Scotland’s rights, by Glasgow

June 27, 2008

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.

Declarations of Independence

May 29, 2008

In 1787 Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America, wrote:-

“…were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”

When Jefferson wrote this he was fundamentally thinking of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution safeguarding the freedom of the Press. He felt it important that newspapers provide the function of imparting unbiased information on the government of the day and their policies.

Contrast this with the situation in Scotland. Not one of the many newspapers in Scotland has an editorial policy which supports the policies of the elected and popular SNP Government! All have anti-SNP editorial stances. Freedom of speech is one thing we should all agree on, but are these newspapers properly fulfilling their function of imparting unbiased information on Government if their editorial policy is unashamedly biased in the opposite direction?

It is remarkable then that in spite of these anti-editorials across the board that this SNP Government ever got elected.

And there’s the rub. Newspaper circulation in Scotland is falling at an alarming rate. And until market forces, falling sales and declining revenue finally force change; it seems that they are becoming irrelevant to the people of Scotland today.

So it could be argued that we have a Government without Newspapers in Scotland today. Yet it hardly is the fault of the SNP Government; it must be the fault of the Newspapers. Jefferson could have never envisaged this!

Jefferson became the 3rd President of the United States. The 4th President, James Madison, wrote this a few years after his period of office :-

“A popular government without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a tragedy or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and the people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power, which knowledge gives.”

This is as true of the public, as it is of the Government.

So where then are the public getting their information?  – The Internet.

It is the Internet that is now fulfilling this role in Scotland, not the Press. As the newspapers have eschewed the SNP government, it has been left to the Scottish public to fill this vacuum; writing websites and blogs to promote the Government’s main goal: Independence. Without a voice in the Newspapers, Television or Radio, the Internet provides the voice.

One only has to look at the comments section of online versions of Scotland’s two main ‘quality’ Newspapers, The Scotsman and the The Herald, to realise that the public are dissatisfied with their political editorials.

Such commentators are dismissed by the other parties as Cybernats. But without a voice in the media, and a Government without newspapers, people have little other choice but to use the Internet to let their voices be heard.

As Jefferson and Madison proposed Independence for the U.S. from the Westminster Government in Britain, similarly the SNP does for Scotland today. These early U.S. Presidents were the Cybernats of their day!

As long as the Internet provides Freedom of Speech then popular information can be acquired.

I imagine Jefferson and Madison would be pleased.

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