Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Crucial to America’s independence; it’s time to claim our own

It is time to learn from our ancestors, those forced to leave in the wake of Unionism.

There are many things that the British state immersed in Whitehall doesn’t like. Failure, and the reason behind it are two of the main issues it has a problem with. It has a tendency to whitewash these items in historical terms. It has whitewashed a failed policy of clearances that cost it a continent.

July 4th is a good day to write this blog, for on this day in 1776 a wee event took place which had the roots of its success thirty years earlier, 16th April 1746, when Union forces defeated the Stewarts and their supporters on Drumossie moor at Culloden.

England, with her sprinkling of vested Scots supporters had won a war; they then began an occupation, oppression and a regime of tyranny, horror and clearances that would effectively depopulate much of the Highlands over the next two decades. Either unable to support “the crown”, unable to accept the reality of England’s over lordship, or simply unable to pay its taxes, our ancestors were forced from our shores.

What followed for those who escaped death was mostly indentured servitude in the New World. The vast majority ended up in the plantations of the Virginia’s and Carolinas. From 1750 to 1770 there was a massive influx of predominantly Gaelic speaking Scots.

The taxes followed them to the new world, they worked off their servitude, they raised families, they won land and a small amount of prosperity, but still the taxes followed them. The first big problem was the stamp act of 1765, it was necessary as the crown had much need of money. It had just undergone a civil war, it was almost bankrupt, and it had cleared 1/3 of its British land of those who created the wealth. Those perceived as creating the issue, those Highland rebels, were still reachable in the colonies and the crown did reach.

The stamp act led directly to the formation of a Continental Congress. There followed the Declaration of Independence and the start of a new nation who’s constitution was largely written along the lines of the Declaration of Arbroath.

The struggle started well for the colonist’s militia, at the Battle of Concord, they won. The reversals began with the British capture of New York City, Howe forced Washington to retreat at White-Plains, and Cornwallis harried him through New Jersey. Philadelphia was abandoned and the Continental Army was set to be reduced to a mere guerilla force of about 1,500 by year end.

The displaced highlanders of the Carolinas, spoiling for a tussle with the English were ready and more than willing, responding to the call to arms they added some men to Washington’s ranks as he took to the assault across the Delaware River at Christmas. These Gaelic speakers were responsible for preserving the flank of the Continental army by beating royalist and British forces working in alliance in both North Carolina and South Carolina. Guerilla fighting was second nature to these men and they took to it well once again.

The only delay to peace was King George recognising the rights of the colonists. In the centuries between then and now, this lack of recognition has continued to be a major factor supporting ongoing death e.g. India, Kenya, Indonesia and more. London recognising individual human rights to nationhood and self determination has always been a process of delay and deny and denigrate.

In the thirty years from 1746 to 1776 London effectively solidified control of an Island, first by subterfuge then through military means in the above period, it largely destroyed an ancient culture and in doing so it lost the wealth of a continent and became embroiled in European wars that it could not afford. The Dutch, Spanish and French came in to support the colonists. The colonists won with their help, but it almost bankrupted the French and created what became an underlying cause of that nation’s revolution.

In Scotland, peace was forced by an iron clad jackboot, there were forts at William and George to subdue any future problems, the expense to the London exchequer was enormous, and for little to no return. They swapped a continent for a land they had impoverished.

That was then, this is now.

Scotland has the opportunity to assert the rights our ancestors fought for, and won, in another continent and in another time.

Our future remains bright, if more than a little delayed, but a vital part of the promise of that future remains missing. Many of us remain uninspired, we are on the wrong side of the Delaware and our numbers are not presently sufficient to carry the day. We need re-enforcements that are inspired to march with us on this road, but we need the message to reach them.

Many have thought that a constitution is the answer, a new constitution. What we need is not a constitution but something more like America’s document. We don’t need ten thousand words of legalese that will inspire no one but its authors. We can’t do a formal declaration in our present circumstances.

What we can do is draft and enact provisional legislation. It only becomes effective if the referendum passes. It updates Scotland’s constitution, nothing else. It may even be legal to enact without a timeframe, which is for others to decide.

What we are missing is a rallying call, a promise; the American Declaration had “No taxation without representation”, with several other issues that folks saw worthy of sacrifice, the ultimate sacrifice if necessary. Scotland needs such a guiding document, a rallying declaration. We can create it, but Holyrood is the only entity that can credibly provide it. So far, Holyrood just doesn’t seem to have the will. And only Holyrood can show us that we will set our feet onto a better path.

This declaration must be short, the colonists managed it on one page, and it must hold the promise of what is to come with the guarantee that the details will be filled in by the community of the realm of Scots when the time comes. It must be a wholly citizen driven document and it must be democratically enacted. A child of ten must understand it, a child of seven must be able to repeat it. These are the ways we will win our nation back. These are the principles that can weld us together.

An example of such a document might simply revolve around the mnemonic “sovereignty” – it could as easily be encompassed by the letters of our nation “Scotland”.

Here is an example for “Sovereignty”, for without sovereignty, nothing else truly matters.

1. Sovereignty is individual: Every Scot is Sovereign and equal under the law. [1320]

2. Our collective will is paramount: We are a democracy, our collective will must be expressed (referendums).

3. Visual government, open and clear, “nae limits”. No Secrets acts, no FOI restrictions except in time of declared war, no behind the scenes lobbyists.

4. Expression and speech protected. These must be fundamental guarantees for all Scots.

5. Rights, human and basic, healthcare, food and shelter. There will be more detailed explanation of this, defined by others at some future time.

