Calvinism, Militarism, Kailyard

thatcher-graffiti-428x570Chris is the author of ‘A People’s History of Scotland‘ [see also his impassioned talk Why You Should Support Scottish Independence’ here].

Is support for independence based on the belief that Scotland is under the English yoke or a colony of our southern neighbour? Few if any historians would make that claim, yet it has been trotted out by Colin Kidd and Gregg McClymont (Say no to colony myth)as somehow being the key argument underlying the argument for a Yes vote. Having introduced this canard they then move onto demolish it, succeeding in their eyes, to demolish the case for independence.

Yet the argument for independence does not rest on the notion Scots have been colonised by England, just as it does not rest  on that other canard that it flows from hatred of the English.

Support for independence rests on the need to escape a British state which has failed, and is failing, its people, is trapped in relentness decline and is slavishly following the US in a series of disasterous military adventures.

Unlike the people of Liverpool, Sheffield or Brixton the Scots have a constitutional mechanism for escape. If we choose to escape our example can help encourage our Welsh and English sisters and brothers to seek an alternative, not least to the Victorian model of democracy that is Westminster.

But let’s return to Kidd and McClymont’s claim that Yes supporters believe they are engaged in some anti-colonial struggle on a par with the Vietnamese, Indians or Irish.

In my A People’s History of Scotland I argue that the Scottish upper classes were not a junior partner in the running of the British state founded in 1707 – one which was created in war-time and which has enjoyed few if any days of peace since – but an equal director of the board.

Scots played a cutting edge role in the creation of Empire, not least in India, and in the slave trade. It’s not a pretty story. One of the biggest drug dealers of all time were the Hong Kong based firm of Jardine and Mathieson, whose wealth is based on peddling opium in China. Their surnames are a clue as to their country of birth.

The contrast with Scotland’s position within the UK is with Ireland’s, formally part of the British state, following the crushing of the 1798 United Irish uprising, until 1921. In reality Ireland was a colony, run by a viceroy.

Scotland experienced commercial and industrial take off following the destruction of the old feudal order at Culloden. Following Ireland’s incorporation into the union it suffered de-industrialisation, outside the north-east, and became an agricultural provider for its colonial ruler.

Scots played a key role in the conquest of Ireland, and Clydeside became closely involved with the shipbuilding and engineering industries of Belfast. They of course prospered on the basis of sectarian divide and rule, and as a consequence Scottish society became contaminated by that evil. The first Orange Lodge was formed by Ayrshire militia men who returned from crushing the United Irishmen.

The Scottish identity which emerged in the 19th century was created from Calvinism, militarism and imperialism, and the kailyard. As late as 1967 Lieutenant Colonel Colin Campbell, “Mad Mitch,” became a national hero, lionised in the press, for his role in brutally suppressing nationalist rebels in Aden. He came home, left the army and was elected a Tory MP in the North East. That’s almost incredible to record today and illustrates a profound change, not least as to how most Scots identify themselves, free of that 19th century construction.

Does this sorry and bloody history negate support for independence? Firstly, only by breaking from a British state desperately clinging to a belief it remains an imperial power, can we come to terms with that history.

Secondly, Scotland’s role in the Empire was reflected in brutal exploitation at home. Prior to the First World War Scottish workers suffered lower wages than their English counterparts and worse housing. The trade unions were weaker north of the border and strikes fewer. The exploitation was largely at the hands of Scottish employers.

On the eve of World War One the future looked bright for them. Within a few years Scottish capitalism, in terms of ownership, became largely extinct. Scotland was trapped within a declining British economy, whose industries could no longer compete, while investment and productivity were low.

Today that still holds true. The “Thatcher Revolution” did not halt that decline. Despite all this the three main Westminster parties remain in thrall to a neo-liberal economic and social model and prioritise the interest of finance, notwithstanding even the 2008 crash.

That brings us to why so many people will vote Yes. The Thatcher and Blair years left deep scars and this is when Britain lost Scotland. Like many of their English brothers and sisters most Scots want to prioritise welfare not the free market, and see a way of achieving that via independence.

Added to this is the issue of democracy. Scots did not vote for David Cameron and yet get saddled with him. It’s a simple question, but could we achieve a wee bit more democracy than exists at Westminster? Surely the answer is yes.

