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Scotland’s Independent Streak

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Scotland’s Independent Streak

Why are the Scots considering pulling out of the United Kingdom?

Learn the why behind the headlines.

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Scotland: land of the charming accent known as a brogue, kilt-wearing bagpipers, distillers of world-class whisky, wearers of tartans and layers of thick wool, and home of Sir William Wallace, the sword-wielding landowner and knight’s son heroically portrayed in the 1995 film “Braveheart.”

This may be about all that the average person outside northern Europe knows about the Scots. So when this small nation in the north of the isle of Great Britain appears in headlines, as it has in 2014, many have little context.

The story at this time is the question of Scottish independence: whether Scotland should secede from the United Kingdom, reducing that group of nations from four to three (remaining would be England, Wales and Northern Ireland).

Voters will head to the polls on September 18 for a Yes/No referendum on this question. Currently, those in the Yes camp are in the minority, but it is a sizable one.

Rationale and Obstacles

The debate’s historical roots run deep. Scotland and England’s political union was formalized with the Act of Union in 1707, but the two nations (as well as the rest of the UK) have ties that go back much further.

In a speech during a Scottish Council for Development and Industry event in Glasgow, Scotland’s Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon argued for independence. A document released by the government explained the five main reasons to split from the UK. Each point took the form of a question:

  • “How can we build a more sustainable economy better able to withstand the inevitable economic ups and downs?”
  • “How can we boost the number of people working in Scotland?”
  • “How can we protect, and improve, public services?”
  • “How can we protect pensions and the post-war welfare state from those at Westminster intent on dismantling social security?”
  • “Lastly, how can we improve living standards and reduce the gap between rich and poor so that we have genuine equality of opportunity for all children in Scotland?”

The implication was that continuing as a member of the United Kingdom is a hindrance to each of the goals above. Scotland perceives it is getting short shrift in a UK where resources are heavily weighted toward greater London. This has led many Scots to conclude, “We’d be better off on our own.”

However, serious objections have been raised for a solo Scotland in both the north and south of the main British isle. In England, “UK Chancellor George Osborne has said a vote for Scottish independence would mean walking away from the pound.

“His statement came after the senior civil servant at the Treasury, Sir Nicholas Macpherson, said currency unions were ‘fraught with difficulty’.

“Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond said the Westminster parties were trying to ‘bully’ voters ahead of the 18 September independence referendum.

“The Scottish government has argued that keeping the pound and the services of the Bank of England as part of a currency union under independence made sense for both Scotland and the rest of the UK.

“But Mr Osborne said there was ‘no legal reason’ why the rest of the UK would want to share sterling with an independent Scotland” (BBC).

Mr. Osborne’s remarks regarding currency union had an immediate chilling effect, according to one poll cited in the Guardian: “The Scots are more anxious than the English and Welsh about the effect of independence on the United Kingdom as a whole, and also worry about Scotland in particular. That is the finding of new Ipsos Mori polling on both sides of the border…”

Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
A look at freedom: Thousands of pro-independence campaigners attend a rally on Calton Hill in Edinburgh, Scotland (Sept. 21, 2013).

“…for the first time since December, Ipsos updated its polling on the independence referendum for Scottish TV, charting a very slight widening of the no campaign’s advantage. Among voters who say they are certain to turn out in September’s independence referendum, an unchanged 57% of Scots say they will vote no, but the proportion who say they will vote yes has dropped two points, from 34% in December to 32% [in March].”

On the European continent, EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso weighed in with another discouraging opinion: “[Mr.] Barroso told the Andrew Marr Show that member states seeking to prevent their own semi-autonomous regions from seceding would almost certainly block Scotland’s membership. He said Scotland would have to apply for EU membership in the usual way.

“‘It will be extremely difficult to get the approval of all the other member states to have a new member coming from one member state,’ he said.

“‘We’ve seen that Spain has been opposing even the recognition of Kosovo, for instance, so it’s to some extent a similar case because it’s a new country and so I believe it’s going to be extremely difficult, if not impossible, a new member state coming out of one of our countries getting the agreement of the other [existing member states]” (Guardian).

While a number of officials dismissed Mr. Barroso’s statement out of hand (particularly the comparison to the Balkan region Kosovo), it did have the effect of blurring the view of a clear path forward for Scotland.

A Battle-hardened Nation

Scotland is no stranger to national struggle. Its history, like that of many other European countries, is a yarn of battles and invasions. Scotland’s official gateway website summarizes centuries of turbulence: “The first written records of Scottish history date back to the arrival of the Roman Empire in the 1st century AD. The Roman province of Britannia reached as far north as the Antonine Wall, which once ran across central Scotland from the River Clyde to the Firth of Forth. To the north lay the territory of Caledonia, which was ruled by the Picti people.

“Frequent battles with the Picts saw the Roman retreat to Hadrian’s Wall—which spanned the north of England from Carlisle in the west to Wallsend in the east. By the 3rd century, the Romans had all but departed the land that is now known as Scotland.

