Unionism in Scotland
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Unionism in Scotland is a political movement that seeks to keep Scotland within the United Kingdom in its present structure as one of the countries of the United Kingdom. There are many strands of political Unionism in Scotland, some of which have strong ties to Unionism and Loyalism in Northern Ireland. Ahead of a referendum on Scottish independence, Better Together was formed in support of Scotland remaining part of the United Kingdom.
- 1 The Union
- 2 Status of the term
- 3 Independence and political parties
- 4 Unionism
- 5 Scottish independence referendum
- 6 List of organisations who oppose Scottish independence
- 7 See also
- 8 References
The political union between the Kingdoms of Scotland and England (also including Wales) was created by the Acts of Union, passed in the parliaments of both kingdoms in 1707 and 1706 respectively, which united the governments of what had previously been independent states (though they had shared the same monarch in a personal union since 1603) under the Parliament of Great Britain. The Union was brought into existence under the Acts of Union on 1 May 1707.
With the Act of Union 1800, Ireland united with Great Britain into what then formed the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. The history of the Unions is reflected in various stages of the Union Flag, which forms the flag of the United Kingdom. The larger part of Ireland left the United Kingdom in 1922 however Northern Ireland chose to remain within what is now called the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The 300th anniversary of the union of Scotland and England was marked in 2007.
Status of the term
Conservative and Unionist Party in Scotland was called the Unionist Party before it formally merged with the Conservative Party of England and Wales in 1965, henceforth adopting the Conservative brand. Prior to the merger this party was often known simply as the Unionists. 'Unionist' in the names of these parties is rooted in the merger of the Conservative and Liberal Unionist Parties in 1912. The union referred to therein is the 1800 Act of Union, not the Acts of Union 1707.
The term may also be used to suggest an affinity with Northern Irish unionism.
The former Secretary of State for Scotland, Michael Moore MP has written that he does not call himself a Unionist, despite being a supporter of the union. This he ascribes to the Liberal Democrat position in regard to Home Rule and decentralisation within the United Kingdom, noting that: 'for me the concept of "Unionism" does not capture the devolution journey on which we have travelled in recent years.' He suggests the connotations behind Unionism are of adherence to a constitutional status quo.
Independence and political parties
The three largest and most significant political parties that oppose Scottish Independence are the Labour Party, the Liberal Democrats and the Conservative and Unionist Party, all of which organise and stand in elections across Great Britain. However, these three parties have differing beliefs about what Scotland's status should be, particularly in their support of devolution (historically Home Rule) or federalism.
The Conservatives, as a Britain-wide party, fielded candidates in Scotland until the creation of a separate Unionist Party, which merged into the UK-wide Conservative Party in 1965. In 1968 the Declaration of Perth policy document committed the Conservatives to Scottish devolution in some form, and in 1970 the Conservative government published Scotland's Government, a document recommending the creation of a Scottish Assembly. Support for devolution within the party declined and was opposed by the Conservative government in the 1980s and 1990s, and remained opposed in the run up to the 1997 Scottish devolution referendum. There is a small Scottish Unionist Party, which broke from the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party in opposition to the Anglo-Irish Agreement It has no representation in either the UK or Scottish parliaments. Incidentally, Jacobitism, which had supporters across Britain, was supported from the outset by Tories in both England and Scotland, but became associated with Scottish nationalism, and was popularised as a key part of the Scottish national identity by the writings of Walter Scott, who was a unionist and a Tory .
In 1950 the Labour Party abandoned its previous support for Home Rule. Following the Kilbrandon Report in 1973 recommending a devolved Scottish Assembly, the Labour government of 1974–1979 introduced the Scotland Act 1978 to Parliament, which initiated a referendum on devolution. Failing to pass, the referendum was shelved. When the party returned to power in 1997, they introduced a devolution referendum which resulted in the enactment of the Scotland Act 1998 and the creation of the Scottish Parliament.
The Scottish Liberal Democrats have previously been supportive of Home Rule as part of a wider belief in subsidiarity and localism. In a mirror image of how the Liberal Democrat Party is itself structured, that party is generally supportive of a federal relationship between the countries of the United Kingdom.
Political support for independence
Notable opponents of unionism in the Scottish Parliament are the Scottish National Party (SNP) who have formed the Scottish Government since 2007 and the Scottish Green Party. The Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) and Solidarity seek a return to Scotland being a sovereign state and a republic, independent of England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Of these parties, only the SNP currently has representation in the UK Parliament, which it has had continuously since winning the Hamilton by-election, 1967. The SNP and the Scottish Greens both have representation within the Scottish Parliament.
On 24 March 2007 the Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland, one body which has been vehement in its defence of the union, organised a march of 12,000 of its members through Edinburgh's Royal Mile to celebrate the 300th anniversary. The high turnout was believed to be in part due to opposition to Scottish independence. The Orange Order used the opportunity to speak out against the possibility of nationalists increasing their share of the vote in the 2007 Scottish Parliament election. However, the SNP secured a plurality and a minority government under Alex Salmond following the election.
In the run up to the Scottish Independence referendum, which raised the possibility of Scotland becoming its own sovereign state independent of the United Kingdom, the Orange Order held a Unionist march and rally in Edinburgh which involved 15,000 Orangemen, loyalist bands and no voters from across Scotland and the UK. This was followed by a Unity rally by the "Let's Stay Together Campaign" in London's Trafalgar Square where 5,000 English people gathered to urge Scotland to vote "No" to independence. Similar events were held in other cities across the rest of the United Kingdom including in Manchester, Belfast and Cardiff.
