Our Union with Scotland 300 Years Ago Was the Basis of Greatness for Britain and the Scots. Its Demise Would Be a Disaster

Daily Mail (London), May 2, 2007 | Go to article overview

Our Union with Scotland 300 Years Ago Was the Basis of Greatness for Britain and the Scots. Its Demise Would Be a Disaster


Byline: ANDREW ROBERTS

WHAT A bitter irony.

Yesterday was the 300th anniversary of the Act of the Union of England and Scotland, which created one of the most successful states the world has seen - Great Britain.

Yet, tomorrow, elections in Scotland could lead to the very same union's destruction.

Polls have repeatedly shown that the Scottish National Party - which has promised a referendum on independence - is likely to beat Labour in Scotland.

They have also shown that a majority of Scots and a clear majority of the English favour an independent Scotland.

British ministers are clearly deeply worried about the threat to the United Kingdom - none more so than Gordon Brown, who was telling a Scottish TV station only this week: 'I will fight against a policy that will break up Britain.' Mr Brown is, of course, absolutely right.

It is vital - as I shall explain - that we fight to preserve the Union.

Yet the sad reality is that Mr Brown and his fellow ministers have come round to the importance of the Union far too late in the day.

For it is his own New Labour party - governed by an obsession with multiculturalism, constitutional tinkering, short-term political expediency and an utter disregard for history - that has in a few short years created precisely the conditions for the dissolution of this union.

Any basic understanding of history will show you that the Treaty of Union turned out to be the most successful offensive and defensive alliance in modern history.

It was as a united state after 1707 that England, Scotland and Wales succeeded in building the greatest territorial empire ever - one that fought successfully against the totalitarian threats of Prussian militarism, Hitler's fascism and Soviet communism in turn.

The Great British union has shown that separate nations can work together for three centuries for their mutual advantage and - ultimately - for that of mankind.

The Act of Union in May 1707 ensured that England and Wales, and now Scotland, were to be united with a common monarchy, flag, coinage and Great Seal.

And, for the first time, the united populations were able to achieve things together that individually were way beyond either of their reaches.

With total disregard for the success of this unity over the centuries, New Labour dissolved it with the creation of the Scottish and Welsh assemblies in 1999.

Winifred Ewing, in the opening speech of the Scottish parliament, said: 'The Scottish Parliament which adjourned on March 25 in the year 1707 is hereby reconvened.' With devastating prescience, SNP leader Alex Salmond answered: 'The Scottish Parliament is our passport to independence.' Why did New Labour so miserably fail to predict that the creation of a Scottish parliament would one day recreate the divisions that its abolition in 1707 had ended?

Worse still, why did New Labour allow Scottish MPs the right to vote on legislation in England - on matters such as education, housing, transport and health - which has no effect on their constituents, while disallowing English MPs the same rights in Scotland?

Only such an arrogant - and ignorant - government could have believed that this 'West Lothian question' would be accepted by English voters with equanimity.

The fact that the Edinburgh parliament spends [pounds sterling]30billion a year that it does not raise, but merely receives in a block grant from Westminster, naturally increases resentment south of the border.

With the average Scot receiving [pounds sterling]1,500 more per head than his southern counterpart, the short-term savings to England of independence from Scotland would be obvious - whatever the international courts might say about the ownership of dwindling North Sea oil reserves.

The situation is now so desperate that in January we had the extraordinary sight of a cynical David Cameron - leader of what is still officially known as the Conservative and Unionist party - accusing the Chancellor of trying to ' intimidate' Scotland into staying in the Union and proclaiming that it was only realistic to recognise that many Scots are ' disenchanted' with that union. …

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