Let me get all my cards on the table. I teach history at the college level and went to Scotland this past spring to do research on the Scottish independence vote scheduled in exactly a year from today. I was there nearly a month and asked formally or informally nearly everyone that I met. Another card is that I had been to Scotland 45-years prior as a post-graduate student at the University of Edinburgh at New College. Finally, my father's side of the family came from Scotland many generations ago. Therefore, what happens in Scotland interests me personally.
A year and a half ago, I came across on the Internet an article about the referendum scheduled for next September 18, 2014. To be frankly honest, I questioned its need or validity. A half century ago when I studied there, it was not even a backburner issue. I would find a couple old-timers at some Edinburgh pubs that would talk about the good old days when Scotland was last a free country. However, that was prior to 1707.
While I read about the issues facing the Scots, I became a true believer as an American who had some distant Scottish blood inside me. When I was in Scotland several months ago, there were many polls that showed roughly a three way split among the Scots on the issue of independence. A third are for independence, a third are against independence, and a third have not even considered the matter to decide either way.
While I am ethnically Scottish and in favor of their independence, I am troubled by the two-thirds of Scotland that is against it or those who have not given it much thought. That has gotten under my kilt. Finally, Scotland has a Scottish Parliament...its first since 1707. Scotland has not had what we in the States would call a state legislature for nearly 3-centuries. Issues regarding Scotland were decided at Westminster. If you click on many articles, you will see a long list of articles written about Scottish independence in the past couple of years. I do not want to rewrite words already written about the issue in this article. Nor do I want to restate my position from an NPR interview with me regarding independence. When you have the time, you can read them or listen to the interview. If you go to interview section of my webpage, you can read two additional interviews with two Scots: Doug Norris and the Duke of Argyll.
In this article, I want to approach the discussion from the vantage point of those especially in England who wish to have Scotland remain a part of the UK. It should be noted that Hadrian's Wall was specifically built to keep the barbaric Scots from England in 122 AD. Having said that, why are the English desirous of remaining together with Scotland? They have an organization and a slogan to rally supporters against Scottish independence. The slogan is "Better Together". In other words, all will benefit from Scotland remaining a part of the United Kingdom.
While you mull over that notion of things being better together, I would like to give you a brief overview of England, Great Britain, and/or the United Kingdom. In less than a century ago, the British Empire was the largest empire in human history. It had a population of 458-million people, which was a fifth of the world population and covered a fourth of the landmass of the world, which was 13,012,000 square miles. It was true that it was "the empire on which the sun never sets." In an attempt to think about Scotland being better together, it would seem logical to address what has happened to the British Empire...the largest empire of all time. This is an interesting animated map of the world starting in 1492 and covers just over 500 years to the present. It provides pictorially the amassing of the empire on the map of the world.
While the automated map is interesting, it does not address the issue of why was it not better together. I have put together with Wikipedia's help a list of countries, protectorates, colonies, or area occupied by the English, the British Empire, Great Britain, and/or the United Kingdom. The date next to the area is when the British took possession of the part of the world. To assist you in seeing more clearly the issue of whether being better together is correct or not, I indicated in red the areas that are still a part of the UK. All other areas are independent of the UK.
Central America and the Caribbean
Australasia and the Pacific
Therefore, of the 208 areas of the world occupied by the British over the years, 14 areas remain. Another way to look at the facts, 6% of the original total still remain. One might assume that they feel better together. As for the others, one might also assume that they like the Americans did not feel better together...and left.
This is what remains of the largest empire in all-human history: Anguilla, Bermuda, British Antarctic Territory, British Indian Ocean Territory, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Montserrat, Pitcairn Islands, Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha, South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands, Turks and Caicos Islands, and Sovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia. That land mass is less than 28,000 square miles and just over 274,000 population. It should be noted that both numbers do not reflect the 660,000 square mile area of the British Antarctic Territory and the 250 scientists stationed there.
The size of the total of the British Overseas Territories (excluding the British Antarctic Territory) in square miles is about the size of West Virginia. As for total population (again, excluding the British Antarctic Territory), it falls between Plano, TX and Greensboro, NC.
Another interesting comparison is between the population of British Empire in 1920 and that of the UK plus the British Overseas Territories as of 2011 is just over 13% of the Empire's population, which is comparing totals of population one reflecting 1920 and the other 2011. The UK's population in the past century increased by roughly a third. Therefore, the comparison between the population at the height of the British Empire and today moves from around 13% to closer to less than 10%. An even more startling comparison is between the landmass of the British Empire in 1920 and that of the UK plus the British Overseas Territories is today. The UK including the British Overseas Territories is less than 1% of what it was less than a century ago.
In conclusion, those that say that they would all be better together might say it. However, in reality, only 14-size small areas of the world agree that staying together is better. Less than 10% of the former British Empire sees it that way. The only remaining question is whether the Scots will wake up and smell the heather and vote for independence.
In a dry rehearsal of what should happen in a year from now, Prime Minister David Cameron tested his response to the people of Scotland vote for independence with this one-liner starting at time stamp 1:55 and going to 2:14.
Visit the Scottish Independence page to read more about this topic.