Indyref – The Background 1

Some tweets had me thinking over whether people understood or ‘got’ the idea of what exactly the Independence Referendum is about.

So from memory and to help my own mind frame this:-

We live on an Island, generally the big one that lies off the European continent. It’s technically an archipelago I suppose, but hey ho, close enough.

The Greeks are supposed to have sailed north and west to find an island called ‘Albion’ and we know the Romans conquered Britannia and had some walls built as Caledonia was a bit of a handful for them.

The island stretching from Thurso and Wick in the north, all the way down to Southampton, Kent or Cornwall is Britain.

The ‘Great’ bit can mean big or it’s a bit of advertising to say better or grander, or is even a way of saying it’s different to Brittany but we can leave that for now.

The other big island is Ireland and there’s The Isle of Wight, Man, Anglesey, Skye and The Hebrides, The Orkneys, The Shetlands..

From all those islands you get that Archipelago, known as (and this gets disputed) ‘The British Isles’ – okay so far. That’s geography.

The Isles are governed mainly be two sovereign countries. Generally they’re called Republic of Ireland and The United Kingdom.

Accurate? Nope.

Quickly on Ireland, it’s official name is, I think the Gaelic Eire, the English language version is Ireland and that in itself is a talking point. You hear people say the republic or Southern Ireland or whatever. In football circles Republic of Ireland is generally used as a description.

Ok, next the United Kingdom or Great Britain. It’s team GB at the Olympics. Sometimes Britain and you’ll hear foreigners get it wrong and say England.

The correct title on the passport is ‘The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland’

So United means joined up, Kingdom means you’re a Subject of Queen Elizabeth. I’ll comeback to those.

Great Britain and Northern Ireland – er okay, that’s England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland?

Yeah sort of, but Remember the United Kingdom bit?

It was joined up between The Kingdom of Scotland and the Kingdom of England back in 1707 with the Acts of Union in the Scottish and English Parliaments.

The Countries had a ruler in common from 1603 when James VI of Scotland inherited and also became King James I of England.

A troubled century followed which included the Civil Wars and a period of Commonwealth and Lord Protectorship of Oliver Cromwell followed the Union of the Crowns and preceded the 1707 Acts of Union.

There had been previous attempts at Union that were unsuccessful and James VI and I was keen to see his two realms united from when he moved his Court to London but he never lived to see his schemes and projects for Union succeed.

The Acts followed a Treaty of Union that was agreed by deputations from both Countries.

The Scottish negotiators were appointed by the Queen at the time and there was some questions at the time as to their motivations and their recompense.

Provisions protected the Church of Scotland and the Courts of Session and a separate Scots Law.

The main thrust of the union was economic and the majority of terms were made on currency,trade and tax.

But, and it’s a big but, the union provided for 40 or so Scottish MP’s and a number of Lords to join the English Members of the House of Commons and House of Lords at Westminster which after Union was renamed parliament of Great Britain.

There was an 1801 Act of Union that added in Ireland after the Irish were cajoled into sending their MP’s to Westminster. A rebellion in 1798 meant that Britain wanted greater control.

The English Kings after they invaded/colonised as Lords of Ireland then became a separate Kingdom but still held personally by the English ruler.

The Southern Irish went their own way and a treaty in 1921 created the Irish Free State, that subsequently became Eire.

Some tidying up to the name of the country and the monarch’s titles got us to United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Obviously the Queen lets Parliament act for her through a number of legal devices like ‘The Crown’ or ‘Her Majesty’s Government’ or whatever other method/device.

Thanks to a raft of Acts in 1998 we have devolved parliaments and governments/administrations in Cardiff, Belfast and Edinburgh with reserved powers remaining with Westminster. England gets legislated for directly by the Westminster parliament (with the unsolved West Lothian question of MP’s from devolved areas able to vote on England only topics)

Independence should dissolve the Union between the kingdoms of Scotland and England (it’s ‘England’ at it’s biggest sense with Wales and Northern Ireland as the other holdings of the English Monarch)

So did the creation of the UK make Scotland and England extinct as countries? It’s a point that’s been argued by academics and historians.

Not quite, the administration of England/Wales and Scotland were different due to the retention of Scots Law under the 1707 Act of Union, some acts of parliament covered the whole UK and some just Great Britain and some just Scotland.

In historical terms, the whole UK generally wasn’t ruled in the same way, generally locally through the old counties and it took the Victorian Era for the Scotland Office and role of Scottish Secretary to be created.

So, that’s part one. Hopefully it’s some help in understanding what might be unravelled.


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