Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Act of Union

It is a matter of surprise and some concern that nobody on the forum has reminded us of the date. No, I am not talking of the fact that it is May Day or International Labour Day or, even, of it being the anniversary of Fidel Castro declaring that the revolution had no need of elections. So, let's have another go.

Three hundred years ago this day the Kingdom of Great Britain, made up of the Kingdoms of England and Scotland came into existence. You can read the text of the preface to the Act here and marvel at several Articles that give various extra rights and benefits to Scotland. No duty to be paid on windows, coals, malt, to name but a few. The royal burghs in Scotland, who had petitioned against the Union, retained their rights and privileges. And, of course, money was dispatched to the Scottish Parliament to pay off various debts.

There is a school of Scottish history (influenced, I am sad to say, by Hollywood films and Australian actors) that considers the Act of Union a piece of treachery. And so it may be from one point of view - that of the people who lost their power to the new Parliament. But when one looks at the history of the Union, one cannot help feeling that both sides benefited extensively.

Alas, it may be coming to an end. Or, at least so the SNP and its supporters say now. The Scottish devolution has made a mockery of the Act and there are now calls for a separate English parliament. (Of course, it would be quite nice if we would declare our independence from the European Union first.)

Or, possibly, sanity will prevail and the glories of the Union will be recognized. By this I do not mean the BBC or the National Health Service, as detailed by the Boy-King in Scotland but such matters as constitutional democracy, a legal structure that includes trial by jury, freedom and equality under the law. Ah well, one can dream.


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