The day before…

Senchus is a blog about history, archaeology and related topics. The content here is apolitical, and politically neutral, especially towards modern politics. This isn’t to deny political history a place here – it’s just that any politics that do appear tend to be pretty old. Anyway, there are more than enough blogs out there which cover the up-to-date stuff.

All of which is an explanation of why I – despite being neither apolitical nor politically neutral – haven’t written much on the topic of Scottish independence. As a non-participant in the referendum, and as someone whose online presence deals solely with old history, I have chosen to stay out of the wider debate. I have, however, followed the situation closely for the past couple of years, especially on social media. My personal opinion doesn’t count towards the result but, for what it’s worth, I hope Scotland regains her independence. I would take a Yes victory as a sign that the current political landscape in Britain can be changed – and by that I mean in England too.

Today, the day before the referendum, I listened to a BBC Radio 4 programme which was broadcast last Saturday. Alex Woolf, an English-born historian who has been based in Scotland for many years, explains why he is voting Yes. Alex is a renowned authority on early Scottish history. His publications are regularly cited here at Senchus and in the bibliographies of my books. Much of what he says in the radio programme resonates with me, not least because we are both Englishmen. A link to the podcast appears at the end of this post.

And finally… Although this blog deals with Scottish themes, only two posts touch on issues relating to the referendum:
Scottish independence and the idea of Britishness (a look at the misuse of terminology)
The Last of the Free (the struggle for independence in ancient Caledonia)

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BBC Radio 4 – iPM, 13 September 2014 – Podcast

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14 comments on “The day before…

  1. diaspora52 says:

    Well said Tim! Scotland would actually be regaining her independence by a ‘Yes’ vote. I so hope so!

    • Tim says:

      Thank you Jeanette. It’s interesting to also note that independence has yet to be willingly surrendered by the people of Scotland. Contrary to what some politicians seem to believe, the Act of Union in 1707 was not the outcome of a democratic process but a self-serving deal negotiated by a small group of aristocrats and landowners.

  2. Dan Elsworth says:

    I listened to the piece and thought the other chap was much more articulate in his expressing his sense of commonality across the UK, something I see Neil Oliver has also written about. Alex talked about people voting No out of a sense of ‘Romantic Nationalism’, but to me a lot of people, including Alex it would seem, seem to be intending to vote Yes out of what might be called a sense of ‘Romantic politics’. The idea that they are doing the right thing, voting for a better future, even though nothing is certain at this stage and they have no idea how it might all turn out or whether the very grand promises can be fulfilled.

    • Tim says:

      Fair point, Dan, but I’m on the side of Romanticism if it’s the only way to change things. I guess it comes down to a question of trust, either trusting the current system to deliver on its promises or trusting the advocates of change to create a better system. Personally, I wouldn’t trust the current system to tie its own shoelaces.

      • Dan Elsworth says:

        I don’t understand that sentiment though – how can you trust a complete unknown that might turn out to be terrible, compared to trusting a known that is rubbish but can also be changed. Romanticism is no way to run a government, and Independence just sounds like giving up and running away. Not only that but changing the system for the whole country is surely a greater goal than just for the betterment of Scotland, but maybe that is too Romantic a notion!

        • Tim says:

          I certainly hope to see a significant shift in the British political climate, even if Scotland votes No. But I fear that the system will instead respond negatively, and that the status quo will become more embedded. Without a Yes victory, there will be no incentive for change.

  3. kevin halloran says:

    I think that anyone who has read my various articles will accept that I have a sympathy for the Scots. However, I have to admit to a great disappointment in them. AS resigned not because he failed but because I suspect that he realised the Scots were not as he perceived them. We south of the border will know that theirs is a patriotism of Murrayfield and Hampden Park but not of the battlefield.

    • Chris Pickles says:

      Maybe the 55% are patriotic Britons – or just see themselves as Scottish Britons, patriotic or not.

      Going back to before the Roman period, there was no particular reason why Britain would have to end up divided between north and south. The current border does not divide former Roman Britannia from the unconquered lands beyond. Nor does it mark the limiy of Anglo Saxon settlement and control.

      It is just an arbitrary line on the map, it doesn’t really need to be there at all.

    • Tim says:

      Kevin – I disagree. Rather than thinking the Scots lost their bottle, I see the 45 percent as evidence that nearly half of them now want independence – a remarkable shift of opinion, when we take the long view. I think the 45 will turn into 55 within ten years. Or sooner, if the Westminster bunch renege on their latest raft of promises.

      Chris – I disagree with you too. The current Anglo-Scottish border arose from historical necessity and, in that sense, is not an arbitrary line. It once marked the boundary between two kingdoms, but it still marks the boundary between two separate legal systems and therefore retains an important function.

      • Chris Pickles says:

        But how many kingdoms do there need to be? There once were dozens, England nominally had the heptarchy, but actually the number was a good deal higher. There were the various cenela of the Scots. Old Man Pict with his seven sons, each of them having a kingdom of his own (allegedly). Various Welsh kingdoms, in the north and in Wales…. how many kingdoms do you need?

        Obviously there was going to be some consolidation, but where would it end? Two kingdoms wasn’t inevitable. Borders could be reduced to three, or two, or one. So why not none?

        • Tim says:

          Removing a border makes sense if it no longer serves a useful purpose. But if the Anglo-Scottish border disappeared, there would be all kinds of legal problems for communities living beside its former line. Even a border that doesn’t demarcate two separate law-codes can still serve a purpose. On an emotional level, it gives people on either side a reason to maintain their separateness from one another – and this can sometimes be a positive thing rather than a negative thing. Imagine, for instance, the economic effect on the Welsh tourism industry if the border with England was erased from the map.

    • dearieme says:

      Good Lord, are you advocating war?

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