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  1. alistairliv says:

    I think that the very different reactions to the Poll Tax north and south of the Border were the first signs that Scotland and the rest of the UK were beginning to move apart politically. In Scotland the economic hammer blows of Thatcherism reforged a powerful sense of Scotland as a civil society and stimulated moves which led to the re-establishment of a Scottish Parliament. Across most of England, the same hammer blows fractured the post-war consensus and fragmented civil society. The English response to the Poll Tax was an outbreak of ferocious rioting.

    I have made this argument in greater depth here

  2. jdman says:

    I get so so tired of the old chestnut that Scots have an inferority complex and Englands the cause, I dont know of anyone in the SNP (and I joined in 1978) that dislikes the English ,they dont even come into our thinking, I go to England on holday all the time and intend to continue to do so after independence, I harbour no dislike/hatred/animosity or any other such word towards the English,
    I really wish people like Kydd and McClymont would grow up and stop trying to make it all about them, its boring guys.

  3. The characterisation of the forces which forged Scottish identity in the 19th Century is severely reductionist. There was a lot more to Scottish literature in the 19th Century than the kailyard school. In the North East to which Chris refers there was, for example, “Johnny Gibb of Gushetneuk”, the masterly satire of life in a rural parish by the radical advocate of land reform, William Alexander.

    1. There was a lot more to “kailyard” too than the kailyard caricature – a failure to understand or appreciate the homespun simplicities of honest-to-God rural lives; and that, conflated with a suave intellectual embarrassment at where we’d come from. To impress who? And why?

      That apart, I do profoundly agree with this article’s view that “only by breaking from a British state desperately clinging to a belief it remains an imperial power, can we come to terms with that history.” As such, what is happening just now can be seen in terms of decolonisation, but decolonisation not so much from the English inasmuch as it is meaningful to speak of “them” as an ethnic group, as from the Spirit of Colonisation that has, to varying degrees (and filtered through differing dynamics of social class and social history on both sides of the border) colonised the soul.

      At issue is what the theologian Walter Wink called “the domination system” – whether of social class, ethnicity, colour, gender, etc – and the question of how both to seek liberation from being dominated, while also recognising and seeking release from our own actual or latent tendencies to dominate. This is why humility is so important in the independence debate otherwise we risk becoming like the very entity we see ourselves as escaping from. I suspect this is partly behind the fear on the No side, and we ignore their concerns at our peril.

      What to do? Personally I think we’re doing it pretty well. The Yes campaign, for the mostpart, is not bombastic. I see the political conundrum that many people vote with their hip pockets therefore “what’s in it for me?” figures strongly in the received worldly wisdom, but that wisdom is also toxic if not counterpointed by a greater vision that is for the benefit not just of ourselves. Here is where the No campaign have so cleverly boxed things into the currency debate. We must break out from that box. It is partly of our own making by insisting that independence will make us materially richer. In the short time that remains it is the “vision thing” that must be communicated – the vision of a society that is fairer and therefore better for most people irrespective of whether or not it works our richer, a society that works to take away the roots of international instability rather than throwing military petrol on the fire, a society that refutes the option of doing a Hiroshima hundreds of times over. Why? Because we are a peoples on an evolving journey that aspires not to dominance – to the crass capacity “to punch above our weight” with “punch” being the operative word – but which seeks, instead, those values and their corresponding social, economic and political structures that give life: and that life, as nothing less than love made manifest.

      1. MBC says:

        I agree Alistair. That’s why I think the real turning point was WW1 and the great pipe tune, ‘The Bloody Fields of Flanders’. It is a reverse march; a march of retreat. Listen to it. Its lilting melody has great dignity, great restraint, and expresses the deepest and most poignantly felt regret for Scotland’s involvement in British imperialism. It is us coming to our senses and marching out of, turning our backs on, the British Empire. It is haunting and ‘speaks truth to power’. That is why it speaks so profoundly to us today. We recognise its spiritual truth. In the 1960s Hamish Henderson adopted the tune for ‘Freedom Come a’ Ye’ and put into words the sentiments that the pipe tune’s composer had put into music. That was a stroke of genius. If anything reflects our change of consciousness and rejection of the false consciousness of Britishness and imperialism (for Britain and empire are co-terminous) it is that tune and his words.

