiment in Scotland

London was considered as the center of the Empire and this was resented in Scotland. As for Government subsidies, London was getting the lion’s share, especially for galleries and museums. As a consequence: renewed interest for everything Scottish in Scotland, reinforcement of their distinct national identity.

A number of societies were created in Scotland to compete with their rivals in London:

  • 1884: Scottish Geographical Society
  • 1886: Scottish Historical Society

1895-1905: Scottish Home Rule was not on the political agenda of the Conservative Government (they were against it).

1906: the Liberals got the power but the question of Scottish Home Rule did not come immediately.

1910-1914: British politics dominated by:

  • Irish Home Rule: legislation passed in 1912.
  • Scottish Home Rule: Bill debated in 1913 but process interrupted by World War I.

After the war, a 2nd Scottish Home Rule Association was created for the first one became inactive.

The objectives remained the same: more autonomy and not independence. Not a political party and no candidates. Will to remain non-partisan. Means used: putting pressure on the Government and on the MP representing Scotland in Parliament. In spite of this pressure, there was no progress for Scotland at the Parliamentary level.

1921: the Parliament voted the Government of Ireland, creating the Irish Free State.Even after 1921, no results.

1920-1934: Creation of organizations and political parties

1920: Scots National League: much more radical organization: they wanted independence, promoted the Gaelic culture and language. Yet, it did not have a strategy to achieve independence. They lacked unity and split. The result of the split was:

1926: the Scottish National Movement : focused on culture. No strategy to achieve independence.

1927: the Glasgow University Scottish Nationalist Organization : created by students and members of the Labour Party. John MacCormick was one of the leader and he is still considered today as the father of modern nationalism. He was a moderateand wanted Scotland to stay in the UK. He managed to convince the other nationalist organizations to create a nationalist party.

1928: the National Party of Scotland : left wing party. Objective: not independence but Scotland within the framework of UK. The NPS was a party but his electoral results were poor.

Divisions appeared for the NPS was the sum of different organizations with different opinions (moderates and radicals). The radicals said the poor results were due to the moderates.

1932: the Scottish Party: right-wing party in Glasgow. An embodiment of reasonable nationalism. The press was very favorable to them.

As there was not enough room for 2 nationalist parties a fusion had to be made between the Nationalist Party of Scotland and the Scottish Party. They merged in 1934.

1934: the Scottish National Party: born of a left-wing party and of a right-wing party. The SNP is still divided, not homogenous, and has various political affiliations.

The Act of Union of 1707 photo

The Act of Union of 1707

Introduction

Scotland was never conquered by England. There were attempts but they failed. At the end of the 13th century, the wars of independence began.

In May 1st 1707, the Act of Union was ratified between England and Scotland: the Scottish Parliament and the English Parliament were suspended. They created the British Parliament and formed the Great Britain by the Union of Scotland and England.

At the time, Scotland was already a protestant country (the Reformation came in the 16th century, before then she was catholic). As England was also protestant, the two nations grew closer.

The Queen chose a number of men to represent Scotland and England in a commission to discuss the terms of the treaty of Union. Several Acts and events precipitated the Union.

1698 – 1699: expeditions to Darien

It was a total failure for the Company of Scotland :

  • Scotland lost trading opportunities with France (due to the Reformation),
  • the Navigation Acts (1660-1663) prevented Scotland from trading with English colonies.

In England, the East-Indian Company had monopole and money. Hence, Scotland wanted the same: that is how the Company of Scotland was set up in 1695. Its full name was “Company of Scotland Trading to Africa and the Indies”.

The East-Indian was not very happy and put pressure on English financiers who wanted to provide money to the capital of the Company of Scotland. The financiers finally withdrew and the Scots had to provide money themselves: a multitude of people giving little money.

The Company of Scotland established a trading-post in America: Darien, in the Isthmus of Panama. 1698 saw the 1st expedition to Darien. It was a terrible failure for many people died during the journey and by fighting against the Spaniards already settled there.

The 2nd expedition was also a failure and the people who had invested in the enterprise were ruined, just like the company. After that experience, the Scots thought the best thing would be a union with England (no more Navigation Acts and access to colonies trading).

1701: Act of Settlement (English Parliament)

The succession to the throne changed of line from the Stuarts to the Hanoverians. From 1689 to 1702, William and Mary ruled the country but they had no heir. Then, Mary’s sister, Anne came to the throne, from 1702 to 1714 but she had no heir either (in fact her child died in 1700). But what after Anne ?

Before William and Mary, James II was a Catholic ruling a protestant country. The English Parliament (protestant) did not want the Stuarts to rule any longer. The new monarch had to be Protestant (it is still on today).

Since 1603 (the Union of the Crowns: still 2 different states, 2 different parliaments but one king), there was one monarch over Scotland and England so if the monarch was changed by the English Parliament, it would also affect Scotland… Therefore, the Scottish Parliament decided to vote too.

1704: Act of Security

Nobody can impose a monarch on Scotland: “we’ll choose an ‘heir’ to Anne ourselves” [threatening tone]

1705: Alien Act

The English Parliament voted that Scots who lived in England would be made aliens: they would lose rights like that of inheriting land and imports of cattle, linen and coal would be prohibited.

It was an ultimatum for Scotland to accept the Union. It never came into force since Scotland agreed on discussing a treaty.

In 1706, the Treaty of Union was signed.

May 1st, 1707: the Union came into force. It was not the result of war or conquest but a treaty signed by 2 independent countries. As in a bargain, there were advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages for England:

  • question of succession to the throne solved
  • peace secured on its northern border

Advantages for Scotland:

  • economic opportunities (new markets)
  • political influence as part of the U.K.
  • key institutions protected (law, education, Presbyterian Church)
  • peace with England guaranteed.

Keeping the Presbyterian Church was more important than the Parliament because it was more representative of the population (plus it controlled education).

In Scotland, the Jacobites (who supported James Stuart) threatened the Union because the line had changed from the Stuarts to the Hanoverians. The Jacobite rebellions took place in 1708, 1715, and 1745. Jacobitism was crushed at the Battle of Culloden in 1745.

After 1750, the relationships between England and Scotland were reinforced by the expansion of trade with the colonies. The Union started to bring benefits for Scots at last.