An Act of Self-Interest


The Act of Union – a law allowing nobility to profit over the masses. So, what’s new?

The tenets the 1707 Act of Union are as plain as the nose on your face – admittedly part of your anatomy difficult to see from where your eyes sit, unless viewed in a mirror. The Act states unequivocally…..

“Two Nations”

It does not state in any manner or form two nations shall become one, lose their separate identity, indistinguishable one from another. It identifies two nations from start to finish. There is no statement to the effect Scotland will become part of England, or vice versa.

Two. There’s nothing in the Act about one nation taking second place, the poorer relation, having no place in world affairs. Nor does the Act contain caveats that one nation shall control all power over the other. It makes clear the two sovereign nations shall remain as before in everything but trade, banking, and the rights of peers.

The gross inequality Scotland suffers in most things grew out of decisions made by Westminster that Scotland could not resist have too few MPs to swing votes – a stitch up.

Equal and Sovereign

The discussions leading to the Act state clearly that “both nations shall be equal and sovereign”. Hypocritical, power hungry unionist politicians have ever since corrupted the phrase to mean “equal partners” as if they meant it. We have the record to study: the brutally honest, self-interested remark of one English member of parliament the day after the signing: “Good. We have Scotland on the wrack now.” The Speaker joined in the chorus, “We have catch’d Scotland and will bind her fast.” He was right, up to a point.

I am reminded of this as we pass another anniversary of Scotland’s plebiscite to secure genuine democratic representation, to address the glaring, unjust imbalance in power, a movement demanding sound constitutional change in favour of the people, not an elite.

September 18th, 2014, is what I refer to in my darkest moments as Epic Fail Day.


Signatures to the Articles of Union 1707

If you twist my arm I’m sure to say yes

Let no one try to convince you that Scotland sold itself willingly. The population weeping in the streets is well recorded by observers of the day, and by artists since. There were riots in Edinburgh, celebrations in England.

Though Scotland had no debt – debts were piled onto Scotland by England from 1707 – Scotland was vulnerable. It had a population about one-eighth the size of England, the equivalent of Switzerland, and after the massacre at Culloden, no army one could talk of as a resistance force. It had foot soldiers and men on horseback dispersed around the countryside without leadership or the will to come together.

Scotland’s urge is outward – until now

Voluntary migration was underway, but the infamous Highland and Lowland Clearances had not begun, a black episode in our nation’s history akin to genocide by forced emigration.

It was a time of English legal ingenuity that contrived successive laws to strip clan chiefs of territorial power, and turn them into renting landlords. British nationalists claim some did so willingly, but then who would not consider that a compensation when denuded of power, influence and wealth?

A lot of Scotland’s population still lived in our highland glens. Back then we still had large tracts of land where arable farming could support a decent existence, the grassy slopes of more mountainous areas left to cattle farming.

Records show about half of Scotland’s population lived north of the River Tay, not as now, where the Clearances caused the vast majority to live one on top of the other in the central belt, crowded into sub-standard tenements.

The typical Scot was a country dweller, our national poet, Robert Burns, the perfect example. One estimate suggests that in 1700 only five per cent of the population lived in towns. You only need read of the history of our nation to see how Scotland lagged behind more urbanized societies such as those in England, France or even Spain, and was on a par with the Scandinavian countries of the kind we are fond of using as examples to follow for a modern small state.

People forget how much the Scottish population lived off the land, an agrarian society, including east coast fishing communities. The times were ripe for a take-over.

A crime perpetrated on a nation

We are forever reminded that ‘Scotland bankrupt’ was the outcome of the disastrous Darien adventure. This is a fabrication. The scheme was designed to establish an international trading post for Scotland, constructively thwarted in previous years by Westminster conspiracy to block our trading routes and retain them for England. English centres of power warned banks and individuals against investing in the scheme.

The Darien Scheme is the first line of ridicule by ignorant British nationalists and the media. There were three attempts to prop up the colony. Bankruptcy has no basis in historical record. After 1707 England raised our taxes to pay for the loan – it wasn’t a freebie, it wasn’t a grant for “subsidy junkies” – it was a tax guaranteeing the English Treasury would regain what it offered, and with huge interest.