“In the 5th century, the north-west of Scotland was raided and settled by Gaels (Scoti), originating from Northern Ireland. They later established the Kingdom of Dalriada in Scotland’s western regions.”

“At the end of the 8th century, all of Scotland’s kingdoms were overthrown to some extent by marauding Vikings. Numerous defeats by the Norse raiders eventually forced the Picts and Scoti to end their long-held hostility towards each other and unite in the 9th century to form the Kingdom of Scotland.

“However, the Scottish battles for power did not end there. In the 12th Century, Anglo-Norman barons, including the Bruce family, laid claim to much of mainland Scotland. In exchange for land, these barons helped King David I to secure his claim to the throne and feudalise much of Scotland.

“By the 13th century, Alexander II and his son Alexander III were determined to bring all of the former Norwegian territories in the west of Scotland into their own territories. The Norwegian king, Hakon, sent a massive fleet to Scotland to hold on to his territories. In September 1263, the two forces clashed at the Battle of Largs in Ayrshire.

“Three years later, with the conclusion of the Treaty of Perth, Magnus Hakonarson, King of Norway, gave up Scotland’s western seaboard to Alexander III.

“Scotland—whose throne passed through the control of the houses of Balliol and Bruce in the following years—had yet to win its freedom. The bloody wars of Scottish independence followed as the Scots tried to throw off the yoke of English influence” (scotland.org).

The prolonged wars of independence lasted from 1286 to 1328. This is the era when figures like William Wallace and Robert the Bruce became legendary.

Yes, British—But…

Obviously, Scotland’s relationship with the English has been rocky, both at the political and sometimes personal level. A famous story recounts a statement by James Boswell, biographer of the renowned 18th-century English writer Dr. Samuel Johnson, after Dr. Johnson learned Boswell was Scottish: “Indeed I come from Scotland, but I cannot help it.”

Dr. Johnson’s reply reflected his regard for the Scots, at the time shared by more than a few in England: “That I find is what a very great many of your countrymen cannot help.”

CARL COURT/AFP/Getty Images
Discourse: British Prime Minister David Cameron delivers a speech on Scottish independence in the Olympic Park in east London (Feb. 7, 2014).

By that time, open warfare was a thing of the past, but many English considered the Scots the “rabble” of the British Isles—lacking the refinement and dignity of which they considered themselves the standard bearers. Scottish lore partly fueled this perception: in armed conflict with the English, warriors would sometimes shock their rivals by parading onto the battlefield wearing nothing but a torc (metal collar or neck chain), as depicted by the well-known “Dying Gaul” sculpture, and swinging massive claymore swords (a weapon eventually outlawed by the English).

Further, according to some sources, the derogatory terms “redneck” and “hillbilly” both have Scottish origins. The words first appeared in the United States’ Appalachia region, where descendants of many Scots-Irish (or more accurately “Ulster-Scots,” Scottish refugees who fled to Ulster, Northern Ireland, in response to persecution), settled.

While the average Scot would likely object to the “rabble” stereotype, he certainly sees himself as different from other Brits. The Scots have a unique Celtic identity that is distinct from Ireland, and even more so from England and Wales.

“With just over six months until the referendum on Scottish independence, the data shows nearly one in three people do not regard themselves as British in any way,” The Courier reported.

“Information released [February 27] showed 62.4% of Scotland’s 5.3 million population see themselves as Scottish only, while just 18.3% of people—fewer than one in five—feel they are Scottish and British.

“Young people are more likely to consider themselves to be solely Scottish than those in older age groups.

“Nearly a third of Scots, 32.4%, consider themselves to have a Church of Scotland identity…”

Some Scots still speak Gaelic, a Celtic language, and the nation prides itself on a unique strain of Celtic music that is an ingredient in American bluegrass.

Their love of their rugged landscape, which is prone to rapid shifts in extremes of weather, shines through in their Highland Games, which test competitors’ skill and strength in an outdoor venue. These have spawned spin-off competitions in North America and elsewhere.

The Scottish influence is strong in other places, such as Brittany, in Northwest France, and in Eastern Canada. Ontario’s Queen’s University, for example, continues the tradition of kilts and bagpipe music at its graduation ceremonies, and its athletic teams are known as the Golden Gaels.

And yes, Scotland’s namesake drink is more popular than ever: “Scotch...exports to many emerging markets have been rampant for close to a decade, driven by its desirability as a status symbol among rapidly growing middle classes.

“From Latin America to India, Sub-Saharan Africa, China and the Middle East, sales grow at such an unabated rate that suppliers closely regulate price to ensure they do not run dry. It’s a success story built on exclusivity and a sense of a certain kind of Britishness, which is bringing a much-needed boost to the UK economy.”

“In 2012, Diageo, the producer of Johnnie Walker, the world’s biggest-selling Scotch, announced a £1bn investment programme into its Scottish operations—including a new Johnnie Walker distillery in Speyside—to take advantage of an internationally-led ‘renaissance’ in the centuries-old industry. Last year, the company produced 50m cases of whisky and white spirits in Scotland—85 per cent of which was sold abroad” (The Independent).

What Next?