        John Maclean had argued that WW1 was an imperialist war and had urged socialist minded Scots not to sacrifice themselves for it but was locked up for sedition for his efforts. During the war the truth of his words became apparent as the true human costs of imperialism were revealed. After the war it likewise became apparent that much of the Scottish economy and Scottish capitalism was a puff based on imperialism and export driven but when the large international markets dried up in the 1920s it was revealed what an impoverished nation we actually were. Our domestic wealth was weak, our domestic economy was weak. The middle class and its purchasing power was weak and tiny. Wealth had been grossly ill divided. The empire had enriched the few, not the many. Economic historians call it ‘structural weakness’ meaning that the Scottish economy was based on an interdependent cluster of major heavy industries (coal, steel, engineering) and an insufficient number of smaller scale enterprises in a tiny population and insufficiently diverse and self-sustaining to survive a severe downturn in the international markets that the British Empire had provided us with. When those went, in the aftermath of WW1 in the 1920s, we were sunk. There began ‘the southward drift of industry’ as new domestic markets developed for small electrical goods that were more geared towards the English middle class, which was far larger and had vastly more purchasing power. WW2 and the 1930s provided a munitions industry which somewhat stuck a sticking plaster on ailing Scottish capitalism and industry, but after the war, the empire went, and despite the anachronistic aberration of figures such as Mad Mitch, much of the rationale for the Union with it. By 1960 when Henderson wrote the words to Freedom Come a’ Ye most of the Empire had gone bar a few island groups too poor to contemplate independence.

        But to the ‘rescue’ came socialist alternatives in the form of Labour’s nationalisation programmes – which were MUCH opposed in Scotland – because Scots rightly understood that this forced take over of what remained of Scottish industry and capitalism really meant London rule of our economy and that in the queue for jam, we would be at the very back. (Hence the ‘aberration’ of an all time high vote for the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party in 1955, which stood out against Labour’s nationalisations). It was in fact a nationalist vote opposing the loss of Scottish control.

        Nationalisation might have worked had there been a constitution which enshrined the people’s rights over national possessions. But there wasn’t, and in the 1980s there was nothing to stop Thatcher disposing of our nationalised industries of preventing the sale to private interests of new resources such as our oil or our utilities.

        If that’s not colonialism, I don’t know what is. Neoliberalism is simply colonialism perpetuated by a government with no mandate against its own people.

      2. I entirely agree,Alastair. The point I was seeking to make is that there were more radical strands to Scotland’s collective sense of itself even in the heyday of Empire. In their session on the history of the Calton Hill at the International Book Festival yesterday, Stuart McHardy and Donald Smith drew attention to the 19th Century monument to the 18th Century Scottish radicals which, in contrast to the Edinburgh establishment’s militaristic disgrace, was successfully funded by public subscription.

    2. That’s good to hear about the Calton Hill session yesterday, Graeme. The story of “the fairy boy of Leith” – – has been remarked on by ethnographers such as Ronald Black of the School of Scottish Studies because it portrays Calton Hill as a sithean – a faerie hill – and that intrigues me in the context of ethnographer John Macinnes’ writings about the sith and sithean as “a metaphor for the imagination,” and this, in a traditional context, of immense political importance for the wellbeing of the people.

      This Intrigues me because such imagining, dreaming, visioning and standing for deeper undercurrents of consciousness is precisely the function that Calton Hill has been playing in recent years – from Beltane celebrations to the devolution protest camp – though of course, there are those who would say it’s all just away with the faeries.

      What is happening in Scotland just now is about re-articulation between the inner life of metaphor and imagination – the “vision thing” – and the outer life of socio-economic and political realities. Interesting that Gerry Hassan called his latest book “Caledonian Dreaming” (Luath) and watch out, later this month, for Luath’s release of Scotia Nova, an anthology of poetry for a new Scotland.

