Scottish independence

From Academic Kids

Missing image
Walter Thomas Monnington's 1925 painting called Parliamentary Union of England and Scotland 1707 hangs in the Palace of Westminster depicting the official presentation of the law that formed the United Kingdom of Great Britain.

Scottish independence is the name given to a political movement of Scottish people seeking the creation of an independent sovereign state of Scotland, separate from the United Kingdom, leaving only Wales, England, and Northern Ireland, in the union.



The movement includes gradualists who seek to advance Scotland to independence through devolution in a 'step by step' strategy, and fundamentalists wanting to move straight to a separate state. Despite opposition from fundamentalists not wanting to perhaps stick at an intermediate stage, a Scottish Parliament has now been created answering the demand of people for control of Scottish affairs within a United Kingdom context. This has been claimed as a success for the independence movement and nationalists are working to make the parliament a success, but at the same time they want a further constitutional change to a separate state.

The nationalist movement has had supporters with varied political agendas, which has led to ideological tensions. While many have been republican, this has not been an SNP policy. The Scottish National Party has tried to include the various opinions, leaving the arguments aside until achieving the primary aim of independence, but at times this has led to various splinter groups. Proportional representation has led to the election to the Scottish Parliament of smaller parties with various political positions who have independence as a policy; the Scottish Socialist Party in particular has led republican protests to the Oath to the Queen.


The Scottish independence movement draws on a view of Scottish history to call for reinstatement of a separate sovereign state.

The History of Scotland since 1072 included a series of disputes about boundaries, and arguments as to whether the monarch of England was overlord of the Scottish rulers, who were also mostly of Norman ancestry. During the Wars of Scottish Independence (approximately 1290 - 1363) invasions led to periods of English rule, but Scottish independence was regained.

In 1603 James VI of Scotland also became James I of England, but the Union of the Crowns still left the kingdoms separate. Scotland retained its government under the overall title of Great Britain, but the struggle between the countries now became economic.

The Scottish and English Parliaments signed the Act of Union of 1707, both the English and the Scottish Parliaments were dissolved, and all their powers were transferred to a new Parliament in London which then became the United Kingdom Parliament. Certain significant matters including Law and education remained separate from the English system, and the Scottish culture and languages retained some strength. Although there was a new British identity taken up with varying degrees of enthusiasm, (and for a while Scotland was rebranded 'North Britain') the Scottish national identity remained strong.

Jacobitism, originally focussed on the rights of monarchs over parliament, became a vehicle for dissent and was associated with Scottish (and Irish) nationalism. After the Jacobite risings were finally crushed Jacobitism became more associated with the image found in the novels of Walter Scott and was assimilated into the British consciousness.

There is some evidence that some involved in various radical uprisings in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, such as that in 1820 supported independence. In particular, the meaning of one banner 'Scotland free or a desart' [sic] has been debated.

Home Rule

See also the main article: Scottish Assembly.

From the mid 19th century a movement for Home Rule argued for devolution of control over Scottish affairs, but support for independence dwindled until the 1920s. The Home Rule call for a Scottish Assembly was first taken up in 1853 by a body close to the Conservative Party and soon began to receive Liberal Party backing, but it was not an immediate priority, and by the time a Scottish home rule bill was presented to the Westminster Parliament in 1913 its progress was interrupted by the First World War. The early Labour Party shared the Liberal commitment to Home Rule, but in minority coalitions had other priorities and changed this policy at the 1945 general election. By 1974 Labour policy again came round to supporting a Scottish Assembly, subject to a referendum.

Scottish nationalism

See also: History of the Scottish National Party.

The Scots National League formed in 1921 as a body primarily based in London seeking Scottish independence, largely influenced by Sinn Fein. They established the Scots Independent newspaper in 1926 and in 1928 they helped the Glasgow University Scottish Nationalist Association form the National Party of Scotland, aiming at a separate Scottish state. One of the founders was Hugh MacDiarmid, a poet who had begun promoting a Scottish literature, while others had Labour Party links.

They co—operated with the Scottish Party, a home rule organisation formed in 1932 by former members of the Conservative Party, and in 1934 they merged to form the Scottish National Party which at first supported Home Rule, then changed to supporting independence. They suffered a setback in the 1930s when the name of nationalism became associated with the National Socialists in Germany, but gained their first MP in a by—election in 1945 though he lost at the general election three months later. The SNP had a number of election successes in the 1960s, and when North sea oil was found in 1970 were able to counter concerns about economic viability by claiming "it's Scotland's oil".

1970s Revival

In the 1974 United Kingdom general election Scottish voters elected seven members of the Scottish National Party to Parliament, rising to eleven in a second General Election that year. This empowered the independence movement with greater leverage for the advancement of pro-independence agendas in the House of Commons where the Labour Party now led a minority government in a pact with the Liberal Party.

As it had promised, Labour put forward proposals for a Scottish Parliament as a semi—autonomous Scottish assembly to control some aspects of domestic policy, but while this had the support of the Scottish Labour Party some (mostly English) members were opposed to such a constitutional change without a clear mandate and Parliament decided to hold a referendum, setting a high threshold requiring 40% or more of the electorate to vote in favour rather than a simple majority of those voting in the referendum. In the event 33% voted for the proposal and 31% against, with 36% not voting, so the proposal fell. Further progress of the independence movement was stalled when the Scottish National Party supported a vote of no confidence and forced a General Election in 1979 which gave victory to the noted Unionist, Margaret Thatcher, as prime minister of the United Kingdom at the head of a Conservative government.

