Hardy a week passes by without some sad dummy popping up from nowhere and then disappearing again to claim an historical narrative I’ve published has no basis in fact. They arrive locked and loaded. I call those moments, drive by shootings.
Truculence and insolence
The assassination attempts – dismiss, defame, dismay, spread doubt – carry no counter evidence only pomposity. None are historians. Any intelligent reader will perceive my essays are based on intense study of key ages of Scotland’s political progress.
For example, over seven consecutive years for screenplays I researched the Massacre of Glencoe, and the Highland Clearances, hours on end study on hard wooden chairs in Scotland’s National Library, head buried among documents and papers, checking out second-hand book shops, flicking foxed pages and musty diaries, speaking directly to historians, learning about regimental history, all tied together with visits to actual locations where a forlorn rickle of cottage stone wall and wind scarred terraced ground can tell you more than a thousand words.
Work on Glencoe dispelled the commonly held unionist myth it was two clans at war, the MacDonalds versus the Campbells, a claim crafted to give the impression Scotland was nothing more than a band of lawless tribes always at each other’s throats, cattle, and sporrans – extended to imply it took the English to civilise us.
In reality, the massacre was the MacDonald clan and its Septs versus an English regiment headed by a Campbell loyal to the English Crown. The Scots disease isn’t booze, it’s Anglophiles desperately seeking preferment.
Years composing three attempts at a screenplay on the Clearances revealed that prolonged inhuman agony was at heart ethnic cleansing, the new land owners sheep. That motivated a close look at 20th century politics, a mounting collapse of English patience with that rogue nation, Scotland.
James Anderson’s ferocious rebuttal of England’s determination to control Scotland, Essays on Scotland, Imperial and Independent, published in 1705, throws out nearly every argument made by Unionists to banish Scotland’s civil rights and freedoms. It includes the one we will all be foreigners the minute we stop being Brits.
English scorn is as old as castle garderobes and just as acrid to the nostrils. My choosing the essay form to defend the Realm repeats Anderson’s device.
The making of the United Kingdom
England has always needed Scotland more than Scotland needed England. Geographically too close, we were and remain a handy source of materials and men.
The most important consideration in the making of the United Kingdom in 1707 was the standpoint of England. Under William of Orange, England had been consolidated as a global power by the massive build up of the army and the navy to fight the French.
England’s war effort was funded through a national debt, supplied increasingly by taxes on trade rather than land. So even as the United Kingdom was in formation England was in massive debt. Scotland was not.
Scotland has never been bankrupt, managing to exist on the officially blessed theft that is the annual allowance given by the UK Treasury taken from Scotland’s own earnings. The Better Together campaign was predicated almost entirely on the brazen fabrication Scotland is a basket case, economically unable to survive on its own.
England the bankrupt
To boost its coffers England levied huge custom duties on colonial trade. But this trade was constantly undermined by Scottish commercial networks which circumvented the Navigation Acts contrived to protect English domestic and overseas trade. English anger that Scotland was acting as a rogue nation contributed to William’s willingness to sabotage the Darien Venture through which Scotland attempted to establish an entrepôt for the East and West Indies on the Panama Isthmus in the late 1690s.
Again, we heard similar threats during the 2014 independence debate; Scotland will get cut off from trade with England, a threat repeated yet again if we join the European Union. If there is one thing unionists are not, it’s imaginative. They recycle their attacks as one might old rubber tyres.
Financial issues became critical as England embarked upon the War of the Spanish Succession. England’s desire to control Scotland grew ever stronger at odds with justified anxieties it could never keep docile for long a troublesome nation.
Renewal of war with Europe – a familiar situation for England – brought about a major shift in government policy in favour of union. England had insufficient manpower to fight wars, just as it has to this day, nor the ability to sustain manufacturing and expand its empire. The Scots were a ready reservoir. We had ready regiments.
In fact, that is the position England took on discovery of North Sea Oil reserves. England under Thatcher and Blair exploited Scotland’s wealth to the full.
A union not of friendship just trade
The Treaty of Union was not a magnanimous act of altruism in which England rescued an impoverished Scotland – as it has often been portrayed. Certainly the Scottish balance of trade was far from healthy. Imports exceded exports. But the impoverishment of government does not necessarily mean the impoverishment of the country.
The adverse balance was calculated on taxed trade, not on trade conducted. The balance took no account of imported goods re-exported or reprocessed as manufactures for domestic consumption. The balance took no account of the invisible earnings from the thriving Scottish shipping trade from the Baltic to the Caribbean. The financial power of Scottish commercial networks was demonstrated in the first four months of 1707, before the Union became operative. Records tell us Scottish networks exploited fiscal loopholes by investing “£300,000 in brandies, wines, salt and whalebones, (for manufacturing into bodices and stays) which they intended to export to England tax free after 1 May”.
Scotland was a rich nation, and has remained so up and until this day, much to England’s relief in times of financial stress, which have been frequent.
Today, claims of Scotland amassing vast debts under autonomous rule are bunkum. They are based on what England gives Scotland now, and the debts imposed on it that Scotland has to service annually. Unionist economic analysis is spurious, always false, and loaded. Calculations conspire to leave out exports and how better Scotland would spend what it earned, avoiding wars, grossly expensive aircraft carriers, Trident missiles and submarines, and subsidies to English industry.
Mundells to a man
Scots who negotiated control of Scotland to England’s Treasury were as inept as they were mercenary. Their ineptitude was manifested by paltry representation of nobles in the House of Lords, and only 45 MPs in the new parliament. That alone guaranteed that although England had dissolved its parliament it did in effect keep control of Scotland. Reparations for Darien were pathetic, half never paid, and taxes raised for the half paid. The East Indies remained the preserve of English commercial interests.
Just as the Vow under the Smith Commission scaled down, and down again, the powers purportedly offered to Scotland until they were almost meaningless, so was the investment England offered in return for political incorporation. Reparations and investment were met by taxation. Scotland was given debts it did not incur. Scotland was a double loser.
For all intent and purpose the new phony ‘joint’ parliament became, ipso facto, an English parliament. To keep Scots happy there began the introduction of a “British state” a notion concocted to delude Scots that they were part of a powerful unified nationalism.
Almost a winner means you’re a loser
What is little known is how Scotland nearly won back its independence. Disaffection within Scotland towards the one-sided, one-way Treaty was soon holed under the waterline, breached in both the spirit and letter of the Union and by delays in honouring fiscal inducement.
Growing resentment about the running of Scotland led to a concerted effort by Scottish politicians at Westminster to terminate the Treaty, which lost narrowly in the Lords by only …. four proxy votes in 1713.
Four poxy proxy votes have shaped our lives ever since, dear reader. That can’t be democracy as we know it or wish to exercise it.
After 1715 Ireland got in the way. England was forced to look for ways to dominate and subdue Irish dissent. Like imperialist nations before it, England discovered no colonised nation likes affection at the end of a chain.
Here we are in 2018, with over three-hundred years of the Treaty of Union behind us and still the political will of the Scottish people cannot be regarded as settled. The cry to reinstate full political and economic independence grows louder and stronger by the day commensurate with England’s collapse into political chicanery, EU disarray, corruption, endless wars, xenophobia, economic decadence, and sheer stupidity.
After centuries of England’s attempts to pacify Scotland and cheat it of its wealth created by its own people, Scotland now finds itself in the paradoxical position of bringing England to heel – the only way to preserve, protect and defend its liberties.