Thursday 26 January 2012

Scotland's (and UK's) future - more consultation

Edinburgh Castle
The Scottish Government has now issued - "A consultation on Scottish proposals for a referendum on independence."    This appears to have been prompted by the earlier UK Government consultation paper -  "Scotland's Constitutional Future."

In the Scottish paper, the question proposed is "Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country?"  Yes / NO.  This question has been criticised as "loaded and biased" - The Telegraph 26th January.    Interestingly, the Scottish paper states that the Scottish Government is "ready to work with the UK Government to agree a clarification of the Scotland Act 1998 that would remove their doubts about the competence of the Scottish Parliament and put the referendum effectively beyond legal challenge by the UK Government or any other party. Its preference is for a Section 30 order, but whichever legislative approach were taken, any change to the definition of the Scottish Parliament's competence would require the consent of the Scottish Parliament as well as the UK Parliament."

The phrase "that would remove their doubts" is suggestive
that Edinburgh still considers that it already has the legal power to hold a referendum on independence.  This point is discussed in the earlier posts on this blog - here and here.  There is little point in perpetuating this particular argument.  Whether one adopts the London or the Edinburgh view, the matter will be put beyond doubt by the section 30 Modification Order which the Scottish Government says it prefers.

A draft Referendum Bill is set out as an appendix to the Scottish document. The Scottish Government will publish the contributions it receives (except where respondents request anonymity) and use them to inform the further development of the Bill before it is debated in the Scottish Parliament during 2013. The referendum will be held in the autumn of 2014.


Robert Bruce
There seems to be something of a Scottish desire (or perhaps obsession) to hold the referendum in 2014 which would be 700 years since the defeat of King Edward II of England at Bannockburn, near Stirling.  The English King - condemned by Churchill as a "perverted weakling" - assembled a large Army and led it into Scotland in June 1314.   Robert Bruce (1274-1329) proved to be a shrewd military tactician.  He chose to fight at a place where his flanks were protected by woods.   On his front, he had round holes ("pottes") dug and covered them with branches and turfs to trap and disable charging cavalry.  He also kept a force of mounted men to break up any attempt at planting archers upon his flank.  His preparations served him well and his victory was utterly decisive.  Edward's reign lasted until 1327 when he was murdered at Berkeley Castle.   Robert Bruce died in 1329 and was interred at Dunfermline Abbey - but his heart is at Melrose Abbey.

Bannockburn ended any possibility of uniting the Crowns of England and Scotland by force of arms.  A peace treaty was made in 1328 - Treaty of Northampton.  The Union of the Crowns was not to come until, after the death of Elizabeth I in 1603, King James VI of Scotland also became King James I of England.  Political union of the Kingdoms of Scotland and England did not come until 1707 with the Act of Union with Scotland 1706.

Tomb of Edward II - Gloucester Cathedral

Responses to the UK Government's Consultation must be submitted by 9th March and the Scottish Consultation by 11th May 2012.

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