  4. Alasdair Frew-Bell says:

    “Scots played a key rôle in the conquest of Ireland”. WRONG! An internal Irish rivalry
    gave cause for the invasion and eventual conquest. In the late 12th century at the invitation of the king of Leinster Normans based in Wales headed by Richard de Clare alias Strongbow, initiated what was in effect a land grab. The rest is in the history books. Scotland first got involved in 1315 when Edward Bruce intervened on the Irish side with a view to creating an alliance against England. Later in the 17th century protestant Scots were “planted” in the north. Again that needs no elaboration. Scots played no primary rôle in the British conquest of Ireland although our contribution to its maintenance in later years was certainly formative, alas.

  5. Craig P says:

    A good read. Refreshing to see a pro-indy view that accepts that Scotland, or some Scots at least, benefited hugely from the union in the 18th and 19th centuries. (Of course this doesn’t mean that the union is the best deal for us now.)

  6. Hugh Wallace says:

    Reblogged this on Are We Really Better Together? and commented:
    “Does this sorry and bloody history negate support for independence? Firstly, only by breaking from a British state desperately clinging to a belief it remains an imperial power, can we come to terms with that history.

    Secondly, Scotland’s role in the Empire was reflected in brutal exploitation at home. Prior to the First World War Scottish workers suffered lower wages than their English counterparts and worse housing. The trade unions were weaker north of the border and strikes fewer. The exploitation was largely at the hands of Scottish employers.”

    Looks like I have another book to read!

    This article echoes what I have always maintained; the main ‘enemy’ of the Scottish people has not been ‘the English’ but the nobility and the wealthy (historically the same), English and Scottish.

  7. Wullie says:

    A leading-light in the Boys Brigade, now there’s a surprise!, this son of the manse, like his mentor Broon, has never had a proper job. When I say “never”, he did try being a solicitor for six months, otherwise he has been a burden on the shoulders of the working class which he claims to represent.
    A wee sneeveler of the first order, I knew the type well from my own BB days.

    1. Wullie I like your comment,its one that cuts to point,thanks.

    2. Dean Richardson says:

      Shouldn’t this comment be on the thread about Dougie Alexander?

  8. Dan Huil says:

    Sadly, Scotland, in its contribution in the establishment of the British empire, must take its share of responsibility in the brutal oppression inflicted upon innocent people around the world.
    The best way Scotland can make amends for this regretful part in its history is to break the political union with England. As long as the union remains so shall the stench of imperialism.

  9. Douglas says:

    Haven’t read your book, Chris, but this sounds fairly Lowland-centric.

    I would say the Highland were certainly colonised. What other term would you use to describe a process whereby the people are evicted from their homes, their culture smashed, their language eradicated, their land turned into the playground of the rich, the people forced into exile? The natural resources of the Gaedhealtachd used at the whim of what happens to suit the Metropolis, so that the Gael is told one year he must emigrate and the next year that he can’t? The Gael conscripted into the army – like the other colonial divisions of the British army – and described as “hardy, used to rough terrain, and no great mischief if they fall” by their own military commander? (On which note, I was sad to see that Alistair MacLeod passed away recently)

    So the Scots were efficient colonisers, I agree, but in the Highlands too, and were so on behalf of the British State. The Roman legions which colonised Britain were mainly from Spain and elsewhere in Europe, not from Rome itself. But we still talk about the Roman conquest of Britain, not the Hispanic conquest. And then we have the military towns named after the Butcher Cumberland to this day: Fort William, Fort Augustus.
    The Gaelic name for the town of Fort William is Garrison, pure and simple.

    So I would argue that the Highlands, where 25% of the Scottish population once lived, was colonised and still is largely so today in my opinion. Radical land reform is needed to undo 300 years of extremist, scorch-earthed British colonization, and more support is required for Gaelic culture, particularly the language.

    As for the wider cultural colonization of Lowland Scotland, again it seems to me to be indisputably to have taken place. It is not a classical colonial model, but that the Scottish bourgeoisie for many centuries ditched Scottish culture for its English substitute is a fact. No space to go into it here, but it’s too simple to say that because the Scottish bourgeoisie were colonizing abroad, Scotland wasn’t being culturally colonized at home too.