See also: Scotland referendum, 1979


Supporters of Scottish independence continued to hold mixed views on the Home Rule movement which included many supporters of union who wanted devolution within the framework of the United Kingdom. Some saw it as a stepping stone to independence, while others wanted to go straight for separation.

In the years of the Conservative government post 1979 the Campaign for a Scottish Assembly led from 1989 to the Scottish Constitutional Convention developing a consensus on devolution on a cross-party basis, though the Conservative Party refused to co-operate and the Scottish National Party withdrew from the discussions when it became clear that the convention was unwilling to discuss Scottish independence as a constitutional option. The Labour Party won the 1997 General Election and Donald Dewar as Secretary of State for Scotland implemented Labour's commitment to the agreed proposals for a Scottish Parliament, holding a referendum in September of that year and seventy-five percent of those who voted approved the devolution plan. Parliament then put through the Scotland Act to create an elected Scottish parliament with control over most domestic policy. In May 1999 Scotland held its first election for a devolved parliament and in July the Scottish Parliament was gaveled into session for the first time since the previous parliament had been dissolved in 1707. The Scottish parliament had one hundred and twenty-nine members elected on a system of proportional representation. Donald Dewar became the First Minister of Scotland for the governing Scottish Labour Party/Liberal Democrat coalition, while the Scottish National Party joined the Conservative Party and the smaller parties in opposition.

With the approval of unionist as well as independence parties, the egalitarian song A Man's A Man for A' That was sung by activist Sheena Wellington at the opening of the Scottish parliament. The song by Robert Burns brought tears to the eyes of those attending. [1] ( It has been adopted as the modern unofficial anthem of the Scottish independence movement.

Is there for honest Poverty
That hings his head, and a' that;
The coward-slave, we pass him by,
We dare be poor for a 'that!
For a ' that and a' that,
Our toils obscure, and a 'that,
The rank is but the guinea's stamp,
The Man's the gowd for a 'that.
What though on hamely fare we dine,
Wear hoddin grey, an a' that,
Gie fools their siks, and knaves their wine,
A Man's a Man for a ' that,
For a' that, and a' that,
Their tinsel show, and a' that;
The honest man, though e'er sae poor,
Is king o' men for a' that.
Ye see yon birkie ca'd, a lord,
Wha struts, and stares, and a' that,
Though hundreds worship at his word,
He's but a coof for a' that.
For a' that, and a' that,
His ribband, star and a' that,
The man of independent mind,
He looks and laughs at a' that.
A prince can mak a belted knight,
A marquis, duke, and a' that;
But an honest man's aboon his might,
Gude faith he mauna fa' that!
For a' that, and a' that,
Their dignities and a' that,
The pith o' Sense, and pride O' Worth,
Are higher rank than a' that.
Then let us pray that come it may,
As come it will for a' that,
That Sense and Worth, o'er a' the earth
Shall bear the gree, and a' that.
For a' that, and a' that,
It's comin yet for a' that
That Man to Man the warld o'er,
Shall brothers be for a' that.

In a similar egalitarian vein the Queen Elizabeth's opening of the new Scottish Parliament building was heralded by Aaron Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man.

Though the Scottish people achieved devolution and gained power over many of their affairs, nationalists continued to argue for complete independence.


Scottish independence is currently supported most notably by Scottish National Party, Scottish Socialist Party and the Scottish Green Party, as well as Margo MacDonald and other independent members of the Scottish parliament.

There are also a number of nascent independence parties, which have not yet had electoral success such as the Scottish Independence Party, Free Scotland Party, Scottish Freedom Party, Scottish Enterprise Party etc.

Unfortunately some of them e.g. the Free Scotland Party and the Scottish Freedom Party (two entirely separate organisations), have quite similar names, making it very hard for many outside observers to keep track of them.


While the Scottish independence movement seems to have a large following, it does not lack criticism. Many Scottish citizens argue against independence for various reasons. A popular argument is that the Scottish economy wouldn't be able to flourish on its own (in response, supporters of independence often cite the success of other small Northern European countries such as Ireland and particularly Norway). Others contend that since the inception of a revived Scottish parliament, nothing has been done to improve the lives of working class citizens and that the Scottish independence movement is a mere political game played by politicians bent on building prosperous careers rather than truly fight for self-determination. [2] ( Some Scottish people who support the ideals of the European Union argue that there is no need to separate in a Europe that is tending towards unification. The Scottish National Party changed from initial opposition to the EU to arguing that Scotland could be granted EU membership independent of the UK.

Political parties links

See also

(Parties with elected representation)

(Other independence parties)

(Other internal links)

External party links

(Parties with elected representation)

  • SNP (
  • (Scottish) Greens (
  • SSP (

(Other independence parties)

Other External links


  • Scotland, A Concise History, James Halliday, Gordon Wright Publishing, Edinburgh 1990 ISBN 0-903065-66-5
  • Scotland, A Concise History, Fitzroy Maclean, Thames and Hudson, London 1991 ISBN 0-500-27706-0

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