Scottish independence

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Walter Thomas Monnington's 1925 painting called Parliamentary Union of England and Scotland 1707 hangs in the Palace of Westminster depicting the official presentation of the Acts of Union, the law that formed the United Kingdom of Great Britain.
Image:Map of Scotland within the United Kingdom.png
Scotland's (in dark blue) location within the United Kingdom

Scottish independence is advocated by the political movement of some Scottish people that desires that Scotland secede from the United Kingdom and become a sovereign independent state as it was prior to 1707.


[edit] History

[edit] Early independence and the Act of Union

The History of Scotland since 1072 included a series of disputes about boundaries, and arguments as to whether the monarch of England was overlord of the Scottish rulers, who were also mostly of Norman ancestry. During the Wars of Scottish Independence (approximately 1290 - 1363) invasions led to periods of temporary English occupation of parts of Scotland, but Scottish independence was retained.

In 1603 James VI of Scotland also became James I of England, but the Union of the Crowns still left the parliaments separate. Scotland retained its government but the struggle between the countries now became economic.

The Scottish and English Parliaments signed the Act of Union of 1707, both the English and the Scottish Parliaments were dissolved, and all their powers were transferred to a new Parliament in London which then became the Parliament of Great Britain. Certain significant matters including Law and education remained separate from the English system, and the Scottish culture and languages retained some strength. Although there was a new British identity taken up with varying degrees of enthusiasm, (an attempted rebranding of Scotland as 'North Britain' never caught on) the Scottish national identity remained strong.

Image:Bonnie prince charlie.JPG
Charles Edward Stuart, Bonnie Prince Charlie, wearing the Jacobite blue bonnet
Jacobitism, originally focussed on the rights of monarchs over parliament, became a vehicle for dissent and was associated with Scottish (and Irish) nationalism. After the Jacobite risings were finally crushed, Jacobitism became more associated with the image found in the novels of Walter Scott and was assimilated into the British consciousness.

There is some evidence that some involved in various radical uprisings in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, such as the "Radical War" in 1820 supported independence. In particular, the meaning of one banner 'Scotland free or a desart' has been debated.

[edit] Movement for Home Rule

See also the main article: Scottish Assembly.

From the mid 19th century a movement for Home Rule argued for devolution of control over Scottish affairs, but support for independence dwindled until the 1920s. The Home Rule call for a Scottish Assembly was first taken up in 1853 by a body close to the Conservative Party and soon began to receive Liberal Party backing, but it was not an immediate priority, and by the time a Scottish home rule bill was presented to the Westminster Parliament in 1913 its progress was interrupted by the First World War. The early Labour Party shared the Liberal commitment to Home Rule, but in minority coalitions had other priorities and changed this policy at the 1945 general election. By 1974 Labour policy again came round to supporting a Scottish Assembly, subject to a referendum.

[edit] 1970s revival

In the first 1974 United Kingdom general election Scottish voters elected seven members of the Scottish National Party to Parliament, rising to eleven in a second general election that year. This empowered the independence movement with greater leverage for the advancement of pro-independence agendas in the House of Commons where the Labour Party now led a minority government in a pact with the Liberal Party.

As it had promised, Labour put forward proposals for a Scottish Parliament as a semi–autonomous Scottish assembly to control some aspects of domestic policy, but while this had the support of the Scottish Labour Party some (mostly English) members were opposed to such a constitutional change without a clear mandate and Parliament decided to hold a referendum, setting a high threshold requiring 40% or more of the electorate to vote in favour rather than a simple majority of those voting in the referendum. In the event 33% voted for the proposal and 31% against, with 36% not voting, so the proposal fell. Further progress of the independence movement was stalled when the Scottish National Party supported a vote of no confidence and forced a General Election in 1979 which gave victory to the noted opponent of independence, Margaret Thatcher, as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom at the head of a Conservative government.

See also: Scotland referendum, 1979

[edit] Devolution

Supporters of Scottish independence continued to hold mixed views on the Home Rule movement which included many supporters of union who wanted devolution within the framework of the United Kingdom. Some saw it as a stepping stone to independence, while others wanted to go straight for separation.

