by Tom Thorne
I have made two trips to the auld sod in recent memory. The first one was in 2007 and it was a general tour that took my wife and I to see the Highlands, the ancient stone rings on the Hebrides at Callanish and also the neolithic sites on Orkney. Then in 2013 I went on a three week research trip to places where my Munro family originated in Argyllshire and later lived in Dumbartonshire.
On the first trip as we came south to Edinburgh and Glasgow we stopped at Inverness and the nearby site of The Battle of Culloden where in 1746 the Jacobite army of Bonnie Prince Charlie was brutally routed by The Duke of Cumberland’s forces.
The bleak battlefield at Culloden left its mark on me since it is also the burial ground of the carnage unleashed in that battle. Here Scottish attempts at self determination 40 years after union with the rest of Britain were dashed. Here Scots tried to restore the Stuart monarchy for all of Britain.
The aftermath of the battle was punitive and nothing short of ethnic and cultural cleansing as the defeated were hunted down and killed and their homes burned and pillaged by the victors. They were not allowed the wear kilts or tartans and could not have any arms. Prince Charles Edward Stuart hid for months until his loyal followers managed to get him away to France. Simon Fraser, Lord Lovat was hunted down taken to London and beheaded for his alleged and largely unproved part in the “rebellion”.
Hundreds of rebellion prisoners were transported to Australia and America or rotted literally in prison ships waiting to sail in English ports. Prisoners were also hanged by lot. If you picked a hanging ticket out of a hat you were strung up. One in ten faced this fate. The aftermath of Culloden was horrific and to this day leaves a stain on the history of the United Kingdom. The price of the United Kingdom in the middle 18th Century has a very bloody origin.
Long before the Union in 1707 Scotland was an independent country with its own monarchy. Admittedly the aristocrats of Scotland were widely intermarried with the aristocrats of England and as a result of these unions much of Scotland was property of English lords. The Scots played England against France continually in a bid to remain independent but often when the chips were down Scottish aristocrats sided with England in self interest or played a duplicitous role in the politics of the British Isles.
Scotland, after the reign of Elizabeth I, provided King James the First of England the Sixth of Scotland. His reign was followed by the calamity of Charles I but later his son became Charles II for the restoration after the rule of Cromwell. And so there has been continual links with England and Scotland for centuries and those links have always been tenuous and fragile when faced with the real politic of English-Scottish relations.
During the late 18th Century and early 19th Century Scots were cleared from their lands held often by aristocrats who lived in England. The land held by the people from their clan chiefs was taken and turned over to mass sheep farming. The people went to new towns to learn how to fish or take up a trade. Many found this impossible to do and without any economic base for their future left Scotland for Canada, United States and Australia in droves.
Now the Scots are to vote on an restoring their independence this week. The links as always with England and the rest of Britain are there as they have always been since the time of William The Conqueror in the 11th Century. During the 12th and 13th Centuries the Scots tried to take back their country from Norman fiefdom status with many uprisings such as Sir William Wallace executed so well followed by Robert Bruce. Ultimately the power in the south prevailed either by warfare or finally by The Act of Union in 1707 which benefitted the landed aristocrats more than the people.
What will change in this relationship if the Scots vote yes? History tells us that the tight relationships between the English and Scots are still there. Maybe a yes vote will tell the rest of Britain that the Scots want a more equitable deal than they have experienced for many centuries. A no vote is really for the historic status quo brought about by the Act of Union. I suspect that the yes vote will be a close winner because Scots realize that they must assert themselves against a top down Conservative England that has developed under David Cameron. If Scots reflect on their history with England they may vote with their heart to actively get changes and to wake up an England that takes them for granted.
Quebec separatists who see this referendum as useful for their cause should reflect that Quebec has never been a country with its own government like Scotland. They have only been a colony of France that was abandoned in a treaty after an 18th Century war between Britain and France. Their status is not the same as the Scots. The Scots have a clear claim to nationhood if they are willing to pay the price.
© Copyright 2014 Tom Thorne, All Rights Reserved
British Prime Minister David Cameron and Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond both fight
off Excedrin headaches as they contemplate the Scottish Independence vote this Thursday.