Today is the 300 year anniversary of the Act of Union in 1707. It is the Act that created Great Britain and her United Kingdom. On Thursday the Scottish people go to the polls to vote for their representatives for the devolved Scottish Parliament at Holyrood. The near synchronicity of these dates is nicely significant. This is an election where the Scottish National Party (the SNP) look like they may steal Labour's thunder and actually form a devolved government in Scotland.
The SNP stand for Scotland's Independence from the UK. Since the seventies they have been a growing force in Scottish politics. During the days of Thatcherite Britain when the poll tax was introduced to Scotland first to test the system, Scotland was a bleak place full of a disheartened and disenfranchised populous. The almost total rejection of the Tory government by the Scottish electorate meant that there was a political schism between England and Scotland. When Labour were finally elected in 1997, Blair held true to his promise to let the people of Scotland decide if they wanted their own parliament, devolved not separated, from Westminster. And we most certainly did. The referendum was an over whelming resounding yes.
We got a parliament and our very own building built with plenty of political corruption, cronyism and cost. The parliament building was a financial fiasco but if you are ever in Edinburgh it is well worth walking to the bottom of the High Street to go on a tour, it is a gorgeous building that deserves the high praise and accolades that were bestowed on the late architect, Enric Miralles.
The parliament has been a hot button issue ever since its arrival. It adds another level of government to a country which already has local, national (Westminster), and European governments. It therefore also provides another level of cost to the Scottish people.
However to a country with our own education system, banking system (the Scottish pound is the same legal tender as the English but its still Scottish), and legal system, it seemed preposterous not to have our own government to identify us as a separate nation. Well, separate but with the kitchen apron strings still firmly attached.
Since its inception the parliament in Scotland has been run by a coalition of the New Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats. And in my opinion it has not been overly successful. The cronyism, and small mindedness of the Scottish Labour party has been transferred into government. The question always seemed to be, would there or could there be any power in a parliament run by the same party as Westminster? Could there be a major disagreement and how would it be resolved?
It is my opinion that Tony and his cronies have run the UK parliament akin to the old power structure of the communist block. He is only prime minister but he acts presidential. It has filled me and my friends with despair that with every cabinet reshuffle the only difference is in name. Policies and decisions remain unchanged. It is also my opinion that the Scottish Labour party is run very much in the same mold.
So whats the alternative. Well the big one would be Independence. The SNP have always stood for the policy of a referendum on Scottish Independence within the European Union. When I was in my teenage years their policy was very much based on the utilisation of the oil in the North Sea in Scottish waters to enable the country to become financially solvent and prosper along the lines of Norway and Sweden. The arguments against this perception or claim were that establishing rights over waters in the North Sea would be difficult and removing such a cash flow to Westminster could do serious damage to England, which as our nearest trading partner, would be a foolish move.
I now find the argument of oil for Independence redundant. With global warming a reality, building a country on oil seems extremely foolish and irresponsible. I do however, see a bigger argument for Scotland going it alone by looking across the water to Ireland. Ireland is now one of the fastest growing economies in Europe. Where immigrants used to leave the Emerald Isle in search of better things the Emerald Isle is now attracting immigrants for the self same reason. If the Irish could do it why not the Scots?
We're not good enough. We couldn't possibly. We need looking after. Scotland is a proud nation with a distinctive culture of its own. A big part of that culture is what is called in literature, the doppelganger: Scottish identity is always double; it is always Jekyll and Hyde. On one hand we pray with all our might that we thrash any English sports team into next week, we bemoan England for neglecting to remember that Britain also includes Scotland and we take great pains to point out that we are not like England. But on the other hand we are quite content to sit back and be led from Westminster, to be a part of Britain. There is the pride, the strength that whimpers at the prospect of actually really running our own affairs.
I don't know if it is because of the connection between the Scottish Labour Party and the national Labour Party, but it always feels to me like a whispering campaign - "you couldn't do it", "you're not capable". Blair would have had a real political fight on his hands at every election without the steady stream of Labour loyalists in Scotland dutifully going to the polls for him come election day. It really is not in New Labour's political interests to have an Independent Scotland.
My gut instinct is that Scotland will never grow up until we take care of our own country. I don't make this statement out of brimming nationalist fervour but rather out of a fed up exasperation at my kin and country being so pathetic. Am I overwhelmed by Alec Salmond? No. Do I especially like the SNP or trust them? No. [as a side note I have always hated the fact that they are called the Scottish National Party - there are too many parallels with the fascist nationalist pasts of other countries - I really don't know why they are not called the Scottish Independence Party] But I don't see why we feel incapable of balancing our own budget, of running our own affairs. Scottish independance from the UK would not be a complete leap in the dark we would still be in the European Union and have a seat at the main table of that same Union instead of peering over another's shoulder.
I don't know what will happen on May 3rd. I have no way of affecting the outcome as I cannot vote (as a British citizen I can vote in the British election as an expat but there is no such thing as a Scottish citizen so I am disenfranchised). I am pretty sure the Scots who read my blog will have already turned in their postal votes by this time - so I am perhaps just meaninglessly wittering here. I know that the issue of Iraq is front an center in a lot of minds. How can a party be trusted that tows the line behind their leader in spite of public outrage? What is the alternative? Two very dear friends of mine commented that their hope for an alternative to a Blair (or Brown) government is an Independent Scotland - and they are English! I hope that one day my country will grow up and see all the great things we are so proud of, all the Scots who achieved so much, are all signs that we should take the risk.
300 years ago today the Act of Union was signed by the Scottish Parliament. It was signed by the Scottish elite who had lost hope in Scotland's prospects after the country was practically bankrupted in the Darien affair. The Union was signed against the wishes of the Scottish people for economic reasons by Scottish Nobles eager to win favour with the King who was so much more an English King than Scottish. The Union was an alliance that enabled the building of an Empire, it was an economic force to be reckoned with. That Empire is now dead and gone. The new economic force to be reckoned with is Europe and I think it is in Scotland's best interests to have a front row seat in building that prosperity because the last 300 years have proven we make one hell of a team mate.
For a most brilliant analysis which says everything better than I can and if you're curious about Scottish humour go HERE to watch a video which had me in stitches!!