In 2014 a referendum will be held in Scotland in which the people will democratically decide if the country is to become independent from the rest of the United Kingdom. This is a very emotive issue for many Scots, and the referendum can realistically be viewed as a once in a lifetime opportunity to decide the fate of the nation. As powerfully as many people feel that Scotland should rightfully be independent, there are those on the opposing side who feel equally as strongly that Scots would be better off remaining within the Union.
When evaluating the case for Scottish independence it is important to firstly examine the current situation, before adopting a historical perspective. Scotland is currently part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Essentially the country is ruled by the Westminster Government in England. However, after devolution occurred in 1997 Scotland formed its own parliament in Edinburgh for the first time in over three hundred years. This parliament has its own elected members and a First Minister, but limited powers. Certain powers, such as the ability to impose taxes, are still governed by Westminster. Scotland is therefore very much at the mercy of the English parliament in terms of fiscal policy and economic development.
This highlights an interesting discrepancy in the British political system. In 2009 the Conservative Party formed a coalition government with the Liberal Democrats at Westminster. This meant essentially that Scotland began to be governed by the Conservatives, even though only a tiny minority of Scots voted for them. Scots have traditionally voted in large numbers for the Labour Party, or in recent elections the Scottish National Party. Indeed, the SNP has a majority in the Scottish Parliament. This situation is viewed by some Scots as being undemocratic, and is regarded as being a strong justification for independence.
One of the arguments put forward by proponents of the Union is that the tradition and history of the pact is too important to endanger by those seeking independence for Scotland. It is a compelling argument, since Scotland has existed in peace with her larger neighbour England since the Union came into force in 1707. This was the point at which Scotland's parliament was dissolved, and all power was transferred to London in England. Prior to this, in 1603, the two countries were joined together when King James VI of Scotland became King James I of England, and the Kingdom of Great Britain was created.
In terms of historical significance, however, this is a very small part of the relationship between Scotland and England. Since the ninth century Scotland had been a recognised nation, with its own king and system of laws, entirely separate from England. For hundreds of years battles were fought between the Scots and the English for land and power, most notably in the wars of independence in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. England, as the larger country, always had the military advantage, and yet despite this Scotland secured many important victories, most notably the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297 and the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314. It was these battles that gave rise to the legendary status of Scottish heroes such as Sir William Wallace and Robert the Bruce, and secured Scotland's independence for centuries to come.
That is, until 1707, when Scotland lost the ability to rule herself, a situation which continues to this day. In the twenty-first century there are more independent sovereign nations than there have ever previously been. The United Nations is now comprised of over 190 member states, compared to just 51 when it began in 1945. The age of empire is over. New countries have emerged over the past seventy years to purposefully take control of their own destinies. To proponents of Scottish independence it seems inconceivable that Scotland could not do the same. With its own legal and education systems, and even a separate Scots language, the country is already identifiable from the rest of the UK in many ways. For many it seems inevitable that in 2014 the Scottish people will vote to finally and forever become a truly self-governing nation state.