Even so, we only got half the loan, the other half offered in worthless company debentures – England still at war with France was the nation near bankruptcy! We paid for the loan in onerous taxation – a sure fire way of keeping a population indebted and meek. You could argue we paid for the sale of our own country.


An evicted family, Lochmaddy, 1895. The Clearances continued until 1958, some say longer

Unionism tried and failed

Besides the need to refill their empty bank accounts, two things swayed the Scottish nobility to negotiate and sign the Act of Union.

The notion of a Union was not an alien idea. We were in a union of sorts when  Cromwell swept north of the border, putting resistance to the sword, (over 2,000 in Dundee) and swathes of Scotland under English placemen, a practice existing to this day. Our English cousins are apt to overlook that little skirmish in our history, telling us we never had it as bad as Ireland.

The origin of Cromwell’s appearance lay in the Regal Union of 1603 when James VI of Scotland succeeded Elizabeth I to the crowns of England and Ireland. James was eager to go all the way, and in 1604 commissioners from England and Scotland discussed a union of parliaments and a scheme of common citizenship. Anybody who wants to study that period will be surprised by similarities with Alex Salmond’s vision for an autonomous Scotland, one conjoined with England’s Crown and its trade, one without borders.

Despite James’s keen support, the idea foundered. Scottish nobility feared a loss of influence in a London parliament, while English were concerned that the Scots would be favoured in the new arrangement by the presence of a Scottish king and master. There’s little difference between that attitude and today’s English votes for English laws.


A Highland battalion – Scots are good at dying for other people’s countries

Westminster rule sucks, okay?

It might seem odd to us in this age that there existed a time when rule from Westminster was considered practically, bureaucratically, and politically, impossible to institute.

Professor Tom Devine puts it succinctly in his history of Scotland: “The difficulties of ruling Scotland from Westminster soon became apparent in the latter stages of James VI’s reign – a Union was enforced between 1652 and 1660 by Oliver Cromwell, but at the Restoration of 1660 and the return of Charles II it was dissolved, to the relief of the majority in both countries.”

The second weakness for Scotland lay in its harvest. We depended on a good crop. A bad harvest meant buying food from others, hence the need to find new avenues of trade and barter. The Damien Scheme was an attempt to alleviate that predicament. To some a union seemed an okay proposition for trade.

It didn’t help matters that several landed estates were devoted to producing substantial quantities of grain for export, not for internal consumption. Scotland could easily feed itself, but our economy was not organised to do that.

An alien Act

There is one other  aspect of our history worth remembering when asking why  Scotland submitted to English rule. On 5 February 1705 the House of Commons in London passed legislation which would alter the landscape of relations between Scotland and England. The Alien Act recommended to Queen Anne that commissioners be appointed to negotiate for union between England and Scotland and, if the Scots did not comply and if discussions were not advanced by Christmas Day 1705, severe penalties would be imposed. [My emphasis.]

All Scots, except those living in England, were to be treated as aliens – no different from today’s spiteful threat Scots will be ‘foreigners’ if independent. And so it was with our exports back in the day, they would be blocked. Blackmail with menace often works.  We heard that familiar refrain when Chancellor George Osborne said “Leave the United Kingdom and you leave the pound”.

Those days are gone.

If anything came out of the national debate over self-governance regained, it was the truth that an autonomous Scotland can be self-sustaining, given that it retains links with other nations. Small nations prosper, none screaming independence is a bad thing.

Let gatherings of the like-minded celebrate freedoms to be won, freedoms to come, and dignity regained, not commiserate about lost opportunities.

Are we we’re so craven, so fearful of tomorrow, we feel governance of our country is not worth fighting for regardless of who suffers from our inertia?


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88 Responses to An Act of Self-Interest

  1. Grouse Beater says:

    I use to crowd pages with coloured stickers, and still do for books I am quoting from. But I’ve too much respect for good books, the ones I keep, to mark them, and indeed, I regard the ones behind me (as I type) my entire wealth in all sorts of ways. But thank you for the practical advice … and welcome to my lowly essays.

  2. Marconatrix says:

    “The Scottish parliament … is hereby reconvened.” It did not talk of ‘reinstatement’, or established as a new institution.
    Is it not very significant that those words, which are on record and should be very familiar by now, were allowed to pass without comment, qualification or denial by the UK government?

