‘Extra territorium jus dicenti impune non paretur’ or, Here Be Dragons*
For too long, the reporting of Scottish politics has been about personalities and currently, the drama of Salmond vs Sturgeon. With so many myths, misrepresentations and outright fibs being told (only to be corrected later on Twitter), it is a surprise to remember that not once in nearly six hours of testimony did Alex Salmond call for the resignation of the First Minister. It is clearly an inconvenience for reporters – and their editors – that the demand for independence is much wider than the one party that has ruled as a hegemony for 14 years.
Scotland’s story is so little reported that when I’ve had the pleasure of working with Norrie Hunter on Caledon Radio in unpacking the detail of our story, we’ve been able to attract a growing global audience from the Scottish global diaspora to tune in to a digital radio station. Each week, two guys discuss what they’ve learned from their past week’s reading of subjects that were never covered in school.
Scotland’s is a complex story and it’s too often forgotten that ‘Britain’ came about from a union of parliaments. It was never a union of nations. While England and Scotland had both been ruled by the same king since the Act of Settlement (1603), the Scots were trading with the European powers that England was constantly fighting. If it was embarrassing for Stuart kings and their German cousins, trying to maintain order between two nations with a very different view on how to engage with the wider world; it’s even more embarrassing in the 21st century, particularly after Brexit.
If, as someone recently re-engaged with his own nation’s history, I was asked what is the fundamental difference between Scotland and England, why it is that so many Scots refuse even the title of ‘British’ for legal purposes, it is this: for over seven hundred years, people in Scotland have had a very sure understanding of who they are and what they are part of. In England, the monarch is both Sovereign and State, parliament only constituted to rule in the Queen’s name over her subjects. In Scotland, we chose our monarchs, for we alone and together are sovereign. It says as much in The Declaration of Arbroath, written in 1320.
The demand for independence in Scotland is no more than the demand for full, accountable democracy. It is an inconvenience for those who live life as though every day was a photospread in Tatler or a scene from Four Weddings an a Funeral, to be reminded that the United Kingdom is not a democracy. The clue is in the name.
In England, petitions are lodged to try to understand the exact process involved in Queen’s Consent and how it is that someone who has inherited her position by birth alone – not consent – can have comment on legislation due to be debated in The House of Commons. Why the surprise? You live in a constitutional monarchy where, for example, what you assumed was publicly-owned land is referred to as ‘Crown Estate’. When this property is sold into private ownership, as occurs when power companies buy the seabed for the construction of offshore wind turbines, the proceeds of sale are split evenly between the UK Treasury and the Queen. We see this in Scotland and are angered: this is not anyone’s land to sell and use of it should be leased for the benefit of the public purse.
What surprises us, here in Scotland, is that not only is this privilege rarely questioned but it is in many households actively supported. We see the cooing of unquestioning, popular sentiment on Gogglebox and feel nothing but despair when former mining towns in England vote Tory. Where is the sense? When the Queen celebrated her Diamond Jubilee, people were able to apply for licenses for street parties and were encouraged to do so. In England, more than 15,000 licenses were applied for and granted, whereas in Scotland – 8.2% of the UK’s population – applied not for a proportional 1,400 licenses… but just 62.
When commentators wonder at the resilience of the support for Scottish independence in the polls despite the stooshie between factions loyal to the current and former First Ministers, understand this: in Scotland, our minds are made up. We not only know what we do not want and have no desire to continue being restrained by, we also know what we are demanding and will be voting for in May.
(* – he who administers justice outside of his territory is disobeyed with impunity)