Thursday, 18 September 2014

A Brief History Of The Union

Today 4 million Scottish voters are expected to turn out at over 2,000 polling stations all over Scotland and vote on whether or not they want to make Scotland an independent country. Whilst we won't know the result until tomorrow, I have decided to do a short blog on the history of the union.

For centuries the two countries existed separately with two crowns. English attempts to invade in the 13th and 14th centuries failed, but in 1603 King James VI of Scotland inherited the English throne after his cousin Elizabeth I died childless, effectively uniting the crowns.

In 1707 the Act of Union was signed by the English and Scottish parliaments, creating the United Kingdom of Great Britain. Thousands of ordinary Scottish people revolted at what they saw as a 'takeover' rather than a 'merger'. The fact that the Act was signed by Scottish nobles who benefited financially from the union only increased hatred for it.

In 1715 the first Jacobite uprising took place. British forces crushed an attempt by Scottish supporters of the exiled House of Stuart to regain the throne. Thirty years later the second Jacobite uprising took place, led by Price Charlie. His army seized Edinburgh but was defeated at the Battle of Culloden. The Jacobites were rounded up, imprisoned or executed. Shortly after, the wearing of the kilt was banned.

The 1760s saw some of the most influential figures of the Enlightenment emerge such as Adam Smith, David Hume and James Hutton.

In 1885 a Scottish secretary was established after Scottish MPs lobbied for one to prime minister William Gladstone. In 1886 the Scottish Home Rule Association was formed. In 1900 the Young Scots Society, a Liberal group committed to Scottish home rule was created, and by 1914 they had 10,000 members and 50 branches. A Home Rule Bill introduced in 1913 by William Cowan was stymied by WWI.

In 1934 the Scottish National Party was formed in Glasgow, winning its first seat in the House of Commons in 1945, before losing it three months later. In 1967 SNP win their next seat in the House of Commons in a Hamilton by-election.

In 1973 the Kilbrandon Commission recommended devolved assemblies for Scotland and Wales after a four-year inquiry. In 1979 a referendum on Scottish devolution ended with a 'no' vote as it failed to reach the 40% threshold needed. In 1999 elections were held for the first 129-member Scottish Parliament; Labour won 56 seats and the SNP 35 seats. In 2004 the new Scottish Parliament was opened by the Queen in Holyrood, costing £400 million.

In 2011 the SNP, led by Alex Salmond, won a majority in the Scottish elections. Salmond promised a referendum on Scottish independence, after the subject of independence was brought to the surface in 2007 by the Scottish government with hundreds of meetings between the public and ministers.

 In October 2012 Salmond and Cameron signed the Edinburgh Agreement, paving the way for a Scottish independence referendum. In November 2013 the Scottish government began its campaigning by publishing the paper 'Scotland's Future', making the case for independence. Salmond also changed the law to allow everyone over the aged of 16, rather than 18, to vote.

In August 2014 Salmond and Alistair Darling (leader of the Better Together campaign), debated on television, clashing over oil revenues, currency and the future of nuclear weapons. A poll suggested Salmond got 71% versus Darling's 29%. Today is the day of the referendum, and if there is a yes vote, March 24 2016 is suggested as being the date for Scottish independence.