Scotland’s rights, by Glasgow

The current explosion of pro-independence blogs can be attributed to a hostile media in Scotland – see Declarations of Independence for a summary.

But the history of publishing articles arguing for Scottish independence is not new. It did not start on the creation of the Scottish National Party (1934) or its forerunner The National Party of Scotland (1928). Not even with The Declaration of Arbroath (1320), although that was the first document to outline the modern idea of a nation state.

What about the Picts versus the Romans? Calgacus, the great warrior, addressing his Pictish soldiers: “They make a desert and they call it peace” and demanding that they fight for their land? Alas, this was written by a Roman, Tacitus, and we have no idea if its true. It may have been just his version of ‘bigging up’ his opponent to reflect greater glory on Rome. We will never know. In any case, Calgacus never intended his speech to be published, and Tacitus was hardly arguing the case for Scottish Independence. Whats more, the idea of a Scottish nation would only arise after the coronation of Kenneth MacAlpin in 843, when he became the King of Alba. (Alba was the forerunner of Scotland today.)

One definite place to look would be the Wars of Independence between Scotland and England. The 1290 Treaty of Northampton, insists on a written promise by the English king, Edward I, that Scotland would remain independent of England. This was at a time when Queen Margaret of Scotland, the maid of Norway, died in childhood leaving the Scottish throne open to competitors like the Bruce family, the Bailiol family and the Comyn family who all were relations of the young Queen.

Edward I as a neutral was asked to rule on the matter. That was a big mistake as he demanded that who he choose swore fealty to him and when his choice King John Bailiol of Scotland finally tried to stand up to him – for long enough he didn’t, and he was known as the Toom Tabard – the English king invaded Scotland and tried to take it by force, starting the Wars of Independence.

Obviously, the Scots who insisted that Scotland’s independence be signed off by Edward I were right to mistrust the English king. The treaty was written on the Scots side by several clerics, foremost among them Bishop Robert Wishart of Glasgow. So influential was he that Edward I consulted him on his proposed Governance of Scotland in 1305, when the English king thought he had control of Scotland.

He always supported Robert Bruce’s claim to the throne. When Bruce knifed Comyn in a church, the Glaswegian Bishop quicky absolved Robert and made it possible for Robert the Bruce to be crowned King of Scots in 1306.

Wishart was imprisoned in England and blinded, but was later released to Rome, before returning to Scotland after the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314 finally secured Scotland’s freedom.

The 1290 Treaty of Northampton. Asserting Scotland’s rights to be free of England.

Chief architect, Robert Wishart, the Bishop of Glasgow.

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