A Christian Perspective on the Scottish Independence Referendum.

As I write this the clock is ticking towards the date of the Scottish Independence referendum on 18th September 2014. Much of the campaigning has dwelt on financial matters with each side claiming that people would be financially better off if they voted their way. The political union brought about by the 1707 Act is sometimes likened to a marriage, but how accurate is that analogy? Scripture also states that one should not be unequally yoked. The whole political process that led up to the Union took about 4 years. It took so long because the majority of the Scottish Parliament opposed it initially. The debate ebbed and flowed over those years, but the English would not take no for an answer. Support for the independence cause was not helped when the Duke of Hamilton who led the opposition to the Union was found meeting a Jacobite agent, which made him a marked man. After the Union was rejected in 1705 the English reaction resulted in a Commission being set up to renegotiate the treaty which the Scottish Parliament would accept. There were some concessions, including allowing the Established Church of Scotland to remain Presbyterian and that the Scottish legal system be retained intact. There was also the ‘subsidy’ which was officially compensation for the failure of the Darien scheme but in reality it was seen as a bribe to support the Union. As Burns would later write “Bought and sold for English gold, sic a parcel of rogues in the nation.”
Several decades ago whilst listening to a sermon on the book of Hosea I posed myself the question if Scotland was pictured as a woman what would she be? I saw her as a woman who said no to England’s advances repeatedly but only agreed to say yes out of fear. (English troops were sent to border prior to the final vote, implying a potential invasion of Scotland) That is not a picture of holy matrimony but rather of rape. Though there was nominally free trade between the two countries the customs posts remained open on the English sides of the border with England imposing an import tax on whisky on the grounds it was a ‘colonial’ liquor. Scotland was never intended to be an equal partner in this Union. Free trade only came between the two countries in 1846 the year after the first railway crossed the border. When the railway organised an excursion train to Berwick its passengers were jumped upon by the English customs officials who set about seizing whisky in a heavy-handed manner. The resultant outcry together with the general drift towards liberalisation of trade had its effect. (the Navigation Acts and the Corn Laws were also repealed in that year.
At the time of the Union Scotland was very much poorer than England and over the previous century the gap had widened. In the eighteenth century society judged people by their wealth and property. As such the poorer Scots were second-class citizens. There was no help from central government to redress this matter. Part of England’s increased wealth had come from the growth of the slave trade and the products they slaves produced. Prior to the Union Scotland had been excluded from this trade by the Navigation Acts and the English merchants were not going let their Scottish rivals in if they could help it. But at least by not being involved in the slave trade it was an ‘honest poverty.’ Eventually the tobacco industry became a source of wealth on the Clyde which began to redress some of the wealth deficit. Though the wealth generated has to be mitigated by the negative effects of tobacco usage (lung cancer, etc.) With hindsight, hardly a ringing endorsement for the Union. Similarly, the introduction of sugar refining at Greenock could be argued has fuelled Scotland’s sweet tooth and the increase today in cases of type 2 diabetes.
The fact that Scotland eventually prospered under the Union was as much in spite of the Union than because of the Union. One of the benefits of Presbyterianism was that Scotland had a higher literacy rate than England. Some of the English trading companies later in the 18th century eventually allowed Scots to work as clerks overseas, especially in lands where life expectancy might be short. Some of the those that survived worked themselves into high positions and returned with great wealth. Others used their inventiveness and/or enterprise, such as Henry Bell who built the Comet in 1812 the world’s first practical sea-going steamship. Almost by accident the Clyde became the centre of the shipbuilding industry before central government realised what was happening. The developments were hardly welcomed by the British establishment as when steamships became more reliable and able to stay at sea longer they threatened to make the sailing ships of the Royal Navy redundant.
The First World War disrupted the economy as industry’s priorities changed to meet the war effort. The problems for the economy came after the war when demands changed overnight and Scotland seemed slow to exploit newer sectors of the economy with too many dependent on heavy industry. The seeds of Scottish nationalism were sown but they were very much on the political fringe. Over the decades the fortunes of the Nationalists ebbed and flowed. Even with devolution the SNP seemed to be set to be the permanent opposition until 2007 when they just squeezed in as the largest party. The shock was so great for the Labour Party that they proved an ineffectual opposition. The SNP administration managed to survive a full term in office without any major scandals, which considering they had never been in power before is almost miraculous. In 2011 the SNP managed to do the impossible in getting a majority of seats with an electoral system designed to make this almost impossible. While opinion polls have consistently shown a majority for a No vote it is close enough for the impossible to happen again.
As a Christian I can see reasons why the Lord will allow Scottish Independence. As well as the injustice of how Scotland lost its independence the United Kingdom has done many things which have been wrong. All too often good intentions have been smothered by lobbyists. A couple of years ago the Coalition expressed the intention to introduce minimum pricing for alcohol as the Scottish Government has (Though legal objections are holding this up), but a year later they changed their minds to the disgust of the medical profession. There have been too many instances where political donations lead to titles and peerages over the years. Despite this being officially illegal they always seem to find a way round it. Unionist politicians are always quick to point the finger at Europe but not so quick when it comes to putting their own house in order. Also the promise of a peerage has soothed the conscience of many a backbencher. The whole system stinks to high heaven.
The fact that so many people around the world speak English is both a blessing and a curse. Too many English Christians mistake Anglicisation to Evangelisation. Dismissing the speakers of other native British languages with contempt over the centuries, acting in contrast to the Holy Spirit in Acts Chapter 2 when everybody heard the Gospel in their own language and Revelation where everyone praises God from “every tribe and language.”
I could go on but the referendum will have been and gone before I finish the post.
David Rose, 2014.
Postscript: Well the referendum was lost from my perspective. I shall give my reflections in another post, fortunately I fell short of prophesying a victory. Political developments are happening all the time both north and south of the border.

About davidgrose

I am a Bible believing Christian, brought up in the Brethren Movement, and now find myself associating with charismatics even though I do not always agree with them. I am in full-time employment. I have interests in history and photography amongst others.
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