The Autonomy of Modern Scotland

The Autonomy of Modern Scotland

The Autonomy of Modern Scotland

The Autonomy of Modern Scotland

Synopsis

How much independence can a small country like Scotland have? Lindsay Paterson argues that throughout the last 300 years the nature of Scottish independence has changed frequently. While nationalists have successfully challenged old forms of autonomy, pragmatic unionists have influenced the outcome of these protests, negotiating workable compromises with England and the wider world.

Excerpt

Unionist and nationalist rhetoric in the present debate about Scotland's future share an assumption that Scotland has not been independent since 1707, the moment when the last Scottish parliament voted to give up its sovereignty to the new parliament of Great Britain. The United Kingdom is a unitary state, the nationalists and unionists agree. The decisions that really matter are taken in London, even though they may be modified in minor ways before they have an impact on Scotland. For the unionist, this situation is a blessing: it has saved Scotland from internal division and from weakness in a dangerous international world. For the nationalist, it is a curse, subjecting the nation to economic decay, social dislocation and cultural dependency.

This book questions these assumptions. It starts from a more fundamental observation. Alongside the political debates, and sometimes permeating them, is the belief that Scotland is distinctively ours, to be defended against encroachments from outside. This sense extends right across the spectrum of politics. To take just one illustration more or less at random, here are some examples from the debate in the United Kingdom parliament about a recent controversial piece of legislation, the 1989 proposal to allow schools to leave the control of local education authorities. We find the leaders of both the Scottish Labour and the Scottish National Parties describing the bill as 'alien' to Scottish traditions. Labour MPS denounce it as 'anglicising', and threatening to 'Scotland's heritage' because it will 'destroy . . . what has been built up painstakingly over the past thirty years'. The leader of the Scottish Liberal Party objects that the English majority in the Westminster parliament know little about 'the long traditions of Scottish education'. And a dissident Conservative MP claims that Scotland has had 'a much more universal system of education than the rest of the UK'.

The obvious question for a student who had learnt that the UK Policy . . .

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