I generally enjoy reading The Guardian (and, occasionally, The Telegraph)--online, of course--in order to gain a bit of perspective on world events, most of which tend to be ignored or neglected in the parochial journals of self-absorbed America.
Recently, I have become fascinated with the Scottish independence movement--and with the whole concept known in the UK as "devolution."
What a curious and intriguing word! While strictly speaking it denotes a rather neutral "transfer of power" from a central government to a regional or local authority, it suggests--in its connotative resemblance to "evolution"--a willful regression to something more primitive--a step backward in social or political development.
Backward to pre-1707, when the Acts of Union combined the English parliament and the Scottish parliament into a single body--with authority over both countries, thereafter known as the Kingdom of Great Britain (later the United Kingdom)--and deliberating in Westminster, where the previously all-English parliament had sat. Essentially, the Acts "merged" the two parliaments into one.
If my sources are correct, however, this merging of parliaments was often regarded by less-populated Scotland as an unfortunate "submerging" into an overwhelming English nation and culture. Still, the union offered Scotland enormous advantages: 1) an active and disproportionately powerful voice in the direction of an empire that was beginning to exercise world hegemony; 2) an economic union with the heartland of the Industrial Revolution and access to worldwide markets; 3) a guarantee that no hostile (i.e., non-British) invader would disrupt Scottish life and Scottish pursuit of wealth/happiness.
So, despite giving the English some influence over Scottish affairs, the Union also gave the Scots a great deal of influence over English--and imperial--affairs. Yes, the world continued to think of the whole island as "England," and yes, that carelessness persists, even today. Still, it seems to me that, on the whole, Scotland benefited greatly from union with its much more populous neighbor.
What, then, has prompted the cry for "devolution"--for a return to a more primitive, less united, more exclusively Scottish "auld lang syne"?
Well, undoubtedly some of the economic and political realities have changed. Clearly, Scotland is no longer in any danger of being invaded by France or Germany or Denmark. Obviously, the Empire has vanished and the markets are now provided by the EU (which Scotland could presumably join as an independent country). Finally, the sheer exaltation of being a Briton in a world ruled by Britannia--the emotional attachment to the "Great" in Britain--is sadly faded, tarnished, disappearing.
Thus, as the advantages of union begin to seem less weighty, Scots have rediscovered the DISadvantages of the English connection. They've begun to feel "submerged" again--not really oppressed or occupied or discriminated against but, well, well, well...it's hard to put in words...just "Englishified." Heck, they even SPEAK a language called English. Everybody talks about the Queen of England and English tea and There'll Always Be an England and The Bank of England and English muffins and the English parliament and English literature and Lie Back and Think of England.
It's just suffocating, isn't it? Some people even think that golf was invented in England. Enough evolution! Gie us a wee bit o' DEVolution!
And so it came to pass that, in the 1980s and 1990s, certain vocal Scots made such an anti-English fuss--kilts flying and bagpipes skirling--that the Parliament of Westminster (remember, the merged parliament of England AND Scotland), decided to do something really quite extraordinary: create a SECOND (sort of mini-me) parliament for Scotland--obviously in the hopes that this contrivance would pacify the Return to Caledonia crowd. But wait, if the REAL parliament of Scotland is still the merged Parliament of Westminster, then what are we to make of this little assembly meeting in Holyrood and grandly proclaiming authority?
Apparently First Minister Alex Salmond and his "government" occupy themselves with legislation regarding fisheries, agriculture, tourism, sports and local chambers of commerce. Most real powers, however, remain "reserved" to the real Parliament of Westminster.
Since Salmond is not happy about this "shadow" Parliament of Holyrood, he has promised a referendum on complete independence--which, if successful would, apparently, dissolve the "merged" parliament of Westminster and recall its Scottish members to Edinburgh, where the clock would be duly set back to 1707 and the devolved MPs would reassemble as the REAL Parliament of Scotland.
The Guardian reports that Scottish sentiment is currently in favor of complete independence...BUT only (how truly Scottish) if complete independence appears to guarantee improved ECONOMIC well-being. All that talk about kilts and haggis and cultural domination--well, it was piffle, really. It appears that what the Scots truly want, and what the Scottish National Party would love to ensure, is exclusive SCOTTISH control over the lucrative North Sea Oil deposits. Surely black gold wealth would bring back auld lang syne.
So like the American Tea Partiers, the SNP primitivists want to "take their country back" (and, presumably, put it in the bank). No more of this BRITISH foolishness--and especially no more British Petroleum. Kick the bloody English out and let 'em find their own oil. SCOTTISH Petroleum, only, please. And total devolution. (At least until 2020, when the oil is scheduled to run out...)