Well I don’t know about you, but I’m devastated, devastated I tell you, that Donald Trump isn’t coming to the UK to open the new American embassy after all. He’s cancelled his trip to London because the authorities can’t guarantee that he won’t be met with hostile demonstrations. Though the word “hostile” is probably superfluous there. If Trump won’t visit any country unless the authorities can guarantee he won’t be confronted with hostile demonstrations, that pretty much just leaves Russia.
The cancelled visit is a separate visit from the state visit with the royal coaches and the flummery that Theresa May had offered him during her hand-holding session. There’s no date set for the supposed state visit, because the Speaker of the House of Commons has made it clear that there’s as much chance of him welcoming Trump to the British Parliament as there is of the Turkish Prime Minister welcoming Boris Johnson to recite that, ahem, witty little poem about the Turkish Prime Minister that he wrote for the Spectator. It’s one thing when the hostile demonstrations are organised by Antifa protesters, it’s quite another when they’re organised by the Speaker of the House of Commons and men in tights.
So a lower key visit was proposed instead, a so-called working visit, which meant that there would be slightly less time available for golf courses and what would possibly be the first time in recorded history that an embarrassment with men in tights wasn’t because there were men in tights. But according to Trump, it’s really all Obama’s fault that this visit has been cancelled. He’s not going to London because Obama got a really bad deal on the new embassy and sold the old building for “peanuts”. This was quite an achievement for Obama, because it was under George W Bush that a deal was struck to sell off the old embassy, but then in Trump world Obama is responsible for absolutely everything that Trump doesn’t like, except for the stuff that Hillary Clinton is responsible for. Personally I’ve cancelled my own proposed visit to London too. I’ve just discovered that not everyone who works on Virgin trains is in fact a virgin.
Now Trump is embroiled in yet another row about racism. During a meeting with US politicians to discuss immigration, he reportedly said with reference to migration from Haiti, and certain Latin American and African countries – “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” He then went on to wonder why the US doesn’t concentrate instead on attracting immigration from countries like Norway. Possibly that’s because Norwegians don’t fancy giving up their well paid jobs and their well funded public services to go and pick fruit in California on the minimum wage without healthcare. Just a wee guess there.
Probably our friends the apologists for British nationalism in Scotland would characterise an independent Scotland as one of the shithole countries despised by Trump. They certainly seem to have a very low opinion of Scotland and its potential. They may not be racists like Trump, but what they do have in common with him is a propensity for rewriting history to suit themselves. The latest is an attempt to rewrite the Treaty of Union as though it was the same in intent and purpose as the EU accession process and to claim that the whole point of the Union was so that Scotland could enjoy the benefits of a customs union and single market.
The negotiations between Scotland and England were characterised, as is well known, by bribery. Offering to put pots of gold into the personal bank accounts of those negotiating their country’s membership of the EU isn’t a part of the usual application process. Or perhaps our British nationalist friends know differently. It’s worth pointing out the obvious here. The bribery was entirely one way. It was an English government bribing Scottish (ig)nobles. If the entire purpose of the Union was economic, so that Scotland could become far more prosperous as a result, surely the bribery would have been the other way about. Just a thought.
The Union of 1707 wasn’t about the economy. It was about the strategic and political interests of the English state. England was embroiled in one of its regular wars with France, and wanted to secure its northern frontier. In particular the English establishment wanted to ensure that the Catholic Jacobites wouldn’t get a foothold in Scotland, which could have happened if the Scottish Parliament decided that the Elector of Hanover wasn’t its preferred heir to Queen Anne. Scotland was an independent state, one whose monarch happened also to be the monarch of England, but the English Parliament was acting as though Scotland was a possession of the English crown. It had chosen to offer the crown to the Elector of Hanover, who was a descendant of a daughter of James VI, and Scotland was to be made to agree.
Scotland wasn’t keen on the English choice of monarch and was deeply unhappy that the English Parliament had made a unilateral decision on the choice of the joint monarch. In 1704 the Scottish Parliament passed the Act of Security, which stated that should Queen Anne die without an heir, Scotland would not agree to England’s choice of monarch unless certain conditions were met. The Act asserted Scotland’s right to decide its own monarch and was a statement that Scotland would not accept one unilaterally imposed on it by England.
In retaliation, and in order to force Scotland into compliance, the English Parliament passed the Alien Act in 1705. This Act meant that Scots were to be treated as aliens in England, and this in turn meant that property owned by Scots in England was at risk of confiscation when the property owner died. In addition, the Act placed an embargo on the import of certain Scottish products into England, such as the important trades in cattle, coal, and linen. This affected almost half of Scotland’s trade. This wasn’t England bullying Scotland of course, because it’s anti-English racism to say things like that. The Alien Act was just friendly banter.
The choice facing Scotland was an incorporating union with England, or an economic blockade and the threat of invasion and war. Writing in the book A Union for Empire, Political Thought and the British Union of 1707, the historian Professor John Robertson of Cambridge University writes that during the negotiations the threat of invasion was “drawn to the Scots’ attention at strategic moments by English ministers”. (page 34) This was not an agreement entered into freely by two equal parties for their mutual economic benefit. No country has joined the EU because the EU was threatening to invade and conquer it.
The Alien Act and the threat of invasion were the stick, the carrot was the offer of free trade for Scotland with England’s empire. But that was an offer made on England’s political terms and in England’s economic interests. The price to be paid was the abolition of Scotland’s Parliament and Scotland’s adhesion to an incorporating union in which it would have no veto powers and where its representatives would be a permanent minority. Scotland would have no formal representation within the new state as Scotland, only through its individual MPs. It meant Scotland was now a part of a unitary market over which it effectively had no control. Crucially it meant that Scotland would now lack any formal mechanisms for developing or protecting its own economy.
This is nothing at all like being a member state of the EU. Member states of the EU have representation on EU bodies as nation states, they have veto powers. Some EU states have economies which are considerably larger than others, but no single EU state can dominate the EU single market in the way that the interests of London dominate the UK economy. Each EU state has a voice in the EU single market which is supposed to ensure that no one country in that single market can use the market to enrich itself at the expense of other countries in the single market. Scotland can do nothing to prevent the UK unitary market being used as a tool to ensure that wealth, capital, and skilled labour are sucked into the maws of the south east of England.
It’s hugely ironic that it’s now British nationalists who are having recourse to a romanticised version of ancient history in order to justify their present day constitutional preferences. Isn’t it only independence supporters who are supposed to do that sort of thing? Just like Trump, British nationalists rewrite the past because they’re scared of the future.
The Wee Ginger Dug has got a new domain name, thanks to Indy Poster Boy, Colin Dunn @Zarkwan. http://www.indyposterboy.scot/ You can now access this blog simply by typing www.weegingerdug.scot into the address bar of your browser, the old address continues to function, the new one redirects to the blog. The advantage of the new address is that it’s a lot easier to remember if you want to include a link to the blog in leaflets, posters, or simply to tell a friend about it. Many thanks to Colin.
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