by Ian Hamilton
It’s disappointing, but to be expected, that the RUK (Remaining United Kingdom) should express their opposition by trying to frighten us. They have more to lose. They lose Scotland for a start. Their position as a perceived world power will go with us. (It has gone already but they haven’t noticed.)
Let anyone who thinks the UK will last for ever, or even for another generation, go to the British Museum. There they can see the statue of Rameses II. The Greeks called him Ozymandias and some called him ‘King of Kings’. He is a useful totem for the RUK’s present bout of national hubris. No nation lives for ever. There is a space beside Ozymandias in the British Museum for the United Kingdom and for England too.
That the UK will pass away is certain. All that remains is to decide when. The break-up started in 1922 when Ireland seceded. Let us hope that Scotland can do so without bloodshed. We have managed fine so far and the process goes bonnily on.
The union had an odd origin. It started with the failure of the Tudor dynasty in England. James VI of Scotland became the first Stuart king of England and we had an executive in London with ill-defined powers. A dynastic union is no basis for a lasting union.
By 1707 Scotland found itself poor of soil and crippled with debt. A political union made commercial sense. It opened England’s expanding free trade area to us and we took immediate advantage. Major Campbell who led the disastrous Darien scheme flitted to the Caribbean, where he made the first of many fortunes from sugar and slaves. Many more were to follow him. Glasgow’s Merchant City became rich. Glasgow made the Clyde and the Clyde made Glasgow. This could never have happened had we not had access to the further reaches of the empire for trade and exploitation. It is not fashionable nowadays to claim membership of an exploiting empire. But that is what we were. Without the union we would have been a poor dreich place.
Now look at us. The dynastic union is of only token importance. We can take the Windsors with us or leave them behind. First we must ask ourselves what the union has to offer us today. The immense free trade area the union opened to us is gone. Our great free trade area is now Europe and through Europe to the world. To leave Europe would be a disaster. Only the little Englanders want to leave. Even the Japanese are aghast. They assemble their cars here and sell them throughout Europe. If the UK should secede then that market will be closed to them. We Scots are European both economically and spiritually. It is not by chance that Nigel Farage can lay hold of not a single seat of any democratic kind in Scotland.
As an old man I read a lot. I am presently reading ‘Vanished Kingdoms’ by the distinguished historian Professor Norman Davies. (It is to him I’m indebted for the information that Shelley’s ‘King of Kings’ is in the British Museum.) Professor Davies is in no doubt about the fissiparous state of the present United Kingdom. I hope I interpret him correctly when I say that he sees few ties to hold Scotland and England together.
This is what makes the torrent of fear all the more regrettable. No life lives forever. England will be the loser when we go. Unlike Ireland we hold no hatred for England. We would be better together if we were to meet and negotiate our divorce. Whatever the unionists say, separation is going to happen. It may take two bites as devolution took two bites. But happen it will and we do not want to leave a ruined England behind us when we go.
(This piece first appeared in the Scottish Review, the bi-weekly on-line free magazine with a circulation rivalling the broadsheets.)