In America, Scotland, Burma, and the World

There are few Americans more adamant about the Scottish independence movement than I am. I did not start out that way several years ago. I teach college classes that are either online or onsite/online. One day a couple of years ago, I was looking up something totally unrelated to Scotland or the UK on Google. I skimmed through several links, did not find anything, and continued looking. Suddenly, out of nowhere, I started finding sites talking about Scottish devolution or independence. I would love to know why Google found these several Scottish links. Maybe, it something about which William Wallace or Robert the Bruce wanted me to know. Therefore, I started reading.

My initial reaction, as someone who had many family members come from Scotland, was not positive. Europe has slowly morphed into the European Union (EU) after WWII. Not only are European countries growing more closely knit together but also are many of the other countries in the rest of the world doing the same. In addition, I had spent the academic year of 1968-69 as a post-graduate student at the University of Edinburgh at New College. I loved Scotland. However, I had not heard much 45-years ago while in Scotland about any independence movement accept for a couple old guys talking about the good old days at an Edinburgh pub. The good old days about which they were talking were when Scotland was independent...prior to 1707.

However, I read a handful of articles...and things began to change within my mind. In fact, it was not long before I had decided that I needed to return to Scotland to explore firsthand the independence movement. By the time of my return, I had done a 180 regarding the advisability of devolution. While in Scotland, I have interviewed informally nearly everyone with whom I talked in Scotland and videotaped two interviews. In addition, I have written over 2-dozen articles on the subject. The Chicago NPR station interviewed me upon my return about the scheduled Scottish vote on September 18, 2014. Scotland will vote on whether they wish to withdraw from the United Kingdom.

Amid all the conflict between Westminster and Scotland over independence, the English have learned a lesson about dealing with the Scottish desire for home rule even though Scotland did not have home rule since 1707...nearly 3-centuries until they finally got it a couple years ago. Westminster is now handing out piecemeal some requests to the Scottish people in an attempt to quiet the independence movement.

Nonetheless, I too have learned a lesson from the way England functioned with another country wanting independence and home rule. What is intriguing is that the way England dealt with our desire for independence was the American Revolution. We went to war in 1776. It took until 1783 to win the war. Nevertheless, America was not completely free of the English until the Jay Treaty of 1796. The Jay Treatys actual name was The Treaty of Amity, Commerce, and Navigation, Between His Britannic Majesty and The United States of America.

The Jay Treaty

The Jay Treaty

After a long protracted war and an even longer disagreement about the peace, the Brits finally allowed America to be free of their colonial rule by 1795. Nevertheless, in 1812, there was another invasion by the British, which lasted 3-years. The War of 1812 is often called the second war of independence. Finally, the English lost the war, saw the writing on the wall, and allowed America to remain free. One would have thought after fighting two wars to keep America a part of their colonial rule in 36-years that they would have gotten the message. However, they did not.

The American Revolution and the War of 1812 were the actual invasions by the British. However, during the American Civil War, the upper-class British were pro-Confederacy. Interestingly, the South was attempting to get help from Europe especially from Britain and France. The South under Jefferson Davis pushed the notion of King Cotton with the British because of their textile industry needs.

King Cotton was king due to slavery

King Cotton was king due to slavery

However, many in the government in Britain wanted to back the South for 3-primary reasons. The first is the negative feelings of having lost two wars to their former colony in less than 40-years. Another reason was the potential threat that America could cause them militarily on the global stage. Finally, there was the issue of importing and exporting goods to and from the South.

William Seward, Secretary of State

William Seward, Secretary of State

However, William Seward warned Europe and specifically the British, "If any European Power provokes a war, we shall not shrink from it. A contest between Great Britain and the United States would wrap the world in fire." Seward's statement, while a bit bellicose, was uttered in the midst of the Civil War and it was not clear that the North could beat the South.

Prime Minister Palmerston Prime Minister Palmerston
While the English had not declared war on America, their shipyards supplied the South with two warships even though the British Prime Minister Palmerston had an official neutral stance regarding the Civil War. Nonetheless, he was waiting until the South had won a decisive battle, which would be Robert E. Lee's invasion of the North. If that occurred, Palmerston could intercede as an honest broker between the North and South. However, after Antietam, it was obvious to the British that the South could not win. Nonetheless, the South knew that they could not win the war without some sort of intervention by a British.

