Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Scotland and Freedom

On 22 July 1298, at the Battle of Falkirk, William Wallace, better known to history as "Braveheart" was defeated by an English Army led by Edward I in person. With his reputation as a battlefield commander in tatters in September of that year he was stripped of his title as Guardian of Scotland.

He was now a man on the run.

On 5 August 1305, he was captured by the English after being betrayed, possibly by Robert the Bruce, and taken to London in chains to stand trial as a traitor.

He said little in his defence speaking only once when he indignantly replied to the charge of treason:

"I cannot be a traitor, for I owe him no allegiance, he is not my Sovereign, he never received my homage".

It made no difference and later that day (23 August) he was tied to a hurdle and dragged through the streets of London to Smithfield where he was stripped naked, forced to wear a laurel crown, and hanged, drawn, and quartered.

In 1314, Robert the Bruce decisively defeated the English at the Battle of Bannockburn and was to seal Scottish Independence six years later with the famous Declaration of Arbroath:

"For as long as a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be brought under English rule. It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honour we are fighting but for freedom - for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself".

On 22 July, 1706, Commissioners from both Parliaments agree the terms and conditions for an Act of Union of England and Scotland.

Scotland still reeling economically from the aftermath of the disastrous Darien Expedition of seven years previous was attracted by England's promise to open up her colonial markets to Scottish trade, to share her national debt, and moreover to compensate them for the losses incurred at Darien.

 But they were also prepared to wield the big stick and if Scotland declined Union then the border would closed and a trade embargo imposed.

The Scottish Parliament through a combination of bribery and intimidation had been seduced and the Declaration of Arbroath had been forgotten.

The decision for Union caused much lamentation and it prompted the poet Robert Burns to write:

"We were bought and sold for English gold
 Never were there such rogues in a nation".

On 18 September 2014, the Scottish people will decide if they wish that Union to remain?

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