Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Is the British Union in Danger?

An interesting article from about Scotland pulling out of the United Kingdom. This follows this post about Turkey in the news. For a free magazine subscription or to get the book shown  for free click HERE! or call 1-888-886-8632.

article by John Ross Schroeder

Historically during the last 300 years the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland has suffered only relatively minor threats to its unified existence. Even the 1997 decision to create a Scottish Parliament and a Welsh Assembly was probably taken with the hope of mollifying and even diminishing nationalistic movements. Now a major threat to the union of England and Scotland is just over the horizon. What does it mean for the English-speaking peoples?

Although civilization in the British Isles is thought to reach back well over two millennia, Great Britain itself has only been in existence for 300 years. The historic date is 1707, the year the Parliament of Great Britain met for the first time. Forty-five Scottish MPs (members of Parliament) and 16 peers joined this new Parliament in Westminster.

A United Kingdom had been founded and established. It was the capital event of that era. The benchmark treaty itself was termed "the Act of Union." The newly formed Great Britain would be ruled by a parliament at Westminster under a single royal crown.

Major points about the merger

But why did the two countries join together? Although the corollary causes are considerable, the root cause was economic. Scotland's economy was insubstantial at the time.

British historian Norman Davies has studied, researched and written on the merging of the two countries and has summarized his thoughts in a book titled simply, The Isles: A History.

He stated: "The English Bill of Union (1706) was prepared unilaterally as a document which the Scots could either take or leave. It was presented at a moment when the bargaining power of the Scots was weak; and it was accompanied by the promise of a very large sum of money" (2001, pp. 523-524).

Christopher Whatley, professor of Scottish history at Dundee University, has stated: "There was undoubtedly a very strong economic dimension to the Union."

It should be noted here, however, that Scotland retained its legal system, universities, local town charters and the Kirk (the Presbyterian Church)—and much of its distinctive culture (as it does to this day).

Foreign policy issues were also a major consideration. The Act of Union was also an English ploy to keep France out of the business and influence of the British Isles. According to the late author Magnus Magnusson's Scotland: the Story of a Nation, "The major preoccupations of Queen Anne's reign were national unity (through the 1707 Act of Union) and the War of the Spanish Succession against France (1702-1707)" (p. 540).

Winston Churchill's great ancestor, the duke of Marlborough (Lord John Churchill), won major European military battles at various points in 1704, 1706, 1708 and 1709.

The long road to eventual British Union between England and Scotland had been preceded by many ups and downs. Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell actually annexed Scotland, but that came to nothing when the English monarchy was restored. The Scottish Parliament would occasionally pass provocative legislation like the Wine Act, which allowed for the importation of French wines, ignoring the English trade embargo against the French.

Naturally, Louis XIV of France supported Scotland in its disagreements with England and at one point had even hinted at a potential invasion. As Magnus Magnusson observed, "Scotland, in English eyes, was now endangering England's national security in the War of the Spanish Succession against France" (ibid., p. 545). After all, the duke of Marlborough required many Scottish soldiers to help England in its battles with the French. The need for political union became paramount.

Queen Anne herself spoke favorably of the Act of Union in a public speech from her throne. She said: "I consider the Union as a matter of the greatest importance to the wealth, strength and safety of the whole [British] island..." (ibid, p. 528). Notice that she mentioned wealth first.

The queen's assessment has proven very true. Scotland's economic fortunes soon improved and the new nation would for a time constitute the largest free trade area in Western Europe. As Harvard historian Niall Ferguson has pointed out, "Now Scotland's surplus entrepreneurship, medics and musketeers could employ their skills and energies even further afield in the service of English capital and under the protection of England's navy" ( Empire: How Britain Made the Modern World, 2004, p. 40).

A benchmark merger

As Norman Davies relates: "[Queen Anne] was no longer 'Queen of England' and 'Queen of Scotland', but 'Queen of Great Britain' in both substance and style... On 29 April, 1707, the Queen issued a proclamation requesting Parliament to reassemble in its new form and under its new title [the Parliament of Great Britain]. Two days later, on 1 May, 1707, the new Parliament assembled. That was the day to which the British state, the United Kingdom of Great Britain started to function. It was the day when modern British history began" ( The Isles: A History, p. 528).

There is no question that England could never have attained its glory days of empire without a unified, basically cooperative England and Scotland. Nor could the United States of America ever have reached its zenith with divided nations of North and South. At least initially, Abraham Lincoln saw the preservation of the American union as the primary purpose for the North going to war over southern secession (1861-1865). Slavery became more and more important as the war progressed.

On a personal note, I resided in the United States for the first 40 years of my life. Married to a British subject, I have lived in Britain for over 30 years and have developed a great love for the whole of the British Isles—including England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland (both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland), the Isles of Man and Wight, etc. This love affair with the British Isles began not long after I first touched down at Heathrow in July of 1976 on a combined business and holiday trip. After only two weeks, I wanted to live in Great Britain. My wife, Jan, was in total agreement.

I normally travel by train from London to Edinburgh once or twice a year on assignment. One of my early ancestors on my mother's side was Jonathan Hill of Edinburgh. The thought that Scotland, after a time, might no longer be a part of the United Kingdom troubles me greatly.

Instead of a celebration

The magnificent achievements of Great Britain have often been celebrated in both book and film. One would think that such a successful 300-year union would be a cause for multiple national celebrations this very year. But such is not the case. Instead, many voices in Scotland are calling for national independence. Even some English citizens think that the Scots should leave the United Kingdom.

The issue hit the front pages earlier this year when the Scottish National Party (SNP) for the first time gained more votes than the Labour Party in the Scottish Parliament. Alex Salmond of the SNP is now first minister. He has promised Scots a referendum on leaving the United Kingdom in 2010.

Both the outgoing prime minister, Tony Blair (whose grandfather lived in Glasgow), and the incoming prime minister, Gordon Brown (a Scot), have gone out of their way to support the preservation of the English-Scottish union as a paramount rearguard action. Both have spoken and written very much in favor of retaining the union.

In the interests of the strength of unity, what took so long to bring together should not be allowed to come apart. As Magnus Magnusson commented, "For nearly three centuries, commentators and partisans have argued passionately about the 1707 Union of Parliaments. Was it the ultimate betrayal of the Scottish nation? An altrustic act of far-sighted statesmanship? Or simply a pragmatic response to the inevitable?" ( Scotland: the Story of a Nation, p. 554).

Or was the union in the providence and plan of God? Was the hand of God behind the scenes?

The historic and prophetic meaning

First Great Britain and then the United States of America played major roles in the world during the last 200 years. If the 19th century was the British century, the 20th was an American century. The meteoric rise to power and influence of these two great powers was prophesied in the pages of the Judeo-Christian Bible. Both nations are basically descended from the patriarch Joseph of the book of Genesis.

But Holy Scripture has also predicted that severe threats to their national well-being would surface if they disobeyed and rejected their Creator God. The United Church of God has prepared and published a special free booklet that traces the origins of the English-speaking peoples, as well as summarizes in some detail their prophetic fortunes in the future.

Please request or download The United States and Britain in Bible Prophecy . Without the knowledge set forth in this free booklet, you cannot really understand what is happening in our world or where it is headed. WNP


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