  3. Tricx says:

    Hi , I really enjoy reading your blog , I’ve learned a bit . Can you direct me to the text in the act of the union that states both countries are equal and sovereign . I can’t find it anywhere , it would be a great help .

  4. Grouse Beater says:

    It’s in the coming together of the two sides to compose the Act.

    The Scottish nobles understood from the start that numerical numbers in London’s parliament precluded the two countries from creating a balanced union, but it was put to them in a benign way, that England would be “primus inter pares” first among equals.

    Then again, that did not trouble them much for they were not joining their mortal enemies to help spread democracy throughout Scotland – the same enemies who had by threat and laws constructively engineered their financial situation.

    They were replenishing their coffers after investing in the Darien Scheme, an adventure that was spread over many years and voyages. (It is usually portrayed as a one-off voyage and disaster. It took years before it fell apart. Incidentally, and significantly, large quantities of gold have been discovered in Darien this century.) The nobles hoped to extending their power base and influence. That brought with it elevation and bribery to encourage support for England’s interests before Scotland’s needs.

    I am in the middle of a major project, and that together with my shaky Latin, has me calling in an eminent ‘Yes’ historian to give us context, an authority on the subject with greater veracity than I have. Be patient. When he does respond I’ll visit the National Library to get the detail.

    Oddly enough, I am not the first to write about the ‘sovereign and equal’ handshake. Unionists have quoted it too, some bemoaning the outcome as the source of our grievances rather than gloating over a Scotland in handcuffs.

    Incidentally, I prefer to allow access to contributors whose real e-mail address sits behind their internet moniker. False travellers have turned out to be snipers well armed.

  5. Tricx says:

    Thanks fot that . It is my real email address promise . After the Yahoo fiasco it pays to be careful. I left a link to a blog over on the comments on Wings , I think it might be of interest . Thanks for letting me post .

  6. Grouse Beater says:

    You’re welcome.

  7. What I find invaluable is your knowledge in such matters. Despite being involved in the campaign for Scottish Independence for many years, it continues to amaze me just how little I know about Scottish history. Over the last few years, in between canvassing and leafleting.

    I have tried to read as many independence-minded websites as possible, and the wealth of information imparted by these commentators is to me, astounding. Yours is one of those, so please keep writing as the more facts we are aware of, increases our chances of convincing the electorate the only way forward for, especially future generations, is a fully independent Scotland.

  8. Grouse Beater says:

    Thank you. My motivation to acquire knowledge is no different from you. There are gaps in it I must fill, and each day brings another reminder to do my homework!

  9. Macart says:

    A fine piece of work.

    That’s a keeper Grouse. 🙂

  10. TheItalianJob says:

    Great historical piece of research and writing GB.
    You educate us and inspire us all so much by your skilled writings and knowledge.
    I salute you sir.
    Keep up the good work.

  11. Grouse Beater says:

    Oh, too much!

    I came to some understanding through the cinema. I’ll explain. My knowledge – by no means detailed – is a collection over years of research for projects. I try to make sense of why we’re such an admired country yet in thrall to the nation that has governs us so badly, sometimes with extreme prejudice. My first cherished history books belong to Canadian historian and Scotiaphile, John Prebble, the man who wrote the screenplay for … ‘Zulu’.

  12. Grouse Beater says:

    Trust you’re well and fighting fit, Macart! (I always look out for your posts.) I’m hoping Brexit gets us a second Referendum for its consequences for Scotland are dire. But I’m just as convinced we have to look again at who votes, if not born or living permanently in Scotland. Relying on incomers being scunnered by Westminster’s antics is too passive.

  13. Macart says:

    I’m keeping fine Grouse. I haven’t been posting or commenting as much these days, but still read a good spread of opinion on our new media daily.

    On a second indyref or its timing: Its all going to come down to the brexit deal. The softer the brexit, the longer the wait for a definitive answer as more avenues are explored and more people require convincing. Of course the opposite is true of a hard brexit scenario. I’d hazard that a hard Brexit, coupled with Hammond’s fiscal reset will speed legislation along a bit and make indyref2 almost certain.

    The dates and timescales theorised by Mr Salmond and Wings recently would seem pretty credible in those circustances. The long and the short of it though, is that I can’t see any other way of the issue being settled. Two referendums, held back to back, with results which are constitutionally incompatible. There is no cake and eat it scenario here for fence sitting. A choice has to be made and in a popular sovereignty that means only one thing. Back to the ballot.