Finally, after a very bloody and protracted war, the North won. Then the North wanted reparations from the British for losses to the North due to the CSS Alabama, which was one of the warships built by the British. For several years of US demands in Geneva, Palmerston dies and William Gladstone becomes the new Prime Minister. America then received $15.5 million in damage claims.

This summary and brief history of US and British military history: two invasions of its former colony and another possible one if the South had looked like they might win or if the North could not win the Civil War. In less than a century from American Revolution in 1776 to the Civil War in 1861, England misbehaved as a world leader with two actual and another possible invasion of one of its colonies.

Now, let us move up to the 20th century. Interestingly, America bailed-out Britain twice in the first half of the 20th century during both WWI and WWII. In the first couple of decades of the 20th century, Great Britain was "the Empire on which the sun never sets." In 1922, they ruled over 450 million people, which was one fifth of world's population and a quarter of the world's landmass.

Winston Churchill suffering from the Churchillian Cringe
Winston Churchill suffering
from the Churchillian Cringe
Even though Great Britain had a vast empire, that empire rapidly dwindled down to a bunch of small islands scattered around the world and the British Isles themselves. At the end of WWII, Churchill wanted to keep the dwindling empire together, but the British people did not want that. Therefore, Churchill lost the election even after his courageous leadership during the war. He suffered from a term that I created, the Churchillian Cringe. It is the acting as if you are suffering from delusion of grandeur but actually suffering from inferiority. The once greatest empire in the world is now merely a very small empire – a dozen islands around the world and the British Isles.

What made matter even worse was that Scotland also wanted independence from the UK. The interesting thing is that England had made Scotland a colony precisely the same way that they had made much of the world, which included the US. They invaded Scotland on several occasions, and the Scots fought off several times and won. This seesaw of losses and victories lasted for many centuries. Finally, the English brokered another invasion with Scotland in 1707. England made Scotland a part of Great Britain, but they took away their parliament. They became a colony just as America had been. For 300-years, Westminster ruled Scotland. Scotland did not have home rule. Interestingly, the English rule caused many Scots to have the feeling of inferiority to the English. Many believed and still even today that they need England to lead them.

Now that Scotland is attempting to declare its independence again, the cry from the English is "Better Together." While that is a cute slogan, my question is "Who is better together?" If one were to look at the economics of the situation, England and Westminster benefit from the being together more than Scotland. Westminster administers drilling of the Scottish offshore oil. The Scotts neither control nor benefit from their oil.

All that is left of the vast British Empire today are some small islands scattered around the globe and 4-parts of the UK: England, Wales, N. Ireland, and Scotland. Ireland nearly a century ago got its independence. N. Ireland has been in talks with the Republic of Ireland regarding union the Ireland for a number of year. Wales is watching what happens in Scotland.

Finally, after being very critical of Churchill and his Churchillian Cringe, I end this essay on one of his most accurate statements, "Of all the small nations on earth, perhaps only the ancient Greeks surpass the Scots in their contribution to mankind." I have lived in Scotland for a year and returned this past spring. I agree with Churchill on that point. I wish only that they had become an independent nation and no longer a colony. Ask any of the many former colonies if they would be Better Together? Start with asking anyone in the US or Canada. If that is not enough, ask anyone in India, Egypt, Australia, or half the present-day countries in Africa.

The British Empire at one time...

The British Empire at one time...

When you read this essay, I will be in traveling throughout Burma. General Aung San, who was Aung San Suu Kyi's father, told the British to leave Burma, which the British did.

General Aung San

General Aung San

This past spring, I spent a month in Scotland and interviewed many Scots about independence. Presently, I am visiting Burma. It seems to me that the Scots could benefit from what Aung San told the British. He told them to leave; Burma did not desire to their colony. Aung San knew that Better Together benefitted only the British not Burma.

The Scots need to learn from America and Burma. Neither country was Better Together. In fact, think of a single former colony of the British that would wish to return to colonial rule by Westminster.

The world will be watching your vote on September 18, 2014. I want to return to Scotland...a free Scotland.


Burma flag

Burmese independence flag

Visit the Burma Independence page to read more about this topic.

Scottish independence: Yes campaign

Scottish independence flag

Visit the Scottish Independence page to read more about this topic.