In the years of the Conservative government post 1979 the Campaign for a Scottish Assembly led from 1989 to the Scottish Constitutional Convention developing a consensus on devolution on a cross-party basis, though the Conservative Party refused to co-operate and the Scottish National Party withdrew from the discussions when it became clear that the convention was unwilling to discuss Scottish independence as a constitutional option. The Labour Party won the 1997 General Election and Donald Dewar as Secretary of State for Scotland implemented Labour's commitment to the agreed proposals for a Scottish Parliament, holding a referendum in September of that year and seventy-five percent of those who voted approved the devolution plan. Parliament then put through the Scotland Act to create an elected Scottish parliament with control over most domestic policy. In May 1999 Scotland held its first election for a devolved parliament and in July the Scottish Parliament was gaveled into session for the first time since the previous parliament had been adjourned in 1707. The Scottish parliament had one hundred and twenty-nine members elected on a system which is a combination of first past the post and proportional representation. Donald Dewar became the First Minister of Scotland for the governing Scottish Labour Party/Liberal Democrat coalition, while the Scottish National Party became the main opposition party.

With the approval of all parties, the egalitarian song A Man's A Man for A' That was sung by activist Sheena Wellington at the opening of the Scottish parliament. The song by Robert Burns brought tears to the eyes of those attending. [1] It has been adopted as the modern unofficial anthem of the Scottish independence movement.

In a similar egalitarian vein the Queen Elizabeth's opening of the new Scottish Parliament building was heralded by Aaron Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man.

Though the Scottish people achieved devolution and gained power over many of their affairs, nationalists continued to argue for complete independence.

[edit] Ideologies within the independence movement

Demands for Scottish independence are based on the idea that Scotland, as a nation with her own strong identifiable culture, separate legal, banking and education system from that of England, ought ultimately to secede from the United Kingdom and revert to the independent status it had before 1707.

The independence movement is a diverse one which ranges from those who seek a gradualist advance to independence through the incremental devolution of government, to those wishing to move straight to a sovereign state. A Scottish Parliament was created in 1999, devolving some legislative powers from the UK Parliament in Westminster. Alongside the Holyrood legislature, the establishment of the Scottish Executive saw further administrative powers and responsibilities devolved from Whitehall. Adherents of independence continued to argue that the Scottish Parliament and Executive represented an intermediate stage in the transition to a separate nation-state.

The independence movement is a disparate one that covers varied political standpoints. While many are republican, this is not a Scottish National Party (SNP) policy. The SNP tries to present itself as an inclusive institution, subordinating ideological tensions to the primary goal of securing independence. Proportional representation has led to the election to the Scottish Parliament of smaller parties with various political positions but which have independence as a goal; in the 2003 election the gains made by the Scottish Green Party and the Scottish Socialist Party boosted the number of pro-independence MSPs. The Scottish Socialist Party has led republican protests to the Oath to the Queen and wrote the Declaration of Calton Hill, calling for an independent socialist republic.

A September 2006 poll by the research agency Yougov showed that 44% of respondents said they would back a separate Scotland in an independence referendum compared with 42% who did not.<ref>The Sunday Times Online, September 10, 2006 Support Doubles for Scottish independence</ref><ref>Epolitix, September 2006 Support for Scottish independence rises</ref><ref>The Sunday Times Online, September 10, 2006 Labour in turmoil as Scots back independence</ref> A Scotsman (newspaper) poll in October 2006 suggested that 51% of Scots would be in favour of independence, with 39% against<ref>,,1937975,00.html</ref>. A Daily Telegraph poll shows that a majority of britons want the UK to break up<ref></ref>.

[edit] Scottish nationalism

See also: History of the Scottish National Party.

The Scots National League formed in 1921 as a body primarily based in London seeking Scottish independence, largely influenced by Sinn Fein. They established the Scots Independent newspaper in 1926 and in 1928 they helped the Glasgow University Scottish Nationalist Association form the National Party of Scotland, aiming at a separate Scottish state. One of the founders was Hugh MacDiarmid, a poet who had begun promoting a Scottish literature, while others had Labour Party links.

