The Scottish Referendum, a lesson to be learned

As the Scottish people congregated to hold their Referendum on September 18 2014, whether to walk away or remain united with England, memories of the bitter past which reigned, rather ravaged, the historical ties between the two parties invigorated. The event revived reminiscences of the bloody warfare and rivalry conflicts on which the peoples of this two entities wasted a prolonged decades of their otherwise bright history, thanks to the bilateral unification agreement reached by the forefathers of the two parties whom were wise enough to bury the hatchet and reach into mutual understanding that saved lives and shortened the span of suffering of the people.

A variety of internal as well as external factors contributed to the unity agreement between the two kingdoms, the monarchies that constituted the Kingdom of England on one hand and the Kingdom of Scotland on the other. The most prevailing principle of the unity agreement is that it has guaranteed the preservation of the specific rights and interests of each party in the Union including that of fair share of power and wealth.
The Roman Reign, which occupied England and parts of Southern Scotland, lasted for long time, when this occupation came to an end it ushered the settlement of the Anglo – Saxons in Britain who began to fight the British states in Wales and parts of the old North to expand their influence and impose their hegemony upon them and with intensified external attacks by the Vikings (coming from small states, now known as Scandinavian countries) who expanded their control over vast areas of what is now called England, many of the rulers there tried to unify the different Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, an efforts that led to the emerge of the Kingdom of England by the tenth century AD. King Edward I sought afterwards to occupy Scotland, and invaded it in 1296, but the Scottish people united led by Kenneth I, considered as the founder of the Scottish Kingdom fought back a fierce war against the Kingdom of England resisting the occupation that finally ended in full victory in the year 1357 AD thus Scotland regained its independence back.

In 1502 the king of Scotland James IV signed with King Henry VII of England a permanent peace treaty to end the sporadic battles that had been taking place between the two countries, in an attempt to consolidate that peace, Henry V married his daughter, Margaret to James IV.
In 1603 after the death of Queen Elizabeth, King James VI of Scotland became the king of England under the name of James I. Thus declaring himself king of Great Britain and settled in London, even though the two countries remained independent of each other.
A hundred years later, and after a long negotiations a unity treaty was reached in 1707, which established the United Kingdom of Great Britain between the four kingdoms of the Union consisting namely of, (England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland). That is a constitutional monarchy of federal states governed by a parliamentary system based in the British capital London, with local governments in their respective capitals enjoying full autonomous status was established.

It is worth mentioning that the unity that hold the different partners of the United Kingdom together is a voluntary one which was not forcibly imposed by oppression, tyranny and exclusion, but formed on the basis of consensus and compromise among the stakeholders to maintain and guarantee a fair sharing of power and resources and the preservation of the rights and interests of everyone, A unity that has lasted for 307 years, providing the people of the Kingdom with the necessary security, stability and political development and economic prosperity.

When the Scottish Parliament submitted the request to hold a referendum to decide the fate of Scotland by choosing to remain within the Union or opt out for independence, despite the large losses that would have been incurred by the separation on the political , economic social levels, the central government in London did not challenge or stand against the decision as it was in line with the basic foundation upon which the unity was established in the first place and maintained throughout time that is voluntarism and the right of free self-determination of all its constituents. The referendum was conducted in 18th of September 2014 in an open, transparent, impartial and fully democratic atmosphere where the Scots were allowed to express freely their will. The result of the democratic, civilized behaviour and practice has favoured the side that chose to keep Scotland within the Union by 55.3% versus 44.70%.

The Scottish National Party leader Alex Salmond, who led the campaign for Independence had humbly accepted the outcome of the referendum, with open mind and sportsmanship spirit, saying “Scotland has decided with a majority that does not opt to independent state, and I accept this verdict” and demanded London to fulfil its obligations of the promises made during the campaign to transfer more power and freedom to Scotland. On the other hand, the British Prime Minister David Cameron congratulated his counterpart for his exemplary leadership of the Scottish’ yes’ campaign and asked him to join the talks planned to transfer new additional powers to Scotland and other parts of the Union.

Thus the United Kingdom, , has demonstrated and established a role model for the entire world to respect and follow, the unity of any given country, can only be maintained through the practice of democracy and more democracy based on the principle of voluntariness.
As this poll through which the unity of the United Kingdom has been maintained also urged the dire need to introduce more powers in the management of the internal affairs, wider constitutional reform in all parts of Britain and basic re-forms of the Union treaty to ensure the construction of the unity is established on a solid strong foundation. The result of this pioneering experiment will positively reflect on the European arena, expected to lead to the gradual fading away of separatism tendencies in Ireland, as well as to play down calls for secession in Spain and Canada., in addition to the vital lesson learned from this experience that confirms the fact unity is preserved and strengthened only by the voluntary will of the concerned components to live together guaranteed by the right to exercise free democratic referendum to that effect.

At the level of the third world, which its countries have been suffering from instability since the emergence of the national states, due to the ongoing internal conflicts waged in attempts to control power by certain sectors at the expenses of the other components, and the utter failure of the elites in these countries to properly and effectively manage the diversity and plurality, that characterise these communities , defuse root causes of conflicts and create a stable decent life with providence of justice and security for the people. The Scottish experience is the right model that these countries should learn lessons from and adopt, and yes of course, that includes us too as Eritreans in particular.

• The Scottish experience is a practical confirmation for the basics of establishing better understanding and proper foundations for building and consolidating a sound enduring unity in diversity, apart from the chauvinistic exclusionary logic and practices that has prevailed so far. The foundation and the principles of unity must be based on the free and voluntary will, the availability of means and freedom of expression and democratic practice that guarantees the exercise of this right and finally the full recognition and acceptance of the outcome in good spirit as living together is a mutual will and desire, and the safety valve for that is the realisation of the interests and rights of all. Any other different approach and form of unity that does not exclude injustice and domination is a fragile and weak one that is inevitably doomed to fail.

• Unity should be based on concrete material interests bounds existing on the ground between individuals, national groups and equally promote and realise the common interests of all.
• Unity should guarantee the right of fair participation in power and wealth for the all concerned components, and any imbalance in binding interests relation involved will expose it to failure.
• Unity must protect and recognize and respect the multi-cultural, political and economic diversity existing among communities as stakeholders in equal foot.
• The right of self-determination is a democratic right and procedure through which a real voluntary and sound unity is guaranteed and maintained, avoiding the fake unity that is forcibly imposed, and this is the greatest lesson learned from the Scottish experience.

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