National Library of New Zealand
Harvested by the National Library of New Zealand on: Oct 10 2015 at 9:18:44 GMT
Search boxes and external links may not function. Having trouble viewing this page? Click here
Close Minimize Help
Wayback Machine
GayNZ Logo & Link
Saturday 10 October 2015

Scotland and the (Dis) United Kingdom

Posted in: Comment
By Craig Young - 21st August 2015

It may be a 'sleeper' international news item, but according to BBC News, the issue of Scottish independence from the United Kingdom is once again back on the front burner. How has Scotland's distinctive identity affected its LGBT inhabitants?

Scotland has a distinctive national history and identity of its own. It coalesced from the Pictish kingdoms of Delriada and Fortriu and became home to a well-educated landowning elite class, with seven universities of its own compared to only two south of Hadrian's Wall in England, although there was less social hierarchy and deference to higher status individuals than was the case with its neighbour. Life changed forever when (gay) James VI and I succeeded England's Elizabeth I in 1603 and governed over two seperate realms, thereafter neglecting his native Scotland as he preferred the hierarchy, greater wealth and religious institutions of his southern neighbour. However, despite governing two disparate nations, James never quite succeeded in unifying them into a cohesive unit. Scotland's Calvinist Presbyterian church raised its collective eyebrows at "Catholic" remnants within the Anglican Church, while Scottish civil society maintained its stronger linkages to French and European cultural, educational and social institutions in order to preserve its cultural and political autonomy from its rapacious Southern neighbour. Unfortunately, that was no longer possible when the House of Stuart was evicted from the English and Scottish thrones in 1688 and the last Stuart, Queen Anne (bisexual or lesbian) died in 1714, despite rebellions by the Old Pretender James Stuart in 1715 and his son Charles ("Bonnie Prince Charlie") in 1745. Thereafter, Scotland lost its political autonomy, apart from seperate judicial institutions.

Resultant land enclosures and class inequalities fostered strong socialist and communist traditions and collective organisation, as well as emigration. Of course, one such colonial outpost was New Zealand's own Dunedin in our South Island. As the British Empire arose and endured through the late eighteenth to mid-twentieth centuries, Scottish elites and citizens participated in the spoils of empire and colonialism and latent separatism was defused and negated. After World War II, the comprehensive welfare state further reduced inequalities and seperatist pressures until the economic crises of the seventies beset the United Kingdom.

Scottish nationalism began to revive, fueled by two primary injustices. One was the injustice of the flow of North Sea oil revenues from Scottish oil rigs to Westminster and London, instead of fostering economic development within Scotland itself. Economic stagnation, poverty, unemployment and drug addiction accelerated during the Thatcher administration and Scotland responded by decimating Conservative representation north of Hadrian's Wall. Heeding the potential risks, Blair's Labour Party instituted a devolved regional parliament elected under MMP for Scotland, as it also did for Wales and Northern Ireland. One side-effect of Thatcherism's "Little England" ethos was also closer connections to the European Union. It is hostile territory for the predominantly English-dominated "United Kingdom" (sic) Independence Party for that reason. Westminster's Trident missile nuclear deterrent also remains a sore point with Scottish peace campaigners, although that concern diminished after the close of the Cold War after the fall of European and Russian communism in 1989-1991. Moreover, the advent of the Conservative Cameron administration in 2010 has strained relationships with London, and the Scottish Nationalist Party won government in Edinburgh's regional parliament. As long as the worst potential effects of Tory New Right ideology were obstructed by its coalition with the Liberal Democrat Party (2010-2015), all was relatively well, constitutionally speaking. As part of that coalition deal, the Cameron administration agreed to two Liberal Democrat demands- an electoral reform referendum, using the barely proportional "alternative vote" option instead of the more democratic Single Transferable Vote or MMP. The other was a Scottish autonomy or independence referendum. As it happened, the referendum result was 53-47 to those who rejected independence, although this was offset by a strong showing by the pro-reform Scottish Nationalist Party in the May 2015 British General Election. It took all but a handful of seats off the Scottish Labour Party and Liberal Democrats. With the decimation of the Liberal Democrats, the question of Scottish independence (or maximum devolution of autonomous power) has arisen once more.

Founded in 1934 by the union of two predecessor nationalist parties, the Scottish Nationalist Party is currently led by Nicola Sturgeon. It has had continuous British parliamentary representation since it won its first parliamentary seat in 1967 and now governs Scotland through its devolved parliament. It has 64 Scottish Parliament seats and 56/59 Scottish House of Commons seats. In 2011, it won Scotland's regional election to become the devolved parliament's government.

As for Scottish LGBT concerns, the Sexual Minorities Group emerged in 1969, and SMG renamed itself the Scottish Homosexual Rights Group in 1978. In 1981, a European Court of Human Rights decision forced the Thatcher administration to apply the flawed Sexual Offences Act 1967 north of the border with all of its problems- age of consent inequality, bans on multiple partner sex, military service discrimination and so on. Like England, Scotland developed LGBT youth, transgender rights and HIV/AIDS prevention groups of its own. Due to its proportional representation (MMP) electoral system and single parliamentary chamber, the Scottish Parliament fixed residual issues like age of consent equality and the repeal of Clause 28 of the Local Government Act 1988 more quickly than England and Wales, although it ended up passing liberalised inclusive adoption reform legislation in 2009- seven years after England and Wales. However, marriage equality was victorious in Scotland by an even larger relative margin than in the House of Commons- 108-11. With a European Union membership or secession referendum looming, Scotland is likely to vote No and decide to remain within the European Union, from which it has benefited. Whether the United Kingdom can survive, given the resurgence of Scottish independence aspirations after the Cameron triumph in May 2015 is another question altogether.


Wikipedia/Scottish Independence Referendum 2014:http://en.wikipedia./org/wiki/ Scottish_independence_ referendum,_2014

Wikipedia/LGBT rights in Scotland:http://en.wikipedia./org/wiki/ LGBT_rights_in_Scotland

Craig Young - 21st August 2015

   Bookmark and Share