On 18th September 2014 the Scottish National Party finally gets its referendum on independence. Arguments for and against this notion have been going on for months now, and it is difficult to tell whether or not it will be successful. However since the Act of Union in 1707, the notion of an independent Scotland is only remembered through past literature. So would an independent Scotland be able to function?
The first time that England and Scotland were joined together in union was in 1603, with the ascension of James VI of Scotland to the English throne, where he became James I. Whilst the two countries shared a monarch, they were still very different nations. Two separate parliaments remained with completely different laws, different currencies and even two different languages. This led to some rather bizarre situations where James I as king of England would ban Scottish merchant ships from trading in English ports because of Scotland’s Auld Alliance with France.
Final union was brought about for a number of reasons, but the main catalyst came from the abject failure of the Darien scheme in the 1690s. During the period of rapid colonial expansion, a Scottish trading company was formed and its sights were soon set on forming a colony in Panama, which could provide a shorter and safer route to the Pacific. This mission was a failure, however, due to a lack of preparation. For example, they failed to take into account the large mountains that made overseas trading impossible. But the biggest problem was that the capital raised for the venture was about a quarter of all the money in circulation in Scotland at the time, which greatly impoverished the country and weakened the resolve of Scottish MPs who had previously been in opposition to the Act of Union.
After this, whilst Scottish representation in Westminster was limited to about 40 MPs, a great deal of the success of Britain’s colonial ventures was down to the efforts of Scottish soldiers and statesmen. The two countries worked best after their union, and the Scottish economy vastly improved after Scottish ships were given unlimited access to English trading posts around the world. Maybe it is time for Scotland to regain full independence, but the precedent is there for a successful union between what used to be ancient rivals.