They co-operated with the Scottish Party, a home rule organisation formed in 1932 by former members of the Conservative Party, and in 1934 they merged to form the Scottish National Party which at first supported Home Rule, then changed to supporting independence. They suffered a setback in the 1930s when the name of nationalism became associated with the National Socialists in Germany, but gained their first MP in a by-election in 1945 though he lost at the general election three months later. The SNP had a number of election successes in the 1960s, and when North Sea oil was found in 1970 were able to counter concerns about economic viability by claiming "It's Scotland's oil". The discovery of North Sea oil and the subsequent revenues that went to the UK Exchequer have been argued by many to have benefited Scotland little, compared to the rest of the UK, with many conservative estimates suggesting almost £200bn of revenue have been amassed thus far.

[edit] Independence in Europe

One of the fears of many Scots unconvinced by the independence argument is that an independent Scotland may be economically and politically weak. In response to this, pro-independence campaigners often cite the success of other small northern European countries such as Ireland, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Sweden, Finland and the Netherlands. Since the turn of the millennium, the SNP (abandoning its earlier opposition to European integration) has used the catch-phrase "Independence in Europe" to suggest that the European Union provides an ideal international environment in which small nations may flourish.

[edit] National liberation

There are a number of supporters of Scottish independence who do not subscribe to the traditional nationalist ideology. Instead they see Scottish independence as a national liberation movement and seek to build an inclusive republican state which is run by and for the benefit of all who live there. This view of national liberation for Scotland typically supports the rights of asylum seekers to settle in Scotland, opposes the expansion of the UK state through for example ID cards, and seeks the abolition of the monarchy. This form of independence movement is best articulated in the 1992 polemical pamphlet Why Scots Should rule Scotland by Alasdair Gray and is the ideological driver for independence within the Scottish Socialist Party.

[edit] Opposition to independence

Main article: Unionists (Scotland)

The term Unionist is used infrequently in Scottish political debate, partly because it suggests parallels with the situation in Northern Ireland. However, there is a strong body of opinion opposed to independence and in favour of the continuation of the union with England, Wales and Northern Ireland. This has never been a homogeneous movement, but rather represents a pro-UK consensus of all the major Scottish branches of the London-based British political parties and a number of peculiarly Scottish parties. It is a movement that ranges from those in support of the UK as a unitary state governed from Westminster, to those who support varying degrees of devolution of power and/or concentration of administrative responsibility from London to Scotland.

Some opposed to independence may take the view that Scotland is economically stronger within the UK, as a country of 5 million people (Scotland on its own) will never be as economically, militarily or politically strong as a country of 60 million people (UK as a whole), provided the two countries are equally well run. Others argue that as part of a unitary British state, Scots have more influence on international relations: an independent Scotland would not have a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, for example. Some Scottish people who support the ideals of the European Union (EU) argue that there is no need for independence in a Europe that is tending towards unification, although growing Euroscepticism in Britain from the 1990s meant that such arguments lost force.

[edit] Political parties

Scottish independence is currently supported most notably by the Scottish National Party, the Scottish Green Party, Solidarity (Scotland), and the Scottish Socialist Party; as well as Margo MacDonald (a former SNP member) and other independent members of the Scottish parliament. The total number of seats belonging to pro-independence parties and similarly minded Independent MSPs is 42, or almost a third of MSPs.

There are also a number of nascent pro-independence parties, which have not yet had electoral success: Scottish Independence Party, Free Scotland Party, Scottish Freedom Party and Scottish Enterprise Party.

All the Scottish parties with representation at Holyrood, as opposed to the Scottish branches of British parties, support independence.

[edit] Political parties links

[edit] See also

(Parties with elected representation)

(Other independence parties)

(Other internal links)

[edit] External party links

(Parties with elected representation)

(Other independence parties)

[edit] Other external links

[edit] References


  • Scotland, A Concise History, James Halliday, Gordon Wright Publishing, Edinburgh 1990 ISBN 0-903065-66-5
  • Scotland, A Concise History, Fitzroy Maclean, Thames and Hudson, London 1991 ISBN 0-500-27706-0
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