Scotland is mulling independence. Guh?

I didn’t want to further hijack the MPSIMS thread about Americanisms that confuse non-USers, but this posting there reminded me of my puzzlement in reading about the current debate going on in Scotland over a referendum on independence from Great Britain:

Why do England and Wales share one circle in this diagram, but not Scotland, within the larger circle labeled “Great Britain”? Is the link between Wales and England somehow greater? It can’t be the “personal union” thing in the Crown, right, because isn’t the Queen also the titular monarch of both Wales and Scotland as well as England?

I also don’t quite fathom how what I’ve read on the topic so far makes it seem that, well, if the Scots vote for independence on a referendum, then it’s going to be Cheerio old chaps, it’s been a nice 300 years and all that, thanks for the Highland Regiments but sorry about the Clearances, see you on the football field?

I mean, we Americans fought the bloodiest war in our nation’s history over a bunch of states suddenly saying they wanted out and had the paperwork all done. And that was after only fourscore and seven years of shared history. How can Scotland be allowed to just saunter off? What would happen to the armed forces, nuclear arsenals, etc.?

Can any Brits (particularly Scots) chime in?

“Great Britain” was created when Scotland and England/Wales “merged” in 1707. Wales, OTOH, was annexed in 1535, with English law automatically applying to Wales. That annexation didn’t create “Great Britain” because part of “Britain”, namely Scotland, was still independent.

To amplify, Scotland and the combination of England/Wales merged as equals. I believe Scotland and England (including Wales) had shared monarchs in a “personal union” for some time before.

England had previously conquered Wales.

When you drink enough hot spiced alcohol of a winter’s evening, you think of such things.

I think that you’ve drunk enough when you stop.

The various princes of the constituent elements of Wales (Gwynedd, Gwent, Dyfed, Ceredigion, Powys Fadog, and Powys Gwenwynwyn) were either conquered or paid fealty to the Kings of England in the period from the Norman Conquest to the creation of the infant Edward II as “Prince of Wales” at Caernarvon Castle in 1284. While miniscule elements of Welsh law and institutions survived, the realm was essentially brought under English law and institutions.

Scotland, on the other hand, was an independent kingdom up until the union of the kingdoms as the Kingdom of Great Britain under Queen Anne in 1707. For the previous 104 years it had been a separate kingdom ruled by the same King (or Lord Protector) as England. It retains its own system of law (remember “not proven” as a verdict from numerous GQs?), its own institutions, reinstated its own local parliament under devolution a few years back. And, though significantly smaller and poorer than England historically, it has benefitted from the North Sea oil, Clydeside ports, and a few other economic aspects that make it potentially viable as a separate nation. To me it seems a bit absurd to separate them, but Scotland has always been fractious at English dominance of the combined realm.

Bonnie Charlie’s now awa
Safely o’er the friendly main
Many a heart will break in twa
Should ye no come back again

Will ye no come back again?
Will ye no come back again?
Better love ye kinna gie
Will ye no come back again?

Sound the pibroch loud and high
Frae John o’ Groats tae Isle o’ Skye
Let every clan their slogan cry
Rise and follow Charlie

Tha tighin fodham, fodham, fodham
Tha tighin fodham, fodham, fodham
Tha tighin fodham, fodham, fodham
Rise and follow Charlie

See that small devoted band
By dark Loch Shiel they’ve made their stand
And bravely vowed wi’ heart and hand
To rise and Royal Charlie

Tha tighin fodham, fodham, fodham
Tha tighin fodham, fodham, fodham
Tha tighin fodham, fodham, fodham
Rise and follow Charlie
Paging Franz, Duke of Bavaria!
Or maybe, just maybe, Prince Michael of Albany . . .

See this thread.

Absolutely. It’s not inconceivable that independence could occur in the future, through consensual means.

It would have to be a vote throughout the UK for it to work smoothly, and so won’t be happening very soon. But it could happen. And following on from Polycarp, enough institutions and infrastructure already exist for a separate state to be viable. Modern Europe is somewhere in which small states are able to develope strong economies - Ireland and Slovenia, to give just two examples.

Scotland is grossly over represented in Parliament, it also has its own legal system and Parliament which tends to make sensible decisions when compared with those taken in Westminster.

We have the odd situation in which Scottish MPs can vote on things that affect England and Wales, while English MPs cannot vote on Scottish issues.

The population of Scotland is about 5m, which is trivial compared with the UK’s 60m

Scotland tends to do rather well out of the rest of the UK.

Probably quite a lot of the rest of the UK would not give a toss if Scotland decided to be independent - but Labour would not like it as it is one of their strongholds.

