To satisfy its aspirations, Scotland needs independence

July 7, 2009

paulscott1- Paul Henderson Scott has written numerous books on Scottish history, literature and affairs, including ‘A 20th Century Life’ and its sequel, ‘The New Scotland’. He has been Rector of Dundee University, President of the Saltire Society and of Scottish PEN and a Vice-President of the Scottish National Party (SNP). The opinions expressed are his own -

My most recent book of essays had the title, ‘The Age of Liberation’, because many of them considered the transformation of the world by the recent dissolution of all the empires and most of the multi-national states into their component parts. So far Scotland has been left behind.

This is surprising since Scotland is one of the oldest nations of Europe with a strong cultural and intellectual identity. We have made a remarkable contribution to the world. The American historian, Arthur Herman, in his book, ‘The Scottish Enlightenment’, said: ”As the first modern nation and culture, the Scots have by and large made the world a better place.”

In 1707 England achieved, what it had failed to do in 300 years of military invasion, the suppression of Scottish independence. Even so, this left intact the Scottish church and the legal and educational systems which for centuries had more influence on intellectual and cultural attitudes than any parliament. This meant that Scotland continued to be a distinctive country, in spite of British involvement.

There have been moves towards the recovery of Scottish independence for about two centuries and they took a decisive step forwards with the restoration of the Scottish Parliament in 1999, although with many powers still “reserved” to Westminster. The Labour Government took this step in response to years of campaigning in Scotland and in the hope that it would satisfy Scottish aspirations.

One of their former ministers famously said at the time that it would kill the SNP’s demand for independence “stone dead”. It has, of course, had the opposite effect. The SNP emerged as the party with most votes in the 2007 Scottish election. Since then the SNP government, with Alex Salmond as First Minister, have established a clear lead in Scottish opinion by their abilities and their concern for Scottish interests.

Recent opinion polls have given a confusing impression of current Scottish attitudes. They suggest that a majority are in favour of the SNP’s proposal of a referendum on independence and for the Scottish Parliament to have control of all aspects of policy except foreign affairs and defence. This last point is unlikely to survive the detailed debate which will precede a referendum because it is precisely British control of these two functions which has inflicted serious damage on Scotland.

They have deprived Scotland of the proceeds of the oil in Scottish waters, imposed nuclear submarines on the Clyde, and a share in their huge cost, and involved us in the disaster of the Iraq war. The majority of Scots are opposed to all of these. Westminster control of foreign policy has also deprived us of our own membership of the European Union and of other international organisations.

Another recent event is a powerful additional reason for Scottish independence. The myths surrounding the Westminster Parliament have been exploded by the scandalous revelations of the abuse of the allowances by MPs. This has drawn attention to the absurdities and undemocratic structure of the whole system. A Prime Minister elected by a majority of seats, not of votes (or even, like Gordon Brown, not elected as such at all) becomes a virtual dictator as long as he keeps control of his own party.

There is an unelected second chamber and much medieval play acting like the state opening. The Scottish Parliament in the ten years since it was restored has avoided all the imperfections of Westminster and made itself much more accessible to the public.

There is therefore no case for the continued subjection of Scotland to the Westminster Parliament in which the Scottish members are out-numbered ten to one. Scottish independence will have the additional advantage of improving relations between Scotland and England by removing many of the current problems in our relationship on both sides. Most of the newly independent countries in Europe are smaller than Scotland. None have any desire to return to their previous subjection to external control.


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I have never read so much nonsense in my life in reading all of your comments. Having studied Politics and economics for years I have a better understanding than most of Scotland’s situation and it’s absolutely absurd some of the claims.

Can I firstly point to the comment regarding Scotland driving its banks and building societies to the ground only to be bailed out by the English taxpayers, I’m glad someone raised that issue, considering the banks and building societies are regulated by the FSA and the Bank of England, I would consider it a major failure of the UK not Scotland, an independent Scotland would have regulated its own banks and building societies, if the UK hadn’t squandered our oil money on Nuclear weapons and illegal wars we’d probably be in a great position to bail out our own banks. And in regards to RBS, this is the largest bank in the world in terms of assets, worth more than the entire GDP of Britain, it returned billions to the UK exchequer every year, none of which Scotland ever seen or benefitted from.

The country also has the best renewable energy capability in Europe, has well established financial services even with the recession, whisky industry amongst other things contributes to a strong economy, the only problem Scotland has its a large public sector which would prove costly and needs to be trimmed down.

I am sick to death of hearing the uneducated slander regarding Scotland, people should really study the actual facts, and yes Scotland was never conquered by England and can therefore opt out of the union as it so pleases, which hopefully will be sooner than later. I read some of the comments from accross the water and I don’t think people actually understand the unique situation of being a nation without having a state. I hope to god the Scottish people see sense and stop this ridiculous rule from London, it will be better for England and Scotland.

Posted by Nathan Stewart | Report as abusive

“the only problem Scotland has [is] a large public sector” states Nathan Stewart! I laughed so hard I nearly fell off my chair. I’m still laughing now! Next you’ll be listing all the things the Scots claim to have invented!
It might be time for one of your whiskies? One more minor detail… the FSA was set up by Gordon Brown who IS Scottish!

Posted by Peter H | Report as abusive

Nathan Stewart, interesting comment about RBS:

“this is the largest bank in the world in terms of assets, worth more than the entire GDP of Britain, it returned billions to the UK exchequer every year”

I find this hard to reconcile with your earlier comment:

“Having studied Politics and economics for years I have a better understanding than most of Scotland’s situation and it’s absolutely absurd some of the claims.”

Are you sure you know what you’re writing about? best not to refer to the comments of other users as absurd before revealing your ignorance of an area you claim to understand. Certainly, you’re not an accountant/businessman/analyst/economist  /politician/expert/conscientious student.

If Scotland wanted independence it would return more SNP members to parliament(s) and could get it. Some of the Scottish voices here presume to speak for the entire nation, while this is manifestly not the case.

In any event, Scotland will probably opt for independence at some point in the next twenty years – and will do very well to! English taxpayers will simply be made to redirect their Scottish subsidies via the EU. Don’t worry, you guys will get the cash – minus a couple of billion quid in extra paper shuffling – and can carry on as before.

One of the most important cultural connections between Scotland and England is a belief in our own common sense – unfortunately, this seems to be in terminal decline.

Posted by Steve | Report as abusive

I used to be in favour of the devolution of central government power even down to a regional level… until a very astute great-aunt of mine (who’s sadly since passed away) pointed out the problem:

Posted by Peter H | Report as abusive

Surely independence from England is irrelevant, is a red herring? Brussels makes the laws that matter.

Posted by Michael Grazebrook | Report as abusive

Things change all the time look at the map of the world
countries today were not their 50 years or 100 years ago.
Scotland might get independance and be a great success then again maybe not. All this argument of past woes and current situations is irrelivent this is all about the future. My point maybe one day we will have the republic of Canada and Scotland whatever peoples of different countries and regions want may happen its not a problem
dont worry about it as long as your healthy and happy thats what life is about is’nt it or am I wrong.

From a true Scot ( sorry about showing my colours but silly passions run deep)

Posted by peter mitchell | Report as abusive

There is a groundswell on the streets folks moving towards independence in Scotland.
remember the 1st bank to go down was English (northern rock)!.most of the oil lies north of 55th parallel(scotland),So we english must ask ourselves WHY does london seem hell bent on holding onto Scotland!Is SCOTTISH OIL saving all our necks right now as it did thatchers!.

Posted by Eric | Report as abusive