    1. Very well said, Douglas. This is why Gerry Hassan is interesting to watch just now because he’s analysing things in terms of social class power, especially that of the Scottish professional classes. I think there are subtleties in Scottish life that are missed by the usual Marxian analysis that fails to grasp the role that religion (in Scotland) has played both in legitimising and moderating/directing the role of the professional classes. By “religion”, I include its expressions in thinking about the democratic intellect – a notion that, as George Elder Davie emphasied, is rooted in the spiritual philosophy of such likes as J.F. Ferrier or, as Davie preferred to express it, the notion of “metaphysical Scotland”.

      It was, incidentally, Ferrier – the prof of moral phil at St A’s – who in the mid-19th gave the world the word “epistemology” for the study of the theory and structure of knowledge. Poor Ferrier – his critics tried to say he’d merely copied German philosophy, to which his riposte: ‘My philosophy is Scottish to the very core … a natural growth of old Scotland’s soil’ (Inst. of Metaphysic, 1856: pp. 12-13). Ahh – the whiff of “kailyardism” – and no kidding – Ferrier was attacked by an unholy alliance from both sides – by secular materialists of the “positivist” schools on the one hand, and the Kirk on the other. These denied him the chair at Edinburgh. The contemporary humorist, W.E. Aytoun, put gave versified voice to the assailants of his camp (cited from Davie):

      We’ll call them dull and ignorant,
      We’ll swear their books are mystical,
      And if we find that that won’t do,
      We’ll call them pantheistical.

      I raise this issue because I think there are deep strands of Scottish thought that have been suppressed because they failed to fit the narratives of Empire and its presumption of manifest destiny. Equally, they fail to fit the narratives of postmodernism because they are essentialist (“old Scotland’s soil”), or even of modernism, because they are premodern and, I would suggest, albeit perhaps wishfully, post-postmodern.

    2. Alasdair Frew-Bell says:

      Internal colonisation and marginalisation are features of our history. Both Gaelic and Norse (Orkney/Shetland) cultures were regarded as “alien”. The irony is that the vehicle for this, the Scottis leid, was itself to become marginal in the great unionist game. Independence will be as much about national recovery, restoration and renewal as about national sovereignty.

  10. bearinorkney says:

    ‘I think that the very different reactions to the Poll Tax north and south of the Border were the first signs that Scotland and the rest of the UK were beginning to move apart politically’

    English folk didn’t give a stuff when the poll tax experiment was under way up here. When they tried to impose it down South there were riots on the streets of London and other cities.

    I don’t know where your get your ideas from?

    1. MBC says:

      Good point. But down south they also forgot it just as quick. That’s the point the author is making – it remains a grievance here, as much that it was tried out on us first as that it was tried at all.

      What has happened to the English radical tradition since?

      1. I don’t think they forgot it, MBC. I do a lot of speaking in England and right now, I’m preparing a talk for the Greenbelt festival later this month in Northamptonshire precisely on your question: “What’s happened to the English radical tradition?” – and that, in the context of Scottish indy. Whenever I speak in England on Scottish land reform I get people coming up at the end, sadly, and saying, “It’s great, so inspiring what’s happening in Scotland, but we could never do the same here.” They’re so deeply colonised by that spirit of colonisation, a.k.a. the social class system.

        Recently I was speaking in Somerset where, it turned out, the most burning local enviro issue was – you guessed it – litter. The most active local enviro group was focused on picking up the litter. So (asks the daft laddie): who’s dropping the litter? The litter’s being dropped by those people (in rented accom) up the other end of the village. So (says daft laddie), is your problem a litter problem, or is your problem a problem of social class – cos it sounds to me like you’re living in a divided community where half the village don’t have the same investment in what it means to belong to and take pride in the rustic beauty of the place. Who knows, maybe some are even dropping litter just to make that point?

        Shuffling of feet. Questioning and slightly embarrassed faces. Point is that the English class system is the Normanesque feudal system keeping pace with modernity. The Scottish equivalent at least has a sense that the clan chief was meant to be of the clan, and there to serve the clan as only “the highest apple” on the family tree.

        So, your question MBC: what happened to that radical English tradition? That’s what I’m reflecting on just now with books like Bradstock’s and Rowland’s “Radical Christian Writings”, Blake’s poetry and TS Eliot around me as we sit it out in the rain here on holiday on Berneray, hoping the wind might drop enough to take the canoe out fishing.

