This week Scotland will vote on the matter of its independence. If the yes vote prevails, it will be a moment akin to the Berlin Wall coming down. Not in terms of Scotland’s living conditions. But in terms of history. The Union dates back to the seventeenth century when James VI of Scotland became James I of England and united the two crowns. The fact that four hundred years later the Scots are preparing to vote on the matter suggests the union has not always been a happy one. In fact, some would say it was involuntary. I suggested this to an English friend recently.
‘No, Liz. You’re wrong.’ He said. ‘The Scots were never conquered. They entered into a union of their own accord.’
‘Really?’ I said. What about Culloden? The Battle of Solway Moss. It seems to me they fought pretty hard to stay independant.’
‘That was religion,’ he said. ‘Nothing to do with independence.’
I said: ‘It was the same thing in that era.’
Think Henry the VIII, Bloody Mary, even Good Queen Bess. It was all about religion in those days – religion and inherited power. James I grandfather was killed at Solway Moss. His Catholic mother Mary Queen of Scots made a series of unfortunate marriages and was forced by Protestant rebels to abdicate. She was imprisoned twice, once in Scotland, and once at the behest of her cousin the Protestant Queen of England, who eventually ordered execution. In accordance with the prevailing religious beliefs of the Scottish aristocracy, James was raised a Protestant. When Elizabeth I died without issue, he succeeded her to the English throne, where he ruled by ‘divine right’ with the support of a priveleged minority. The average Scot had no say in the matter.
We don’t do things like that anymore.
That’s what I find so exciting about the Scottish referendum. Not who wins. From my vantage point I can hardly presume to know what is best for Scotland. But, through a lengthy process of devolution, the Scots have brought their nation to this moment. As far as I can tell, there has been little woad wearing, freedom fighting, remember-Culloden type rhetoric. People have been taking about what they want for their nation. Discussing nuclear armaments, Scotland’s role in the Middle East, health care, education, social welfare, the possibility of further devolution. In short, deciding the kind of nation they want to be in the 21st century. Whatever the outcome, that is a victory for democracy. And if Scotland votes yes, a significant moment in history.
Here’s what one little Aussie town has to say about the situation