(Scozia/Gran Bretagna) Scottish Secession from the UK – Divorce with Bedroom Privileges ? (Rafe Mair, Strategic Culture Foundation, 10 febbraio 2013)

10.02.2013 14:32

I must say from the start that there’s a bit of a secessionist in me. If Quebec were to leave Canada I would support British Columbia going its own way. I tell you this because as a Scot by inheritance, I tend to get a bit sentimental at the thought of my «cousins» leaving the UK. The fact is, however, is that Scotland leaving the UK raises problems, which could have far reaching effects.

As Nikita Khrushchev once said, don’t divide the bearskin until you’ve shot the bear… so don’t assume that the Alex Salmond and his Scottish National Party will win the scheduled 2014 referendum, a vote that will split the Highlands and the Lowlands.

Some background is necessary - for 100s of years Scotland was alone. In 1603, upon the death of Elizabeth I of England, James VI of Scotland became King of both countries. In 1707 the new status was formalized and the United Kingdom of England (including Wales, a principality) Scotland and Ireland became the United Kingdom. England and Scotland were the only kingdoms so if Scotland leaves, does this end the United Kingdom in both name and status? 

When in 1688 the Catholic James II was turfed out Highland clans in particular were disturbed, to say the least, at the Stuart line replaced by the foreign William of Orange, even though his co-monarch Mary, as a daughter of James, was a Stuart.) One consequence was the massacre at Glencoe where Clan Campbell, in 1692, loyal to the new line, famously slaughtered the Macdonalds who were tardy in swearing allegiance.

Then there was Bonnie Prince Charlie, a Stuart, claiming the thrones. who invaded England in 1745 and got as far as Derby and might well have reached London had he not lost his nerve. In 1746 at Culloden the Highlanders were beaten in Culloden essentially ending Scotland’s ability to become independent. Scots chafed under the later Hanoverian line and from 1688 on, the tundra fire of Scottish independence was always there and still is.

I see several apparent consequences from Scotland breaking away starting with what will remain afterwards. The economic intertwining of the UK makes it impossible for this non-economist to assess but we do know that Scotland is overrepresented in the UK parliament and receives more money per person than other Britons. Who owns the North Sea oil? If Scotland leaves, can it sustain itself or does she see continued British aid, a sort of divorce with bedroom privileges?

What about the European Union? Does Scotland automatically become a member? Does it have to demonstrate its suitability? What happens to Britain’s weighted vote – is it diminished? If Scotland must apply, why would the EU want another economic basket case – which many experts see Scotland becoming - to deal with?  

Mr. Salmond, with the blind enthusiasm separatists always have in their cause, is sure that the new Scotland will automatically be a member but Jose Manuel Barroso, Spain’s Foreign Minister doesn’t agree saying; «If one part of a country … wants to become an independent state, of course, as an independent state it has to apply to the European membership according to the rules – that is obvious». Entering the EU isn’t easy and many difficult hurdles exist – including switching to the euro – it would be a brave person who would bet on it happening without high odds.

There is another possible consequence of Scotland leaving – the example that would be set elsewhere. While I’m not saying that it will necessarily happen, would separatist movements around the world be encouraged by seeing Scotland become independent?  The UK is scarcely the only country with «captured minorities in their midst.

Premier Marois the separatist premier of Quebec has already met Mr. Salmond and while their communiqué talks about economics and allied stuff, the last paragraph probably indicates what they really discussed – «Both leaders also talked about the political situation in their respective jurisdictions, and agreed that their destinies are a matter for the people of Scotland and Quebec to decide». (Emphasis mine).

The list is by no means all-inclusive but several «trapped» peoples might take heart and much encouragement from an independent Scotland recognized as such by the world community.

Three EU members come quickly to mind – the Catalans and Basques in Spain, Hungarians in Romania and Macedonians within Greece. These causes have not reached a fevered pitch but might well do so with the Scots as the example. In fact this is why Kosovo, to all intents and purposes independent, remains unrecognized. There are other areas, especially «old» Yugoslavia where «captives» of another nation, another religion, or both, remain. 

Greece is an especially vexing questions with a country called Macedonia (to the white hot anger of Greece) and Macedonians in Greece’s northern most province also called Macedonia. It must be remembered that Alexander the Great was a Macedonian, seen by Greeks as Greek, and as an example that ethnicity never dies, is an excellent example.  

We come to the interesting problems in Turkey, still a candidate for EU membership. Armenians who are divided between the Republic of Armenia and Turkey have never lost their intense desire for a country; a second case but perhaps closer on the radar screen is Kurdistan. 

The «national» feelings of locked in minorities run strong even after centuries let alone years. To the extent anything can last forever minority's passion for self rule comes close. 

It is, of course, impossible to know what a secession by Scotland will mean since the new Scotland if the new country is generally recognized by most other countries. I close with a personal anecdote which taught me about ethnicity and how it never dies. 

1992 was the 300th anniversary of the massacre of Macdonalds by Campbells at Glencoe. I was doing a radio piece about this and it was arranged that I would interview the senior Macdonald of that Sept. When I asked him whether or not there was any ill will towards the Campbells he replied «Och, noo … that’s all beheend us noo».

The cairn commemorating the massacre was a block away and Mr. Macdonald walked me to it. Now the memorial ceremony had been in February and we were now in May but there still were some tatty wreaths there. I looked at the wreaths and said to Mr. Macdonald «there’s one here from Clan Campbell, Mr. Macdonald». »The bastards», he growled, «the bastards!» The 300 year old bad feeling wasn’t quite behind him, nor I daresay, Clan Donald as a whole, just yet.

I should add this other personal note – my maternal grandmother, Jane Macdonald born in Nova Scotia Canada maintained throughout her long life that she had never met a Campbell that she liked or trusted and would not have Campbell’s Soup, a very popular brand, in her house.