Thursday, 30 July 2015

Scotland’s Road to Referendum 1945 - 2014

This is a timeline of events from the conclusion of World War II in 1945 leading to the 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum held on the 18th of September 2014, to reflect how Scotland got to the stage of holding a referendum on independence from the United Kingdom.

08/05/1945 – Victory Day in Europe following the surrender of Nazi Germany the day before. The British people could not have been more united in the war against Hitler.

The anticlimactic rise of Scottish nationalism 1967 – 1979

02/11/1967 – Winnie Ewing wins the Hamilton seat in a by-election for the SNP, previously considered to be a safe Labour seat. Ewing’s victory brings the SNP and the issue of Scottish independence to national prominence. Upon her victory, Ewing famously remarked, “Stop the world, Scotland wants to get on.”

18/05/1968 – Perth Declaration delivered by Conservative Party leader Ted Heath, who pledges Conservative Party support for Devolution.

15/04/1969 – A Royal Commission on the Constitution eventually led by Lord Kilbrandon is set up in response to Gwynfor Evans’s Plaid Cymru victory in the Carmarthen 1966 by-election and Winnie Ewing’s SNP victory in the 1967 Hamilton by-election. The Commission examines the constitutional arrangements for the home nations in the United Kingdom and recommends devolved assemblies to both Scotland and Wales as opposed to independence or federalism.

19/10/1970 – North Sea oil is discovered, which fuels debate over the economic aspects of Scottish independence.

23/04/1975 – Following the discovery of North Sea oil, the McCrone Report of 1974 concludes that North Sea oil would give an independent Scotland one of the strongest currencies in Europe. The McCrone Report is submitted on this date to the Labour government only for it to be deemed classified until 2005 under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

01/03/1979 – The 1979 Scottish Devolution Referendum proposes a Scottish Assembly with limited powers in the 1978 Scotland Act. “Yes” wins a narrow majority of 51.6% but due to a controversial 40% rule requiring at least 40% of the total electorate voting in favour of the proposal, which is not met on a 63.7% turnout, the proposed Assembly in the 1978 Act is subsequently repealed.

Thatcherism & the revived road to a Scottish Parliament 1979 – 1997

28/03/1979 – A vote of No Confidence against the Labour government of James Callaghan wins by one vote, which leads to the 1979 General Election.

03/05/1979 – 1979 General Election, which sees a victory for Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative Party. The Conservatives remain in power for the next 18 years until Labour’s landslide victory in 1997 and oppose any form of Devolution. Thatcher’s polices over the following decade such as the Poll Tax highlights the existence of a democratic deficit between Scotland and England in the union.

30/03/1989 – The Claim of Right is signed, acknowledging the sovereignty of the Scottish people.

01/04/1989 – Margaret Thatcher’s Poll Tax is introduced in Scotland, a year before England and Wales. It becomes apparent that Scotland is not an equal partner in the Union.

01/05/1997 – The Labour Party led by Tony Blair wins a landslide victory with a pledge to hold a referendum for a Devolved Scottish Parliament. Devolution advocate Secretary of State for Scotland Donald Dewar campaigns for the creation of the Parliament.

11/09/1997 – 1997 Scottish Devolution Referendum. 74.2% of voters answer “Yes” to the first question for the creation of a Scottish Parliament on a 60.4% turnout. 63.4% of voters grant the Parliament tax-varying powers on a second question.

Scottish Devolution & the road to independence 1997 – 2014

12/05/1999 – Opening of the Scottish Parliament. Donald Dewar becomes the first First Minster of the new Parliament.

03/05/2007 – The SNP led by Alex Salmond wins a minority of 47 seats in the 2007 Scottish elections. Salmond becomes First Minster and pledges a referendum on independence. However, due to a minority of seats, the referendum proposal is defeated by unionist parties.

05/05/2011 – The SNP wins a majority of 69 seats in the 2011 Scottish elections, a feat initially considered to be impossible upon the setting up of the Parliament. Alex Salmond continues as First Minster and now has the mandate to deliver a referendum on independence.

15/10/2012 – The Edinburgh Agreement is signed between First Minster Alex Salmond and Prime Minster David Cameron, granting the Scottish Parliament powers to hold the independence referendum.

21/03/2013 – Alex Salmond announces the date of the referendum to be held on the 18th of September 2014.

18/09/2014 – Scotland's referendum on independence is held, which saw 55% of voters reject independence on a usually high turnout of 84.6%.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

A hike in the Scottish Highlands

In September 2014, two long time hiker friends, named Alec and Alistair, decided on the eighteenth to hike along a forest route in the Scottish Highlands. Eventually they had come to a cross road leading to two different routes. Alec wanted to take the road on the left while Alistair wanted to take the road on the right.

Not wanting to split up, the two began arguing over which way to go. Alec wanted to take the road on the left because the scenery described by some familiar Norwegian hikers from their hiking club intrigued his interest. Alistair argued for the road on the right, though you got to see less of the scenery of the countryside, it was the shorter and far less winding of the two routes and thus was the better choice due to this. Alec further argued that precisely because the road on the right was the shorter and less winding of the two routes, it was the more convenient route to take.

Eventually, to settle the matter, the two agreed on a coin toss, with left being heads as Alec was flipping the coin. Much to Alec's dismay, the coin had come up tails. Grudgingly on Alec's part, both friends proceeded with the road on the right but the scenery continued to intrigue him. Being reminded by Alistair that the coin toss was fair as there was an equal chance of either outcome winning, Alistair persisted that because tails won, the choice must be respected.

To the hikers that wanted to take the road on the left, accept that you might not win every coin toss, but the possibility always exists that you may win the next time and finally take the road on the left and experience the scenery of the countryside.

To the hikers that wanted to take the road on the right, you’ve won; the coin toss was for the road on the right. However, the hikers that take the road on the right go that way because it’s the shorter and less winding of the two routes, and therefore the more convenient choice for most. And if the scenery described by others is as beautiful as they claim, then it might just be worth taking the road on the left the next time.