referred to the the 'Finnieston' in her latest Notebook and suggested that Rob Roy MacGregor may have been a patron. While the pub/restaurant opened in c.1800, Rob Roy MacGregor died in 1734, some 70 years earlier.
It is a shame that Bernie Cohen's
piece in last week's Cafe, where he calls for people to face facts, deploys so few of them and does so with little apparent effort at evaluation to determine their accuracy and relevance. For example, he cites that the union was originally needed to avoid national bankruptcy. Looking at the context of the dire consequences of the Darien fiasco, one has to realise that we are looking at a very different world of late 17th- and early 18th-century turmoil.
One critical factor is summarised on the BBC history website which states that Scotland's trade '…had been crippled by England's continual wars against continental Europe…'. This, the various English Navigation Acts and the East India Company's successful lobbying of the English Parliament, which resulted ultimately in forcing English investors to withdraw from the Company of Scotland, were part and parcel of what might be described as a 17th-century 'England First' policy (perhaps President Trump is a student of history after all?).
Mr Cohen goes on to cite the Barnett formula as evidence that Scotland still requires support. If (and it's an almighty big if) that is the case, you need to ask why it is that a union that he describes as 'well tested' and to which Scotland 'properly belongs' has been singularly unsuccessful in promoting and enabling its constituent parts to share equally in its wealth. Instead, his well-tested union leaves 'this province' (Mr Cohen's own term) as a 'relatively impoverished and unproductive area' and recipients of handouts from its southern neighbour. Perhaps the original bargain was a poor one?
We also have a curious assertion from Mr Cohen that the EU is undemocratic. This really is a somewhat lazy argument (I use the latter term very loosely). It also smacks rather of a failure and unwillingness to take responsibility for decisions taken in council – decisions taken by the UK's own elected representatives as part of both the European Council and Council of Ministers. That is not to say that the EU and its institutions are perfect – far from it. However, it does allow 28 countries to co-exist peacefully, successfully putting behind us the horrors of centuries of warfare.
Nor should we be tempted to boast of our own flawed democracy. A democracy that relies on a first past the post system of voting that increasingly distorts results and effectively disenfranchises many voters of nearly every political persuasion. A voting system that currently also ensures that the voters of a 'more populous unit' will always have their own way no matter how many times the other constituent parts of the union vote differently. Hardly a fair influence on the evolution of a union claimed by Mr Cohen, more a perennial bondage to a larger neighbour. And why do we still have a second unelected parliamentary chamber that is a bastion of privilege, patronage and wealth?
One also needs to ask why Mr Cohen needs to burden us with another assertion that England is 'a more geographically balanced' unit. I have very serious doubts that the citizens of Cumbria, Northumberland and Cornwall, for example, will feel that they benefit from such a balanced geography. Figures from the Office for National Statistics earlier this year revealed that only London, the South East and the East of England had net fiscal surpluses in the most recent financial year. Everywhere else had a net fiscal deficit.
In fact, it seems that Mr Cohen's piece is just a tedious rehash of the 'too poor, too wee and too stupid' argument. The world has many successful small nations – New Zealand, Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Norway are all exemplars. Mr Cohen himself admits that the ingenuity of our people has been one of our most successful exports. There is ample evidence to suggest that, given the right conditions, Scotland and its people can successfully take its place in the family of nations. No-one realistically says that it will be easy – re-building a nation that has been relegated in the eyes of people like Mr Cohen to the status of a province will face many challenges.
However, Scotland has every chance, if it should choose independence, of making a success of it. There are many factors other than economic ones for the Scottish electorate to consider in a future independence referendum. Those who advocate the continuation of our membership of a union 300 years in the making, do a disservice to both sides of the argument by denigrating Scotland's history and capacity for successful self-determination, and arguably make independence more, rather than less, likely.
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