Scotland’s second push for self-rule - GulfToday

Scotland’s second push for self-rule


Nicola Sturgeon

The relationship between Scotland and England is historically complex. The Scots despite their long constitutional union with Britain since 1707 never surrendered their strong sense of Scottish identity.

It is not surprising, therefore, that Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon had announced on Tuesday a referendum on the issue, which is to be held on October 23, 2023. And the need for it was explained. In the 2014 referendum, 55 per cent of the Scots wanted to continue with their English connection while 45 per cent did not.

But after Britain’s exit from the European Union, the Scots want to reconsider the issue because they were opposed to Brexit.

So, Sturgeon has strong reasons for seeking a second referendum on the issue of breaking away from England. Independence is the political creed of her Scottish National Party (SNP).

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the Conservative who believes in the lost glory of imperial England, said that the issue was settled once and for all in the 2014 referendum. Sturgeon disagrees. She said, “What I am not willing to do, what I will never do, is allow Scottish democracy to be prisoner of Boris Johnson or any prime minister.”

Perhaps, the move for the referendum would not have been possible without Tony Blair’s radical constitutional reforms, which allowed for devolution that allowed Edinburgh to have its own legislature among other things. Blair had also created a Supreme Court, taking away the juridical powers of the House of Lords.

The relationship of Scotland and England has been one of conflict but also of dynastic connections. When Queen Elizabeth I died without a heir – she was the Virgin Queen – it was James IV, son of the tragic Mary of Scotland, who was a claimant to the English crown, who became James I of England in 1603. And there followed nearly a century of constitutional struggle including a Civil War and the beheading of Charles I, the son of James, before the Stuart era ended with the Glorious Revolution of 1688 when James II who wanted to return England to Catholicism had to exit and the throne given to William and Mary of Orange. And it was in the reign of Anne I that England-Scotland Union of 1707 was established, and which lasted till Blair’s reforms.

It is too early to speculate what the Scots would want to do in 2023, but it looks like that even if Scotland breaks away from Britain, the 96-year-old Queen Elizabeth II will be the constitutional head in Edinburgh as she is in London. It is a case of the goodwill that the nonagenarian queen enjoys in Scotland rather than any sentimental twitch of the Scots for England.

And keeping with the constitutional evolution in Great Britain since 1688, the question of Scottish independence would be decided in a democratic and constitutional manner. Sturgeon spelled it out in clear and emphatic language. She said, “The issue of independence cannot be suppressed. It must be resolved democratically. And that must be through a process that is above reproach and commands confidence.”

The question of Scottish independence is one of strong political and historical beliefs and it is contentious. But it seems that there is commitment to democratic principles and constitutional processes, which is heartening. But this is not a universal sentiment in the British islands. Irish independence in 1921 came at the end of a violent civil war preceded by rancorous political battle, and for many countries fighting British colonialism then, the Irish were an inspiration, especially for leaders of Indian freedom movement.

But Scotland has found a different way to settle its differences with England and of course there is a constitutional tradition in England and Scotland relations, which is missing in England’s ties with Ireland.

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