6. Equal chambers of government. Two chambers of government, both elected, a “construction” chamber and a “review” chamber. This can place Holyrood as the constructionary legislature with an as yet to be defined “watchdog” chamber, to uphold the constitutional and budgetary requirements. The second chamber will have a right to a line item veto or simple rejection. One chamber represented by population, the other by geographic area. Party politics must be excluded from at least one chamber

7. Innocent until proven guilty, is a foundation of the legal system, and that any individual accused of crime will have a right to speedy trial, and there can be no detention without trial. It is disappearing under Westminster rule.

8. Guarantee of currency, Viable, stable currency. It can be enshrined, we will operate under the pound Scots, and we can link it wherever we choose or let it stand alone, but it will be our currency. In the first instance it can be linked to Sterling.

9. Nothing unfunded: Our people must know that our politicians will only do what our nation can afford; every policy or program will require having a funding source. In these days of computerisation this is relatively simple. Every proposed program, every manifesto pledge must have identified funding. This will stop the Westminster mess of “politics as usual”, with its dramatic overspend.

10. Term limits, no premier may stand for more than three consecutive terms, governments limited to 5 years? There must be a right of recall, power abuse would terminate terms of office. Term limits to treaties also.

11. You are the guardian of our freedoms: This is vital, we must all understand it if we are to forestall another 1707, with anyone. It should be ingrained in our children at primary school.

9 comments:

  1. Revised, for SCOTLAND:

    1. Sovereignty is individual: Every Scot is Sovereign and equal under the law.
    2. Collective will is paramount: We are a democracy, our collective will must be expressed (referendums).
    3. Open, visual government. “Nae limits”. No Secrets acts, no FOI restrictions except in time of declared war, no behind the scenes lobbyists.
    4. Trial or release must be provided speedily for any detention. Innocent until proven guilty must underpin the entire Justice System.
    5. Level, equal chambers of government. Two chambers of government, both elected, a “construction” chamber and a “review” chamber. This can place Holyrood as the constructionary legislature with an as yet to be defined “watchdog” chamber, to uphold the constitutional and budgetary requirements. The second chamber will have a right to a line item veto or simple rejection. One chamber represented by population, the other by geographic area. Party politics must be excluded from at least one chamber.
    6. All basic and human rights guaranteed. These include, but are not limited to: food, shelter and healthcare, as well as freedoms of speech, expression, association, belief.
    7. Nothing unfunded: Our people must know that our politicians will only do what our nation can afford; every policy or program will require having a funding source. In these days of computerisation this is relatively simple. Every proposed program, every manifesto pledge must have identified funding. This will stop the Westminster mess of “politics as usual”, with its dramatic overspend.
    8. Do not assume that someone else will protect the nation. You are the guardian of our freedoms: This is vital, we must all understand it if we are to forestall another 1707, with anyone. It should be ingrained in our children at primary school.

    "N" should refer to guarantee of currency, as I think that's more important than "nothing unfunded", but couldn't think how to work that in. Time for a beer, methinks.

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  2. This is a crucially important line!
    "Party politics must be excluded from at least one chamber". Makes me wonder what it would be like if we excluded party politics from both though!

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    1. Gosh, you mean people of conscience making political decisions...? Jeezo, where would that lead us to? No votes down party lines, voting for people who speak, give a pledge and then act, no Party Whips.....
      In the words of one famous American... "I have a dream...."

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  3. I have always believed that in a democracy that the will of the majority should prevail,it has a but,and that is the majority will prevail and defend the minorities.As a majority is often made up of a lot of minorities.
    The idea that a good premier or president amy be barred by time is not in my opinion a good idea.With recall this is possible.
    A small country needs only one chamber as we have lacal councils to scream loud and long.
    Just my tuppence worth.

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    1. Charles, didn't a politician once say that government is there to protect the people from the majority? Or something like that. I am being slightly naughty, I know, but the 'majority' opinion is not always one that a civilised society blindly follows. this is the politics of the populist parties that have brought the UK to the edge of ruin.

      For example, if there were a referendum tomorrow on the death penalty, I would predict a significant majority in favour. that is NOT a policy I would want any government of mine to enact!

      Of course, in principle the 'people' should be more involved in the political process, but this can be accommodated through the system. Like Angela above, I would want the end to the party 'whip' system in a Scottish government of the future.

      We live in interesting times, and have a unique opportunity which I fervently hope that the Scottish voters take!

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  4. Hazel, you've painted what could well be described as an "ideal society" – and it doesn't have to be a dream because, with the heart of the nation behind it, we COULD make that dream a reality. I only hope I live to see it and that my grandchildren come to live it.

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  5. I had heard that the remnants of the Jacobites supported the loyalists (British) during the American Revolution, with Flora MacDonald and her family even ironically fighting for them over there, and that it was the other side (Scots-Irish aka Ulster Protestants / Freemasons / Whigs / Lowlanders / people who had been anti-Jacobite in Scotland in 1745) who were the supporters of American Independence.

    Supposedly emigration to America of Scots-Irish and Lowland Scots following evictions because they were no longer needed to counter Highlanders and Irish Catholics after the failure of the Jacobites over 1715-1746 led to embittered feelings and a reversal in allegiance.

    Of course all that is ancient history, and it would be entirely fanciful to imagine that anything similar could happen with, say, Scots Catholics of Irish descent feeling embittered by the SNP's recent tendencies and then going on to reverse their allegiance and vote for union with Britain.

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