Ties to Unionism in Northern Ireland
There is some degree of social and political co-operation between some Scottish unionists and Northern Irish unionists, due to their similar aims of maintaining the unity with the United Kingdom. For example, the Orange Order parades in Orange walks in Scotland and Northern Ireland. This is largely concentrated in the Central Belt and west of Scotland. Orangism in west and central Scotland, and opposition to it by Catholics in Scotland, can be explained as a result of the large amount of immigration from Northern Ireland. A unionist rally was held in Belfast in response to the referendum on Scottish independence. Northern Irish unionists gathered to urge Scottish voters to remain within the United Kingdom.
Scottish independence referendum
In a referendum held on 18 September 2014, voters in Scotland were asked the question "Should Scotland be an independent country?" The referendum would determine Scotland's constitutional relationship with the remainder of the United Kingdom. At the poll, 2,001,926 voters (55.3%) rejected the proposal for Scotland to become an independent state over 1,617,989 (44.7%), who voted in favour of Scottish independence.
The referendum results were accepted by the Scottish and British governments, leading to Scotland remaining a devolved part of the United Kingdom. Further moves have since been made towards increased devolution of power to the Scottish Parliament, which is to be incorporated in to UK law via the Scotland Act of 2016.
Results of the referendum
The referendum results shifted the dynamic of politics in Scotland.
At the referendum a total of 4 out of 32 council areas voted in favour of independence, these being: North Lanarkshire (51.1% Yes), Glasgow (53.5% Yes), West Dunbartonshire (54.0% Yes) and Dundee (57.3% Yes). Orkney (67.2% No), Scottish Borders (66.6% No), Dumfries and Galloway (65.7% No) and Shetland (63.7% No) returned the largest No votes.
Generally, the Yes campaign performed strongly in deprived urban settings, such as in Greater Glasgow and Dundee, with the No campaign performing better in affluent rural and suburban areas, such as in Aberdeenshire and East Renfrewshire. The campaign saw large shifts in favour of independence in areas traditionally held by the Scottish Labour Party at the Scottish and British parliaments, with the Yes campaign performing strongly in Red Clydeside. The No campaign performed better in affluent areas traditionally held by the Scottish Liberal Democrats and Scottish Conservatives such as in East Dunbartonshire and the Scottish Borders. Surprisingly, the No campaign were able to secure a set of sizeable majorities in some council areas which have traditionally voted Scottist Nationalist, such as in Moray and Angus, where the 'No' vote was 57.6% and 56.3% respectively.
Public opinion polling conducted by Lord Ashcroft after the Scottish independence referendum found that approximately 70% Scotland's Protestant population voted against Scottish independence over 43% of Roman Catholics, who voted majority in favour of Scottish independence.
Polling suggests that in January 2014, when forced to choose a single identity, 65% would describe themselves as "Scottish" whilst 23% would call themselves "British" – 2% identified themselves as "English". Over recent years, the figure for "Scottish" only has slowly declined after reaching a height of 80% in 2000 – the figure for 2014 has been the lowest for at least 15 years. The largest figure for choosing "British" was 24% in 2013, followed by the figure for 2014. Almost a third of people described themselves as "Equally Scottish and British" whilst a quarter described themselves as "Scottish not British" and another quarter as "more Scottish than British" – at the same time 5% of people described themselves as "more British than Scottish" whilst 6% said they were "British not Scottish". This is the highest recorded level of British sentiment in Scotland since 1997 – trends suggest that the figure is slowly increasing across time. A poll commissioned by ICM and the Guardian in December 2014 after the independence referendum found the largest level of British identity ever recorded in Scotland. When asked "Would you rather describe yourself as British or Scottish?" and given the choice of answering with "British", "Scottish" or "Other" as their national identity, 36% of respondents stated that they were "British" – a rise of 13% from January 2014. 58% of respondents state that they were "Scottish" – this is 7% lower than the figure in January 2014. A second poll conducted for 19 March 2015 found 31% of respondents would describe themselves as British – a fall of 6% – and 62% Scottish, which rose by 4% since January.
Support for independence
Various studies and opinion polls commissioned by members of the British Polling Council following the Scottish independence referendum have attempted to track support for independence in Scotland following the Scottish independence referendum in 2014. A majority of said polls have suggested that more Scots would chose to remain part of the United Kingdom over voting in favour of independence in the event of a second independence referendum.
Support for the union is more prevalent among those in Social Grade ABC1 and those aged 65 and over. Support for independence is higher in Social Grade C2DE and voters aged between the ages of 25-39.
List of organisations who oppose Scottish independence
- Parties with parliament/local government seats
- Other Unionist parties
- Alliance for Workers Liberty
- A Better Britain – Unionist Party
- Britain First
- Britannica Party
- British National Party (BNP)
- National Front (NF)
- Scottish Unionist Party (SUP)
- UK Independence Party (UKIP)
- Other groups
- Scottish Unionist Party
- Unionist Party (Scotland)
- Sectarianism in Glasgow
- Unionism in England
- Unionism in Wales
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