        My case at Greenbelt will be that we need Scottish indy not just for ourselves, but to reawaken radical England, to support them in their reawakening if the will and wish is there. I fear those pleading looks of “don’t leave us, Scotland.” At the same time, with OS maps spread all around figuring out where the fishing might be most safe from the wind on the rising tide this afternoon, I’m thinking that sometimes in a shipwreck a boat must have the courage to break loose not just for itself, but for those still stuck on the wreck. That’s what Scotland’s trying to do. It’s not just about ourselves, but it does have to start with us.

      2. MBC says:

        Replying to Alistair: Totally agree with your analysis. The Norman Yoke has morphed somewhat over the centuries – now it’s the capitalist class – but its authoritarianism, cynicism, contempt, and oppression remains. I look forward to the freeing of the English spirit from this fascistic thousand year reich. They say that those who bully the most are they who were themselves bullied. The English were conquered in 1066 and absolutely subdued by a feudal jackboot. They survived as a slave underclass (the words for the meat of sheep and cattle are French – mouton/mutton; boef/beef – but the words for the animals themselves are Anglo-Saxon – scheip/cow. Nothing speaks more eloquently of the fact that one ethnic group produced the food whilst another superior ethnic group lording it over them ate it). Well done on pointing out that the landlords are the oppressors and the root of the problem. Thatcher introduced the Short Assured Tenancy Act in 1989 which created a landlord bonanza, ending the two agreed principles that had guided the private rented sector since 1915 and the Glasgow Women ‘s Rent Strike that was part of Red Clydeside – affordable rents, and security of tenure. It became legal to offer an ‘assured’ tenancy of as short as six months (‘assuring’ the landlord of the right of vacant possession after only six months, but assuring tenants of diddly squat). It removed restrictions from rents to be fair and allowed ‘market’ rents, which meant landlords could jack up the prices as much as they liked. Small wonder tenants feel no obligation to join the community.

      3. MCB – re the bullied being the bully – check out the sometime Bella commenter Nick Duffell’s latest book, Wounded Leaders, and also his earlier classic about boarding school education for the running of the empire, The Making of Them. and .

        Weather still heavy here. If I suddenly go dead on following this thread it’ll be a case of gone fishing – missing, presumed paradisaical.

      4. Douglas says:

        MBC, to talk about the English in those somewhat racial or tribal terms is bizarre and an anachronism these days. But anyway, the Anglo-Saxons a “slave underclass” after 1066 you say? So how come this “slave underclass” actually prevailed and English blossomed with Chaucer – he “of noble makaris flower” according to Dunbar – and Norman French disappeared even from the court?

        Some defeat certainly compared to us here in Scotland where we’ve lost two languages! If only we had been so thoroughly defeated we might still have the Gaelic!

        The old animal/meat anecdote is all a bit of a myth by the way, I mean, it’s a simplification of the situation post 1066..

        As for the Normans, they were invited to Scotland too of course by David I: Robert De Brus / the Bruce no less being a Norman as you must know along with I think about half the Scottish nobility. So how does that fit with your theory?

        It was the Normans too who invaded and conquered Ireland, but the Normans were pretty incredible folk for a while there. They also founded Kiev if I remember rightly.

      5. MBC says:

        Replying to Douglas: the Normans never jackbooted us. They were selectively invited in to serve our king, and were dependents of his royal authority, that’s the crucial difference. They were few. In England they were many. Yes, Anglo-Saxon England gradually perculated its way up through the social system, that’s what the English believe, but in my view the English never really threw off the Norman yoke. Norman ruling class authoritarianism was simply adopted and a kind of internal colonisation of the soul occurred which the English have never really fully understood or thrown off. There’s a level of schizoid false consciousness going on there. That’s why Alistair’s work on what happened to the English radical tradition interests me.

      6. Anent the English radical tradition, MBC, the book that I find most enjoyable on it is Christopher Hill’s “The World Turned Upside Down” (Penguin). Hill is a Marxist historian but one with a deep sense of the role that religion has played in the English radical tradition – especially the Diggers, Levellers, Ranters and early Quakers (of whom only the latter survive, though some of us still enjoy a good rant). I read Hill when first involved with Eigg and it set me on fire. I just couldn’t believe we’d never been taught this stuff. For a while I made a practice of asking English friends if they’d ever heard of it and the great majority had not. Hill’s other books are also very good, especially the one on the English Bible as he calls the 1611 King James Authorised Version.