The problem is that a lot of Scots have come South, where with the exception of Blair, Brown and a few others, they are very welcome.

Incidentally, according to Simon Schama Edward II was invested as Prince of Wales in Lincoln which is rather a long way away from Wales. Schama considered it rather amusing, and a indication of the toughness of Edward I.

Bear in mind that in 2005, the number of Scottish seats was reduced from 72 to 59. So now 8.5% of the population of the UK are represented by 9.1% of MPs - hardly ‘gross over-representation’.

Thanks - I must have missed that - how interesting.

I’m surprized I missed it - odd.

The concern arises from the fact that this 9% of MPs currently contributes 30% of Cabinet members (and this was over 50% in the past).

From Wikipedia: As of October 2006, seven of the twenty-three Cabinet members are Scottish or were born in Scotland.

This is something that has always baffled me, I would always expect someone to surround themselves with people that they know and trust, rather than people that they don’t know and/or don’t trust.

Lyndon Johnson’s tent micturation advice is sound, but a guy who shun’s (competent) cronies sounds like an idiot to me.

The number of Scots in the Cabinet is partly just a generational thing. MPs first elected when Labour was in opposition and, more especially, before 1992, had a double advantage - they had the chance to build a career at Westminster before Labour came to power and there was less competition then because there were fewer Labour MPs. Of the six most senior members, counting only those who sit in the Commons (Blair, Prescott, Brown, Beckett, Reid and Straw), all were elected before 1992. And three of them are Scottish, or sort of Scottish. Which isn’t really surprising given that, at that point, there was a disproportionate number of Scottish MPs in the parliamentary party. Nor is it that surprising that the other three are from other Labour heartlands. Moreover, of the other four Scots in the Cabinet, two (Jowell* and Darling) were also elected in 1992 or earlier.

*This is one that the Wikipedia article misses.

More recently, the 1997 intake (and later) have, naturally enough, begun to gain places in the Cabinet. But of those nine, only two (Browne and Alexander) are Scottish. That may still be overrepresentation compared to the population as the whole, but rather less obviously so compared to the composition of the parliamentary party. (All this isn’t counting Lord Falconer, but then that is just pure cronyism.)

On the other hand, this sort of argument obviously can’t be used to explain why Thatcher should have had so many Scotsmen in her Cabinets.

Do you have a cite for that?
How about the oil from around the Shetlands?

Discovered in 1977, the Clair field is the largest discovered but undeveloped hydrocarbon resource on the UKCS.

Schiehallion was discovered in 1993…
Total recoverable reserves are estimated at approximately 425 million barrels

(As of October 2006, seven of the twenty-three Cabinet members are Scottish or were born in Scotland.)

Are you suggesting Scottish people can’t be trusted?

Hmmm, I’m not sure you’d have to have a UK wide vote but it’s true that constitutional issues like Scottish independence are reserved to Westminster. So Westminster would have to vote on it.

The most likely sequence of events leading to independence would be a Scottish referendum on the issue (probably brought about if the SNP gain power or enough influence in next years Scottish elections) which a heavy Yes to independence vote. Anything near or close to two-thirds with a high turnout would probably be too much for Westminster to ignore, but expect lots of hand-wringing before that happens.

Of course, the Scots have voted against independence in the past and if they did so again in a new referendum then it’s unlikely anyone will ever get the support to try it again.

The issue of how well off an independent Scotland would be is interesting, and largely depends on how resources are split it, and how you look at all the figures. It’s true that Scotland receives money from the UK purse at the moment, but it also contributes quite a lot of money and other resources. Where exactly the line falls is something I’ve never quite understood as both sides have their own agenda to push.


I heard somewhere that some Scottish separatists wanted to set up Sean Connery as King of Scotland. Is there any truth to that?

I heard it was Mel Gibson

I can’t tell if you’re serious. But in case you are the answer is almost certainly* no.

An independent Scotland would have to decide various things during the transition, whether to respect/include the monarchy etc, etc. It’s deeply unlikely that they’d try to re-establish a Scottish monarchy and there’s the problem that the royals own quite a lot of the land in Scotland already.

There is a chance that Scotland would end up with a system where there was a president as an figure-head and the first minster as head of government. There’s a slim chance, if that came to pass, that Sir Sean would get the presidents job – but it would depend how it was appointed/voted on.

*I have to say almost 'cos there’s a fair amount of bampots around here, and one of them probably did say that at some point. But they were probably joking. Or drunk.

Part of the equation is that an independent would almost automatically be in the European Union. Ireland used to be fairly poor economically, but it’s done well out of EU membership, even with limited natural resources. There’s no reason why Scotland couldn’t do as well as Ireland as an independent member of the EU.