Scottish Independence: A Historical Primer

Part 2 of an 11-part look at Scottish independence and its potential impact on Scottish influence

Under the globalist point of view, to which I partially subscribe, it is necessary to understand the interaction of states through a historical perspective, especially understanding the mechanisms of domination in the past and the critical importance of economic factors.[i]

When working to understand the current dynamics of the England and Scotland relationship, a brief understanding of the historical tension between these two states is essential to understand the world as it exists today.

The Kingdom of Scotland was established in the 9th century.[ii] The 700 years that followed were times of internal conflict within Scotland as various faction fought for control, accompanied by times of conflict with England, as English kings sought to control Scotland. The approach of each nation to the other was that of realism[iii] as each nation had strong nationalism and was focused on protecting their nation from the others conquests. Power was the main driver, with England seeking control over Scotland, and Scotland seeking to retain their own country, while at the same time fighting amongst themselves for that control. The situation then, as today, has to be understood a multiple levels, that of the relationships amongst the clans, the relationships within the national governments, the relationship between the two nations, and at times the relationships between one or the other and another allied nation, such as France or Ireland.[iv]

In 1603, James VI King of Scots inherited the English throne, thus uniting both countries under a single sovereign. Both countries retained their own parliaments, yet both were ruled by the same king. This separation continued until 1707, when the Scottish parliament voted in support of the Treaty of Union, creating a new state called Great Britain, adding 45 Scots to the 513 members of England’s House of Commons and 16 Scots to the 190 members of England’s House of Lords, and dissolving the Scottish parliament. England’s Parliament was now the Parliament of Great Britain.

In the years that followed, Scotland saw both growth and challenges. Industry in the south of Scotland surged, while residents of the Highlands were abused by the English, being forced to the coasts to make way for sheep during the Highland Clearances. Many chose to leave Great Britain and headed for Ireland or the American colonies.

Due to the historical conflicts between the Scottish and the English, along with Scottish resentment for events like the Highland Clearances and bans on the kilt and English perceptions of the Scots as living off English prosperity, a noticeable undercurrent of separatism between the two peoples continues to this day.

Previous Posts

Declining Influence? How Might Scottish Independence Impact Scottish Influence?

Next week – Connected Yet Separate

[i] Viotti, Paul R. & Mark V. Kauppi (2007) Chapter 1, “Theory, Images, and International Relations: An Introduction” in International Relations and World Politics: Security, Economy and Identity, p. 10.(Allyn and Bacon)

[ii] B. Webster, Medieval Scotland: the Making of an Identity (St. Martin’s Press, 1997), p. 22.

[iii] Viotti, Paul R. & Mark V. Kauppi (2007) Chapter 1, “Theory, Images, and International Relations: An Introduction” in International Relations and World Politics: Security, Economy and Identity, p. 10.(Allyn and Bacon)

[iv] Viotti, Paul R. & Mark V. Kauppi (2007) Chapter 1, “Theory, Images, and International Relations: An Introduction” in International Relations and World Politics: Security, Economy and Identity, p.13.(Allyn and Bacon)


2 thoughts on “Scottish Independence: A Historical Primer

  1. Mark,

    Thankyou for your reports, they seem well researched and are eloquent; however, I’m not entirely sure of your facts. Take for instance para 4 in your Historical Primer where you state that the Scottish Parliament was dissolved. This is incorrect. The Scottish Paliament was only adjourned and was therefore reconvened in 1999. Please see the youtube link below of the opening speech.

    Your premise then as to the rest of that particular paragraph is therefore incorrect as well. England’s Parliament was also adjourned (I assume) and Westminster became the Parliament of the UK; the English Parliament did not subsume the Scottish one. Additionally, unlike England, where the Monarch is Sovereign, in Scotland it is the people who are Sovereign; this was reaffirmed in the Scottish Parliament last year and was voted for by the majority of Scottish MSPs (of all parties). Here is the original speech from the SNP website:

    The above facts effect the current situation greatly with regards to Scotland vying for Independence from Westminster, for example,in regards to the so called ‘Devo Max’. The Scottish Government cannot in any way offer Devo Max as it would be a constitutional change and would require the agreement of the separate parliaments of both Scotland and England. Although Scotland now has a parliament of its own, England, however does not and because it does not, it cannot therefore even discuss the question. As it is a constitutional question and would require a change to the Declaration of Abroath, which Westminster does not have the legal power to do. Were it to attempt to do so, it would in effect immediately give Scotland its independence as it will have forced the treaty to be broken. A fact I’m sure the Scottish Government would be very quick to highlight. Regardless of what the media constantly spout. neither Alex Salmond nor any of the SNP have ever said they want a ‘second’ question. Salmond stated that were the people to want some form of Devo Max, he would consider it – which was enough in itself to get Cameron et al to jump up and down in frustration and demand a single question, which Salmond wanted all along. By stating that (knowing the laws regarding to two parliaments) he placed the Union supporting parties in a corner where they could do one of two things, look very threatening to the Scottish electorate which is self defeating, or break the treaty thus handing Independence over on a plate.

    In previous referendums for greater self determination in Scotland (1979), they were overseen in such a way as to deny the Scottish people their self determination (even when they won!). In my opinion, the differences with the referendum in 2014 will come down to the legal ramifications. These I think are going to play a major role in the next couple of years and were the majority of Scottish people to decide that they wanted to be Independent, then legally, there is absolutely nothing Westminster could do about it. The Scottish Government know this, even the union supporting parties although they won’t admit it.

    There are of course, numerous questions that remain to be answered which may or may not be answered satisfactorily by 2014, but because of the legal situations as mentioned above, the advantage is definitely with the Scottish Government.


    Victor D.

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