Sunday 23 March 2003

The British crown's 400th birthday

Did you know that the 400th anniversary of the Union of the English and Scottish crowns falls this week? Scotland on Sunday carries a very interesting article by Gerry Hassan that discusses the subsequent parliamentary Union and its future. He maintains that both defenders and opponents of the Union have failed to promote their cases adequately:
The Union has not been aided by its friends. First, we had the Thatcherite defence of an intransigent, inflexible Union, which went against the wishes of a majority of Scots. This discredited the term "unionism" to a generation of Scots. Second, we have seen Labour in power in Westminster and Holyrood continue some of this, emphasising that the Union saves Scotland from the horrors of governing itself, because we lack the confidence, talent and finance to make a good fist of things ourselves.
As for the Union's opponents:
The tenor of the debate has also not been aided by critics of the Union. An appropriate understanding of the Union has not been aided by the fundamentalist Nationalist case that the source of Scotland’s problems lies in the Union with England, and it is this which keeps us subservient and lacking freedom.
Hassan goes on to suggest "ground rules" for the ongoing debate. Briefly, they are:

1. Accept that Scotland could certainly be a successful independent country.
2. Acknowledge that Scotland is "not held down by a Unionist conspiracy".
3. Recognise the perspectives and traditions of others.
4.Understand that the rest of the present UK (and that means England in particular) will always be important to Scotland, politically and culturally, whatever the eventual constitutional outcome.

These ground rules seem to be exactly what the ongoing debate in Scotland needs.