This magazine’s predecessor, The Plain Truth, filed a very familiar-sounding report in 1969. In an article titled “The Celtic Revolution,” it stated, “Scottish Nationalists seek ‘Home Rule by 1970,’ headlines a prominent newspaper. And no wonder! Scottish Nationalist party membership has zoomed from 2,000 to 128,000 in just seven years.

“Their claim? If they obtain a majority of seats in the next general election in 1970, they will take it as a mandate from the people to secede from the London-dominated Union of England and Scotland...

“Scottish Nationalists demand that Scotland become an independent nation within the British Commonwealth—as Canada, Australia and New Zealand.”

Despite an endorsement of independence by another famous Scottish export, actor Sir Sean Connery, a “Yes” victory seems unlikely with only one-third of poll respondents stating they intend to vote this way.

But, regardless of the referendum’s outcome, the bond between the British peoples predates even the earliest Roman records, and it will endure!

Ancient Roots

In Magnus Magnusson’s book Scotland: The Story of a Nation, the author quoted Scottish history lecturer Dauvit Brown of the University of Glasgow (emphasis added): “‘The earliest surviving text which propounds the idea, in all seriousness, of Scotland being two thousand years old was written during the 1290s, during the ill-fated reign of John Balliol. It is basically a king-list, but it also includes an account of Scottish origins, explaining that the original Scots were descended from Gaedel Glas and Scota, and came from Egypt and eventually ended up in Scotland. The length of reigns in the king-list, we are told, added up to 1,976 years to the coronation of John Balliol in 1292.’

“‘It is noticeable that this text, elaborating in the rudimentary way the idea that Scotland was an ancient kingdom, was written when Edward I [of England] was knocking on Scotland’s door with a vengeance. This…gave the kingship of Scotland the authenticity of age which medieval institutions require, through a royal genealogy stretching all the way back to Noah...’”

Both the author and lecturer are incredulous at references in medieval Scottish literature to places like Egypt and a person such as Noah. But this is not the only source that connects Scotland and Britain to biblical references.

Another link is found in a stone that once sat under the Coronation Chair of King Edward I. Called the Stone of Scone or Stone of Destiny, the large block of sandstone was taken from Scotland to England by Edward I, and a chair was built with an opening underneath the seat to hold the stone. It was upon this chair, with the stone beneath, that every British monarch since Edward II was crowned (with the exception of two who did not receive the crown), including Queen Elizabeth II in February 1952. The chair still sits in London’s Westminster Abbey, but now without the stone.

Encyclopaedia Britannica states, “According to one Celtic legend the stone was once the pillow upon which the patriarch Jacob rested at Bethel when he beheld the visions of angels. From the Holy Land it purportedly traveled to Egypt, Sicily, and Spain and reached Ireland about 700 BC to be set upon the hills of Tara, where the ancient kings of Ireland were crowned. Thence it was taken by the Celtic Scots who invaded and occupied Scotland. About AD 840 it was taken by Kenneth MacAlpin to the village of Scone.

“At Scone, historically, the stone came to be encased in the seat of a royal coronation chair. John de Balliol was the last Scottish king crowned on it, in 1292, before Edward I of England invaded Scotland in 1296 and moved the stone (and other Scottish regalia) to London. There, at Westminster Abbey in 1307, he had a special throne, called the Coronation Chair, built so that the stone fitted under it. This was to be a symbol that kings of England would be crowned as kings of Scotland also.”

While the Bible details human kingdoms and monarchs, its ultimate subject is the kingdom of God, which is to be established in the future. (See Mark 1:14-15, Luke 9:2, and I Corinthians 15:50). The United Kingdom definitely is not the kingdom of God, nor was the British Empire. However, if Bible history references kingdoms and empires such as Egypt, Babylon, Persia, Rome and others, would not Bible prophecy describe other world-shaping powers?

The publishers of this magazine have long understood the following verse as a reference to the British royal line: “Thus says the Lord God; Remove the diadem, and take off the crown: this shall not be the same: exalt him that is low, and abase him that is high. I will overturn, overturn, overturn, it: and it shall be no more, until He come whose right it is; and I will give it Him” (Eze. 21:26-27).

History confirms that this line was moved—overturned—from one family line to another, three times, in its early history. Similarly, the Stone of Destiny has been “turned over” within the British Isles: from Ireland to Scotland, From Scotland to England, then back to Scotland in November 1996.

Other British-linked territories have had a history of north-south divisions: North America divided between the United States and Canada; the temporary Union-Confederate division within America; Ireland and Northern Ireland; even the British Commonwealth has its northern (the UK, Canada) and southern (Australia, New Zealand, South Africa) sections. While political arrangements change over time, the ties of historical kinship remain, and come to the fore most clearly when members of the group are under threat from an outside force.

Ultimately, Scotland will soon find itself among a collective of brother nations that will face a time of severe testing, followed by the most prosperous time ever known.

To learn much more about the United Kingdom, and its unique role in end-time events, request David C. Pack’s essential book America and Britain in Prophecy. It will open your mind to an entirely new perspective on history—and the future! 


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