The Scotland-UN Committee
STATUS AS A NATION
Scotland Qualifies for the Right of Self-Determination
The expression "people", as tentatively
defined by the United Nations Organisation, denotes a social entity
possessing a clear identity and its own characteristics as well as a
lengthy common history, and it implies a relationship with a territory.
These are the basic elements of a definition for the purpose of
establishing whether such a social entity is a “people” fit to enjoy and
exercise the right of self-determination. The Scottish qualifications
are absolutely unchallengeable on all counts.
This statement was originally prepared
for use within the United Nations, the Organisation for Security and
Cooperation in Europe and other international organisations when the
question of Scotland’s exercise of the right to self-determination was
raised there. Scotland’s status as a nation is one of the key aspects to
be considered by the national and international authorities, who are
generally not very well informed on the subject, when the question
arises of diplomatic recognition of an autonomous Scottish state. It is
therefore written with a foreign readership in mind, and it emphasises
the points that will make the Scottish case in international diplomatic
The basic ethnic
component of the Scottish Nation is a fusion of three related Celtic
peoples, with later minor infusions of Viking, Flemish and other
Germanic blood, especially in the small south-eastern corner of the
country. This composition has remained predominant right to the present
day, because the demographic movement has overwhelmingly consisted of a
movement of population from Scotland, the only major inward movement
until very recent times having been extensive immigration by the closely
related Celtic Irish. Other recent ethnic immigrants have not altered
this composition to the same extent.
No nation in the world
is entirely “pure”, in the sense of consisting of only one ethnic group,
with the possible exception of a native tribe in some remote part of the
globe. The decisive factor is the predominant ethnic element in its
composition, the assimilation of incomers to its culture, and the
distinctiveness of its way of life. The Scottish people have been fused
together over many centuries from distinct elements to become a unique
whole unlike any other.
The Scottish Nation has
occupied its national territory throughout its entire history, for there
has never been any other occupant of the land since prehistoric times.
Geographically, Scotland is almost an island. It has around 10,000
kilometres of coastline with 130 inhabited islands, and a mere 150
kilometres of land frontier - and that runs for most of its length over
uninhabitable mountainous country. There are only two main land routes
into and out of the country, on the east and west coasts, as if Scotland
were joined to a neighbouring island by two causeways.
distinctiveness is underlined by the nature of Scotland’s topography,
with settlements to a great extent concentrated in narrow river valleys,
on islands, along the coastline and the shores of fjords, with vast
areas of uninhabitable mountainous country in between. Scotland is a
typically Scandinavian country – something that is borne out by its
geological history, which is totally different from that of England to
the south. England, where communications radiate out in all directions,
is a detached part of continental Europe.
geographical situation, and the climate of a land extending from 54° 38’
to 60° 51’ north of the equator, is what determines Scotland’s
geo-economic and hence geo-political situation. There is no more clearly
defined geographical, and hence economic, social and cultural entity
than Scotland. Consequently, Scotland will remain a natural base unit of
political organisation for all the foreseeable future.
The Scottish people are
one of the most ancient nations in Europe, with one and a half thousand
years of shared experience as a political unit, during which time they
have lived continuously within the bounds of their present national
territory. While recent archaeological research indicates a history
going back for thousands of years, the written historical evidence shows
that the Scottish kingdom was founded by Fergus Mor around the year 500
AD. According to the first record of the formal inauguration of a
monarch, Aedan mac Gabhran was consecrated King of Scots by St. Columba
in the year 574 AD. The Declaration of Arbroath of the year 1320 states
that Scotland had till that date been governed by "an uninterrupted
succession of 113 kings, all of our own native and royal stock, without
the intervening of any stranger". Scotland was a united kingdom by the
early 9th century, with the union of the Picts and Scots under King
Kenneth I, some 200 years before neighbouring England.
The present border
between Scotland and England was finally established during the Middle
Ages, almost exactly on the line of the frontier between the Roman
province of Britannia (now England) and the unconquered territory of
Caledonia (now Scotland). This is the line at which opposing forces have
balanced out down through the ages. The Scotland-England border was
definitively fixed by the Treaty of York concluded in 1237 between
Alexander II, King of Scots, and Henry III, King of England.
Scotland thereby gave up
all claims to territory south of that border.
Some minor adjustments
were made by agreement in 1552, but otherwise the line agreed in 1237,
running from the middle of the Solway Firth in the west to the mouth of
the River Tweed in the east, has never been altered, and to this day it
remains the border between the Scottish and English legal jurisdictions.
The 1706 Treaty of Union between Scotland and England, and the
subsequent Scottish and English ratifying Acts of Union, all lay down
that the jurisdiction of the Scottish courts may not be altered,
notwithstanding the Union.
The only border issue
comparable with similar cases in Europe concerns the town of Berwick
upon Tweed, the strategically situated Scottish border town that was
occupied by English troops in 1482 in an act of military aggression with
no constitutional force. The Scottish king, James IV, who was anxious to
marry the new English king Henry VII’s daughter, bowed to superior force
and, in the 1502 Treaty of Perpetual Peace with England, agreed that the
town and castle of Berwick (but not the rural part of the present
Berwick enclave) would continue to be administered by England, while
specifically remaining a part of Scotland.
