by Gary J
Tue Jan 16th, 2007 at 05:27:37 AM EST
Today is the 300th anniversary of the passage by the Scottish Parliament of the Act of Union, which was a crucial stage in the construction of a United Kingdom of Great Britain.
The English version of the Act of Union received royal assent on 6 March 1707 and the union came into existence on 1 May 1707.
It is interesting how little fuss is being made about this tercentenary. The union was described at the time as a marriage of convenience and little patriotic enthusiasm has been invested in it.
The BBC has done some opinion polling and concluded that about three quarters of the English and just over half the Scots support the union. These are not overwhelming numbers for the foundation of the UK government.
I do not seem able to produce a hyperlink, but this is the link to the BBC website.
For the modern political situation in Scotland and England see after the fold.
Simon Jenkins in The Guardian has some thoughts on devolution. Something is stirring in the undergrowth of British politics. It ,ay come to nothing, but it may cause big structural changes in the next few years.
Scotland is due to hold its third election to the devolved Parliament this year. The polls indicate that the Labour-Liberal Democrat coalition which has been in power in Edinburgh will lose its majority. Indeed it may be that neither Labour nor the Scottish National Party will be able to form a majority executive without two coalition partners.
On the face of it the three unionist parties - Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrats are likely to have a majority over the nationalist ones (SNP, Scottish Green Party, Scottish Socialist Party and whichever splinter group Tommy Sheridan is leading now). On the other hand the Scottish Tories are radioactive to the other parties, who are all more centre-left.
The unionist/nationalist divide is not as bitter or as absolute as in Northern Ireland, so a SNP-Liberal Democrat-Green coalition may be possible if agreement on policy can be reached. The SNP insistence upon a referendum about independence may be an insurmountable obstacle. On the other hand there may be something to be said for getting the issue out of the way, as the BBC poll only shows 35% support for independence.
Meanwhile in England support for a devolved English Parliament seems to be growing. The Westminster politicians are not keen on this option. They would lose all the issues their electors really care about education, health and criminal justice (if the English Parliament had the same powers as the Scottish one). The UK Parliament would be left with foreign affairs, defence and raising the taxes to pay for the schemes of the devolved institutions.
I think the fear is that an English First Minister would be an over mighty subject who would sooner or later do to the UK Prime Minister what Russian President Yeltsin did to Soviet President Gorbachev.
I have produced an exciting interactive poll about how long the union will last. What do you think?