Thursday 18th of September 2014. Remember the date. History could be made then when the 305-year-old political union between Scotland and England could potentially come to an end.
…and speaking of history:
Scotland’s relations with its larger neighbour have often been difficult, none more so than in the wars of independence some 700 odd years ago. Wars that were led by William Wallace and following him Robert the Bruce. He defeated Edward II who was attempting to subjugate Scotland during the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314. After other cross border disputes, including Scotland’s defeat at Flodden by the English in 1513, the Scottish and English crowns were unified in 1603 when King James VI of Scotland became overall monarch of the British isles.
In 1707, that union was cemented by Scotland and England’s political union, forced on Scotland in part by a financial crisis following the abject failure of its colony in Panama, the so-called Darien adventure. All political power moved to London, but Scotland retained its own legal system, churches and universities. In 1745, the pretender to the British throne, Bonnie Prince Charlie, led the Jacobite revolt against Hanoverian rule by London. Despite reaching as far south as Derby, that ended in crushing defeat at Culloden in 1746.
In the 1800s, Scotland’s economy strengthened, its cities boomed and its citizens took a leading role in the British empire. But proposals to give Scotland some form of “home rule” within the UK have been live since William Gladstone’s era as Liberal leader in the 1880s. After several failed attempts at Westminster, notably in 1913 and 1979, a Scottish parliament was finally reestablished in 1999 in Edinburgh with wide-ranging policy making and legal powers but dependent on a direct grant from London.
In May 2011, Alex Salmond and the SNP unexpectedly won an historic landslide victory giving the nationalists majority control of the Scottish parliament, enabling the first minister to demand an independence referendum.
They believe that Scotland’s economy, its social policies and its creativity would flourish if it had much greater autonomy.
A majority of Scots disagree however. They believe Scotland is more secure within the UK, but many want the Scottish parliament to have greater financial and legal powers.
So what happens if the ‘Yes’ campaign take the referendum? What happens from there? Well it would mark the start of another journey. A journey of negotiation.
For all the key issues – like Scotland’s share of UK debt, dividing up North Sea oil fields, a possible currency union, taking over military bases and UK government offices – all would need to be negotiated. Some argue the any final deal should also be ratified in a referendum. Scotland’s Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said that all the major negotiations could be completed by March 2016, in time for the next Scottish parliamentary elections in May 2016.
It is unclear at this time however just how quickly the UK parliament would approve any deal. There could also be a transition period before that process was complete which could take several years. There are profound doubts about whether the European Union’s 28 members will agree to Scotland’s membership within Sturgeon’s 18 month outlined timetable.
So in a nutshell that’s kind what it is all about. A complicated subject with many unanswered questions and with some questions that may yet need to be asked but as the day for the referendum draws closer the political debate builds and the emotions on the street rise between those Scots voting Yes and those voting No along with many still undecided.
I took a very early morning drive up through a foggy Northumberland and Scottish borders recently heading towards Selkirk. I was going up to cover a visit to the town by Nick Clegg the Liberal Democrat Deputy Prime Minister. Mr Clegg along with Prime Minister David Cameron, Labour leader Ed Miliband and around 60 MP’s and councillors all left London on the same day to join activists at numerous locations throughout Scotland to make the positive case for Scotland remaining part of the United Kingdom.
Below are a few pictures from the day.
So next Thursday will be the day that may bring about a new chapter in the history of the United Kingdom and the countries that form it.
Is it a good thing?
Some of the pictures from the day ran in the Daily Telegraph, The Daily Express and the Independent as well as featuring in online galleries such as The Daily Telegraph , the Guardian , the New York Times , Metro , Blooberg Businessweek and Wall Street Journal
See more of my work on my website and blogs HERE
Pictures remain copyright Ian Forsyth / Getty Images