This curious mediaeval
anachronism has never been corrected, not even long after Berwick Castle
ceased to have any military importance, and it remains the situation to
this day. Berwick upon Tweed is still under English administration, but
the purely administrative boundary at Lamberton, 4 kilometres to the
north of the town, has no constitutional significance. The
Scotland-England border at this point is still the mouth of the River
Tweed, as it has remained legally for almost eight centuries, and is the
starting point for Scotland’s marine border. At no time has Berwick ever
been transferred to England.
* * * * *
The factor that makes
Scotland's claim of right to self-determination different from almost
all others is that its participation within the present United Kingdom
of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is not based on conquest or other
form of assimilation, but on a treaty under international law as well as
two acts of parliament that ratified and implemented the treaty. These
measures can, of course, legally be rescinded at any time, since the
circumstances that led to their conclusion now no longer prevail, and
the disadvantages arising out of the present political structure are
becoming daily more obvious. The elected Scottish Parliament and
Government are completely competent to negotiate such a withdrawal from
* * * * *
Scotland has a quite
unique history of its own. It possesses its own highly distinctive legal
and educational systems. The roll call of Scots who have achieved
worldwide fame in the fields of learning, and the lists of their
discoveries and inventions, would fill volumes. The Church of Scotland
is Presbyterian, in the Calvinist tradition, but the Catholic and other
Christian denominations are equally distinctive in character, springing
as they all do from the early Celtic Church.
Almost all of Scotland's
other national institutions are equally distinctive. Scots law is based
on totally different principles from those of the legal system of the
rest of the United Kingdom, and is more akin to continental European
systems in its reception of Roman law. Scotland had a system of
compulsory school education from the late 15th century, when its
earliest universities were founded.
Enlightenment had widespread international effects. Scottish
constitutional ideas inspired both the American and French revolutions.
The writings of the philosopher David Hume were the foundation for the
Constitution of the United States and its numerous progeny around the
world. Adam Smith founded the science of political economy, Adam
Ferguson that of sociology. In the natural sciences James Clerk Maxwell
is regarded as the equal of Albert Einstein.
Scotland was a cradle of
the industrial revolution, when the steam engine developed by James Watt
revolutionised the world. The list of Scottish scientific achievements
is endless: anaesthetic surgery, the bicycle, the telephone, television,
radar, penicillin and countless others. The Scottish financial
institutions are internationally prominent.
Few people will fail to
be aware of the highly distinctive Scottish national dress; even the
Roman writers two thousand years ago described the checked tartan
patterns of the clothing worn by their unconquerable adversaries, the
Caledonians. Many countries share the bagpipe as a musical instrument,
but nowhere was it brought to such a pitch of perfection as in Scotland,
which is unique in possessing a large repertoire of classical music for
it. The Scots share their heritage of Celtic graphic art with their
Irish cousins, but in music, dance, literature, architecture and many
another field the Scottish culture is absolutely unique in the world. On
an international scale, Scotland is one of the few custodians of
Europe's ancient Celtic heritage, the preservation of which is a matter
that concerns all the peoples of the continent.
The ancient crown
insignia of the Kingdom of Scots, the Honours of Scotland, which can be
seen in Edinburgh Castle, testify to one of the oldest monarchies in the
world. The State Crown is so ancient that its date of manufacture is
unknown, although it was remodelled in 1540 for King James V. It was
certainly in existence when the reigning Popes presented the State
Sceptre and the Sword of State to James IV, King of Scots, in 1494 and
The historic Parliament
House in Edinburgh, completed in 1639, and now the seat of the Scottish
supreme courts of law, indicates the country's lengthy tradition of
democratic government in a national Assembly, for which the word "Parlament"
was used by a chronicler as early as the year 1174 under William I, King
of Scots – the first time in history it has been recorded as a
designation for a legislative Assembly.
Scotland's claim of
right to self-determination was first raised at international level
almost seven centuries ago, when the Declaration of Arbroath was sent in
1320 to the Pope - the then international authority - by the Scottish
leaders in the name of "the whole community of the realm of Scotland".
It was not an appeal for independence, but an assertion by a people who
had been independent since their origins in the mists of history that
they were under no circumstances prepared to give up that status for
subservience to an aggressor.
constitutional document confirmed the sovereignty of the people over the
institutions of state, and unequivocally asserted the independence of
the Scottish Nation, as the following extract makes clear:
"But if this Prince
(Robert I, King of Scots)...shall consent that we or our kingdom be
subjected to the king or people of England, we will immediately exert
ourselves to expel him, as our enemy and as the subverter both of his
own rights and of ours, and we will make another king who will defend
For so long as one
hundred of us remain alive we will never consent to subject ourselves to
the dominion of the English. We fight not for glory, or riches, or
honours, but for freedom alone, which no good man will relinquish,
except with his life."
No other nation in the
world possesses a more inspiring declaration of independence. Moreover,
its constitutional principles, which have been reinforced over the
centuries by Scottish constitutional and legal writers, are fully in
accord with modern concepts of democracy.
It cannot, therefore, be
asserted that the Scots are not a distinctive people within the meaning
of the United Nations definition. They have established their
unassailable right to self-determination, and to such degree of
self-government as they themselves freely decide to assume without
We anticipate that
Scotland's rights in this respect will be unequivocally confirmed and
upheld by the international community in Europe and the world, in
accordance with the United Nations Bill of Human Rights, the Helsinki
Final Act and the other relevant instruments by which all participating
states are bound.
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