    On the voting franchise: I can’t honestly see the SG doing other than follow the precedent set of residency and presence on the electoral roll. How and ever, there may be something in the nature of any second referendum which makes our diverse 21st century population work in favour of independence this time round. Last census I read (going back a year or two, so memory may be a little shaky), there was something like 130k+ of residents claiming continental Europe as their point of origination or were immediate 1st/2nd gen descent from i.e. children, grandchildren of …

    They were made some hefty promises and assurances regarding their links with Europe and the EU two years ago. I’m guessing that they are watching current events unfold very closely indeed.

    Worth thinking about.

  14. Grouse Beater says:

    Aye, many a an empty promise spoken as if hand on heart, the result worth thinking about. And you’ve posted a thoughtful repose, Macart, the sort of reasoned contribution that provides confidence to others.

  15. Kangaroo says:

    “I try to make sense of why we’re such an admired country”.

    Easy answer – because we are very highly educated, both academic and trades, and have a “can do” attitude.

    It never ceases to amaze me how slack people are over here. Even when you want to buy something from them, they never follow up and very few even return phone calls. Its quite bizarre.

    Encouragingly, per capita GDP in Scotland is only sIghtly smaller than Australia, and I can assure you we live really well here.

  16. Grouse Beater says:

    Your comments are much appreciated, Kangaroo, especially the last. Welcome.

  17. Lisa says:

    Excellent comment thank you

  18. Grouse Beater says:

    Thank you. 🙂

  19. An education indeed.. enlightening, a revelation and certainly was never taught in school. Well written without the flowery distractions. Thank you.

  20. andygm1 says:

    Picky I know, but it wasn’t James VI who was rescued by a farmer at Cramond Brig, it was his grandfather, James V, who liked to go wandering about the country dressed as a commoner.

  21. Grouse Beater says:

    Thanks, Andy. Didn’t spot that unwary inference; I’ve added the ‘V’ to avoid confusion.

  22. Grouse Beater says:

    There’s no doubting how much Scotland benefitted from the Union in terms of its commerce; it established countless companies overseas out of it, but it’s really in the last 150 years that we have seen creeping colonialism gradually erode Scotland’s capabilities, and suppress its ambitions by the simple tactic of controlling what money we have to spend, and how we spend it.

    The question heard a lot is, “If we are allegedly so poor as unionists claim we are, why does England hold onto us?” And the answer is, because without Scotland, England would be a very small country indeed.

  23. Economy=pyramid scheme says:

    Enthralled and captivated, I closed my eyes at a point and tried to imagine that fragile life the ordinary people were going through, while these two forces were battling for supremacy on the world stage at the same time undermining they’re right to exist.

  24. Pingback: An Act of Self-Interest – Ewen A. Morrison ~ ewenart

  25. tashaposts says:

    I like the message of your article, but I’m wondering why you felt it necessary or acceptable to refer to Osborne as “effete”. The context suggests that you regard being “effete” as a reason to look down on someone. Do you really feel that way? Is a person’s possible sexual orientation a source of concern to you or a reason to despise them? I would sincerely hope not.

  26. Grouse Beater says:

    “Effete” as in affected, foppish, and ultimately ineffectual.

  27. Tarisgal says:

    Your article (and all the comments made) have really been interesting to read, thank you!

    I grew up in Canada (though Scots born) and while British history was on the school curriculum. It had a distinctive English ‘bent’ to it and the Darien Scheme never mentioned!

    I have heard of it since those childhood days, though I haven’t gone into it deeply enough, so this post was an intriguing reminder that I should go check it out! Also – I am not as au fait with the Act of Union in a way I’d really like to be. So again kudos to you for piquing my interest, and I will start doing more research on this subject (when my expected Canadian visitors wend their way home in a couple of weeks)…

    One paragraph in particular you wrote, really struck a cord with me:

    “If you look at it from the English point of view the only thing England has accepted under the Act is Scottish-born prime ministers, and even then grudgingly. The rest is creeping integration.”