        Well, the fishing trip was in a force 4 – 5 and an inflatable canoe, but Verene and I chose the spot well off the sheltered east side of the Berneray causeway and stopped fishing after landing over 20 mackerel and 1 lithe.

        Ahhh – Scotland – you provide a real world firth even of the Referendum!

  11. Crubag says:

    “Scotland first got involved in 1315 when Edward Bruce intervened on the Irish side with a view to creating an alliance against England.”

    Uh, Edward Bruce was aiming to set himself up as High King of Ireland. Though that was in part to put pressure on the English dynasty.

    I think it is sometimes hard for us to see past the monoglot, 19th century nation-state view of the world.

    The British isles back then has a common ethnic group, the Gaels, on both sides of the north channel, and the Bruces were part of those ruling Gaelic dynasties.

    The Normans were another ethnic group (that proved readily absorbed) active on the islands and on the European mainland and maintaing common ties. These passed into the hands of the Angevins:

    Or for that matter, the British colonisation of what is now Brittany:

    Kings were also rather more common then. Edward’s defeated army in Ireland included the King of Argyll (a MacDonald) and the King of the Isles (a MacRuari).

    But after colonisation (successful or not) and empire, I’d say England’s most long-lasting impact on the British isles has been ethno-cultural. Administrative boundaries are no longer about ethnicity, culture or language – most of those differences ahve been ironed out, and are now over-taken by globalisation.

    1. yerkitbreeks says:

      Over the centuries the ethnicities you cite have given way to class rule – the feudalists became the industrialists which morphed into today’s “elite” in business, politics, and media. For a contemporary look, just check on the Wikipedia entry for he who has been hailed as the new Tory leader – what’s not to like about boasting your 8th great grandfather was George II.

  12. Reblogged this on charlesobrien08 and commented:
    I agree with all that is written,and I understand it,much to my amazement.I would like to add the last paragraph,states that we Scots did not vote for David Cameron to become Prime Minister,neither did our friends and relations in the rest of the UK he has a minority and is bolstered up by the Lib-Dems,in their desperation for power,this is not democracy and we can have real democracy here in Scotland with a yes vote.Just my tuppence worth.

  13. Marian says:

    Scots have hated the London rule ever since its dubious and secretive inception in 1707. There was rioting on the streets of Edinburgh and other Scots cities for months afterwards by masses of the ordinary people of Scotland who were incensed at having been dragged into being governed by London that they did not want or need by an aristocracy who had sold Scotland’s hard won independence in return for the short term gain of London’s bribes of Darian bailout money and estates in England.

    Its an often unspoken historical fact that half of those Scots who fought under the banner of the 1745 Jacobite uprising were not Highland Clansmen at all but Lowlanders who had joined with the Highlanders whose motivation was solely to restore Scotland’s independence – read Murray Pittock’s Myth of the Jacobite Clans and you will see how deviously London suppressed this uncomfortable truth by spinning the uprising as being caused only by “primitive Highlanders” wanting the restoration of the Stuarts to the throne.

  14. Douglas says:

    MBC, I fail to see what is to be gained by dividing the people of England into Anglo Saxons / Normans hundreds of years after those terms ceased to mean anything. The Normans brought feudalism wherever they went in Europe. That’s true in Scotland too. It is the fact that they imposed the feudal system, rather than some hocus pocus tribal “identity”, that explains their importance.

    As for the English never shaking off the effects of 1066, well I’m not a historian but England was in state of civil war throughout much of the 16th and the 17th century.

    It was in England that the first king was executed in modern European history, Charles I. The war of the Three Kingdoms turned power relations upside down in England and was one the key moments of English radicalism. Not least Milton, not least the Levellers. You don’t think that amounts to “shaking off the yolk of 1066?”.

    English radicalism has been quite of late, but so has French, German, Spanish and Italian radicalism. If we are lucky, we may well know fairly soon what it;s like to be betrayed by a left wing government in a fully sovereign Scottish parliament, but it may well be that Scottish radicalism of the last twenty years has less substance to it than it looks, because indie is a magnet for all kinds of different politics and tends to blur differences.

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