Wednesday 22 June 2011

History Corner: Forced Political Union

At the start of the 18th Century, the Scots were in trouble. A run of bad harvests was bad enough, but it was perhaps the ill- fated Darien scheme that really brought Scotland face to face with its inability to hack it on the world stage. They'd tried to play with the big boys; convinced them- selves they were worthy of a place in the sun ... but it wasn't ever really on. The country was up a gumtree and, individually, the cream of Scottish society had lost huge amounts in the Darien venture.

The stage was set for a bail-out by England, which came at a price, of course. Large sums of cash were forthcoming from south of the border (some of which went straight into the pockets of Scottish negotiators), facilitating the Act of Union and, incidentally, binding Scotland into underwriting a chunk of England's national debt. The Scottish Pound was fixed in relation to the English currency (at the
demeaning rate of 1:20). A single monarchy capped the deal. Political and financial union was thereby completed in return for a short-term infusion of urgently needed £££. The Edinburgh mob rioted, but to no avail: and as Robbie Burns was later to bewail of his countrymen -

"we're bought and sold for English Gold - such a parcel of rogues in a Nation!"

Yes folks, this is how independence is bought and sold. Coming to a Mediterranean nation near you soon; and perhaps to all of us, if we don't tread carefully.

Still, some say the Act of Union was the making of Scotland ... eh, Alex ?



Devil's Kitchen said...

Crucially, of course, the Scottish government promised to underwrite the entire Darien venture.

This ill-fated scheme cost some £400,000—a third of the entire wealth of Scotland at the time.

The Scottish government simply couldn't afford to make good on its financial guarantees.


Mark Wadsworth said...

A third of its entire wealth? Does that mean a third of one year's GDP or a third of everything?

Anonymous said...

The banker who conceived the Darien scheme was William Paterson, a co-founder on the Bank of England.

Seems those south of the border have been shafted too.

Budgie said...

Don't forget the work of Stephen Oppenheimer ( which shows that the population of most of England is genetically the same as Wales, Scotland and Ireland. There is probably less genetic difference between the Scots in general and the English in general than there is between the populations of Norfolk and Lancashire.

Scotnat Salmond uses a typical debating trick: he does not try to prove Scotland is a separate country. He assumes it, and bases his arguments on the supposed "unfairness" which is predicated on this unspoken and unproved assumption. Arguing that Scotland should be a nation is a lot harder than simply assuming it is.

This is all vastly different to the EU, which is an enforced amalgamation of nations with proven and widely recognised distinctiveness in culture, genetic makeup, ethnicity, and language.

Chuck said...

Hard to say Scotland isn't a nation.
Could just as easily say Ireland isn't a nation as it hasn't been independent for nearly as long as Scotland was a kingdom.

Old BE said...

The Act of Union was not perhaps the making of Scotland, but it was certainly a marriage of some considerable convenience for both the English and the Scots. Almost immediately afterwards we became top nation and the rest, of course, is history. Scotland provided many of the "thinkers" who gave us the massive political and financial advantage we enjoyed.

However, like Greece, Scotland is now mainly just a heavily indebted, slow growth holiday destination.