THE UNION, SCOTLAND & THE BRITISH EMPIRE
British Imperialism and
Unionism are inextricably linked, so says BBC Radio 4's Analysis programme on
Thursday April 6th. So far as this newsletter is concerned that is nothing to be
ashamed of and the decline of both is a cause for great sorrow and the world is
a poorer place for it. Between its founding in 1934 and the end of the 1950's
(did Sir Ian Macleod, the then Aberdonian Colonial Secretary in the Conservative
Government realise that by deciding to liquidate the African empire in 1959/60
he was also undermining the Unity of
the United Kingdom and also undermining the Conservative Party which held the most seats in Scotland in 1955, 36 in fact, a position never repeated since?), the Scottish National Party's share of the Scottish vote at general elections never rose above 5 per cent. At the height of decolonisation, between 1959 and 1974, the SNP's share of the vote soared from 0.1 to 30.4%.
How involved were the Scots in the creation of the British Empire and how much did they get out of it? Has there been attempt in recent times to divorce Scotland from the achievements of the British Empire and an attempt to portray Scotland as yet another victim of English imperialism? By the 1730's and 40's, the evidence from the East India Company suggests that Scottish cadres, above 50 per cent for example, of the highest grade within the Indian civil service were Scots; that the Scots made up the largest number of free merchants by 1800 in Bengal and other areas; the two great commercial syndicates in Canada, the Hudson's Bay Company and the North West Company, both dominated by the Orcadians and from the Outer Hebrides. Scotland also exported a huge number of trained doctors and engineers all over the British Empire after 1750 from its five great Universities. In the Caribbean the largest number of physicians and plantation overseers were Scots. The Scots not only played a disproportionate role in the British Empire, in the creation and maintenance of the Empire, but they were also involved in the Slave Trade. Glasgow's Gallery of Modern Art in Royal Exchange Square is housed in the former mansion of a Caribbean Tobacco Baron.
Providing a Scot was loyal
to King George there was to be no barrier to what he could achieve, proclaimed
Prime Minister Henry Pelham in 1746. The Secretary of War, Lord Barrington, in
1751 said that such were the qualities of Scottish soldiers and in particular,
Highland soldiers, that he wanted as many as possible in the British Army. Linda
Colley's new book
has a particularly
interesting chapter on British military heroes of the second half of the eighteenth century, many of whom (eg: Lord Adam Gordon, General Simon Fraser) were Scots.
The Scottish economy expanded after the 1750's at a faster rate than ever before. Between 1750 and 1800 its overseas commerce grew by 300%, England's by 200%. Scotland's major cities and towns were transformed in this period. They had new broad streets, elegant private houses and imposing public buildings. The showpiece was Edinburgh new town designed by James Craig in 1767 as a celebration of British patriotism and as an assertion of Scotland's and the city's importance in the Union. Prince's Street, George Street and Queen Street intersected with Hanover and Frederick Street, thereby paying tribute to George III, his immediate family, his father and his dynasty. Also created were St Andrews Square and St George Square. The very heart of Scotland's capital was a monument to its parity with England and in loyal attachment to the House of Hanover.
The inventor of the steam engine, James Watt, did not regard himself as a stooge of English cultural hegemony.When Catherine the Great of Russia tried to persuade him to leave to work for her, he replied that he could never leave his nation which was Great Britain.
If you walk around
Glasgow's George Square, the architecture clearly reflects Glasgow's perception
of itself in the latter part of the 19th century as the second city of the
Empire. Most of the statues in the square are of imperial heroes. The most
famous is that of Field Marshall Sir Colin Campbell, Baron Clyde (1792-1863).
The outbreak of the Indian Mutiny called for a General of tried experience and
on July 11th 1857 the command was offered to him by Lord Palmerston. On being
asked when he would be ready to set out, he said "Within 24 hours". He left
England the next evening, and reached Calcutta on August 13th. After spending
two months in the capital to organise his resources, he started for the front on
October 27th, and on November 17th relieved Lucknow for the second time. Sir
Colin, however,considered Lucknow a false position, and once more abandoned it
to the rebels, retaking it in March 1858. He continued in charge of the
operations in Oudh until the embers of the revolt had died away. For these
services he was raised to the peerage, in 1858,
as Baron Clyde, and returning to the UK in 1859, he received the thanks of both Houses of Parliament and a pension of £2000 a year. He was buried in Westminster Abbey, he received a Sword of Honour from the City of Glasgow and the town of Clyde was named after him in New Zealand in 1865. Earlier in his career, he had quelled the slave revolt in the colony of Demerara in 1823. Demerara became united with Berbice and Essequibo as the colony of British Guiana on 21 July 1831.
Various aspectsof Scottish
victimhood abound, including much coverage of the process known as the Highland
clearances as well as a concentration on the events post Culloden in 1746. What
Scotland needs to do is acknowledge its role in the creation and maintenance of
the British Empire rather than pretend it wasa victim of imperialism. That is a
false history that must be scuppered once and for all. If the nation is
embarrassed by links with slavery, it could equally point to Dr Livingston's
campaigns against slavery in the African interior
and that Scottish MP's at Westminster voted to abolish slavery at Westminster, as did English Members in 1807.
The SNP want to see the UK broken up and our total absorption into the European Union. Their policies should not be criticised on the grounds of cost alone-they are an insult to our national mission. Large parts of the world, particularly in Africa & the Middle East, are in a mess and are getting worse and not better since the so called "yoke of imperialism" was so "kindly" removed in the 1960's. Many mistakes were made in the 60's - some of the economic follies have been remedied. Alas the follies in social, defence and foreign policy have not been remedied. This is a vital task for a new British Government. Withdrawal from the EU, the restoration of God's Laws and standards at Westminster, a tougher approach to terrorism, both against terrorist organisations and terrorist states & nations, and an end to self flagellation over "imperialist guilt" are essential if a more confident British nation is to take shape in the 21st century. It is my dearest wish that the UK enjoys again the same national renaissance as it enjoyed after 1707.