    I did a Uni paper on ‘Aboriginal peoples: Integration vs Assimilation… and in retrospect, I see now I could have been writing on the Scottish situation…

    On reading your comment re ‘creeping integration’, it reminded me of my research and how devastating integration is when the ‘comprehensive entity’ doesn’t want ‘assimilation’. England didn’t want us – just wanted what we could give them our natural wealth, ie land, etc… and still doesn’t want us. Just our oil, our revenue etc… Thus it has always been – and always will be, wanting us for whatever ‘riches’ comes Scotland’s way.

    Following yours and other very knowledgeable Scottish bloggers, I am discovering so much more about my country’s history than I previously never knew. And while I’ve always known through living in various countries that Scots are highly regarded, it’s always been a wonder to myself and others how we came to be part of this totally unequal relationship with England.

    I did, of course, know about the Act of Union, but not the specifics. I’m sure a lot of people in the same position as myself will be glad of the details of how we came to be in this unenviable position!

    However, I’m hoping that that position will be rectified in the not too distant future! Hopefully others that are currently swaying about the way to go in IndyRef2 will understand why Scots once again wish self-determination.

    Making choices for our own people just doesn’t seem too much to understand…

  28. Grouse Beater says:

    There must be many others like you who know the gist of signpost history, not the detail. Scotland’s adversaries of our full democracy stop short at the myth!

    (PS: You’re essay has no errors of the kind you signify.)

  29. Great read.

    I’m curious about one thing. When I went to school, 1954-1963 Scottish history was taught, Scottish songs were sung. I lived in Aberdeen, was it the same all over Scotland and more importantly when did they stop teaching Scottish history?
    I suspect it might coincide with the discovery of oil but that’s only a guess.

  30. Grouse Beater says:

    Hello Al
    It all depends on the school one attended. Some were well steeped in Scottish history, teaching place, time, context, and key players, others reduced it to a few basics, Bannockburn, Mary Queen of Scots, Fleming discovering penicillin, and reading Burns poetry only one week before the annual Burn’s competition, ignored the rest of the year.

    You might have a point about the advent of oil; you’d assume decades of creeping integration accelerated at that time, but that might be a perception rather than the reality. The remarkable thing is how tenacious Scots are at holding tight to identity, for over 300 years in the face of determined Anglicisation aided by too many Scots.

  31. Thank you once again Amy for educating this,”genetic Scotts man”, from America.

    How well put and organized you write. I particularly was impressed with the manner the Act of Union was written. The heading told me everything I needed to know focusing on maintaining the privileges​ of the Lord’s and excluding the working. Fuck the Lord’s and lady’s and other ass holes.

    I knew of the Union but hadn’t read it; what a gigantic blackmail. “The only answer ” Independence” and when free no hereditary titles. All men are created equal.

  32. Brian Powell says:

    The thing I don’t understand is why people didn’t rise up and remove those Lords who sold them out? I understand there was rioting but it didn’t extend to getting those Lords and doing a ‘French Revolution’ on them.

  33. Grouse Beater says:

    Rex: You’re welcome. I write to understand it myself, taking care onlookers can follow my line of thought. I’ve no wish to be another ‘opinionated columnist’, merely to see what it is in human nature that denies rights to one person, and not to another.

  34. Grouse Beater says:

    Brian: People were pretty well knocked around by famine, scattered over the countryside and Highlands, and had no right to question those lording over them, including the church. They could riot – some did – they could protest, many did, but the power to change things wasn’t in their hands. We were given that moment on September 18th, 2014, and flunked it.

    Those people back then would have been appalled told, generations down the ages, Scotland would not take back control of its own affairs.

  35. Nan Smith says:

    I have come late to this post and will be sending it far and wide. This should be essential reading by everyone who lives here. I find that Scots in general are ignorant of their history and this needs to be addressed. Just how we do this though I’m not sure. With a media run by the establishment, our voice cannot be heard. Please keep up the excellent work.

  36. Grouse Beater says:

    You bet I will. A please circulate to all you can. Thank you.

  37. I also read that England didn’t want the Union, and they only way they could sell it to the people was to tell them ” Think on it like a marriage England will be the husband and Scotland the wife”. Remembering the rights that a wife had at those times.

  38. Grouse Beater says:

    Hi Casper

    Correct – my research for the ‘Glencoe’ screenplay showed no real compulsion to acquire Scotland as a territory – it was spoken of more often as a nation to be kept at bay. Not heard of the husband-wife analogy by its sounds very plausible.

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