Rievers of Blood

Here’s a talking point from history for you as a weekend treat…it comes from an academic whose identity I will shield (careers can be ruined by appearing here – look what happened to John Boothman). My correspondent is worried about the approach of Ruth Davidson who said on the BBC that only 16 per cent of Scotland’s trade is with the EU but 60 per cent is with England. 

‘This reminded me of the trap that was sprung in 1707, when as a result of the War of the Spanish Succession (which didn’t end until 1712) and other anti-Europe trade measures enacted by the Crown, Scotland’s trade with Europe (which was then substantial – more than 16%, I would have thought, but no figures are available that I’m aware of) was greatly curtailed.

However cross-Border trade had steadily bloomed since 1603. One of James VI’s key objective on becoming joint monarch was to settle the Anglo-Scottish Border wars and crack down on the Border rievers on both sides – Scottish and English monarchs had not succeeded in co-operating sufficiently to stamp this out.

Anyway, the gist of it was that there was a large amount of trade with England by 1707 which went overland, across the Borders, at a time when trade with Europe and overseas was severely curtailed. When England threatened Scotland in 1706 with the Aliens Act, whereby this trade would also be severely curtailed unless Scotland agreed to the Union, they played a blinder.

It was one of the key threats to Scotland that ensured the passage of the Acts of Union. It is notable that (then as now) that there was a compelling economic logic to this, (the logic of blackmail, that is) that so many were willing to vote against the Union irrespective of the fact that as a result of the Aliens Act coming into force we would almost certainly have been worse off in the short to medium term.

Davidson didn’t quite say it, but I think she was issuing a similar threat, that if we voted for independence, England would threaten to, and probably carry out, under a Tory government, tariff restrictions on our English trade. And if we had already been brought out of Europe by England, we would have lost our European trade to, or at least it would be hampered by being outside of the EU.

History repeats itself….many who accepted the union in 1707 were not enthusiastic for it. They simply felt it was catch 22 and there was a compelling logic to it given the situation Scotland was placed in. But, on the plus side, at least the union offered global opportunities through the nascent British Empire not so available in an independent Scotland. Scots became ardent British expansionists. In a weird way, it became a badge of Scottish pride and a compensation for our national humiliation in 1707 to out-British the English in the UK’s global expansion.’

Could it all happen again?

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6 thoughts on “Rievers of Blood

  1. Interesting article , once again, got me thinking , is there any Country, Nation or State , that was not created by “Blood and Iron ” .

    Germany for instance , the Danes did not get much say in the matter when the Prussians showed up and wrested Schleswig -Holstein from them.

    a few years later in 1866 the Prussians defeated the Austro-Hungarian Empire at Sadowa . thereby cancelling any influence Vienna had in Germany’s unification.

    then in 1870 France felt the wrath , and the last “meaningful” opposition to a united Germany was silenced, by military might and realpolitik.

    By humiliating France and taking Alsace Lorraine , the seeds were sown for 1914 ,

    One could argue that France had it coming , Napoleon used the German states as a training ground, and gave them no end of beatings, Jena in 1806 , the worst of them .

    Many in the German states , realised they had to “unite”, politically as well as economically , to provide a counterpoise to a powerful France , Russia , and Austro-Hungary.

    it helps put the moral condemnation of the treaty of Union and the Alien act into perspective .

  2. It all depends on what our position in the EU would be.

    An independent Scotland in the EU and rUK in or out of the EU would mean that in order to trade with the EU, rUK would need an agreement which included Scotland – so no detriment there.

    Alternatively if Scotland became independent and stayed out of the EU whilst rUK stayed in again we would need to negotiate a trade deal with the whole EU including rUK – so not necessarily a detriment there either.

    One way or other I don’t see any reason why an independent Scotland would be forced out and forced to stay out of the EU if it wanted to be in – after all her 5.5 million citizens are already EU citizens. Is the EU really going to close the door on them because they choose to resemble every other member state of the EU bar the UK?

    Anyway, it’s interesting but very hypothetical. I think Scotland along with rUK will vote to remain in and when we get independence from rUk we will stay in.

    But let’s deal with what is. Ruth is wrong – according to the Scottish Parliament’s own information office (which I presume Ruth has access to) ” the proportion of exports to the EU as a percentage of overall international exports has stabilised at around 45%” – that figure excludes rUK.

  3. and where is England going to expand that Empire from? Is this the reason for the space port in Newquay?

  4. Ruth Davidson is an enemy of the citizens of Scotland.
    She is there to defend the Holy London Empire: endov.
    In 1707 we were all serfs. We had no say in what the bloody Earls decided.
    It is 2016. The times they have a’ changed.
    Unlike your anonymous source, Derek, I am retired, and can now say what I bliddy weel like.
    !0 years ago, my rants would have been career severing. Not now.
    Keep on truckin’, my boy.

  5. What ever the future holds, our interests re trade are better served through independence. Scotland has options the rUK simply does not have post BREXT. Scotland would certainly be assured to be part of EFTA for example if that were the only option available to be part of the world’s largest single market. Those who think the UK or even rUK could have a “Norway style” agreement are very mistaken. If thet were so, Turkey would be an EFTA member already.

  6. Actually just reading about this very thing the now Derek. The Convention of Royal Burghs had a lot to do with control of trade and I wonder if in today’s money that would be the sort of equivalent of the CBI – mm with an out they would surely have to change? Or as the go to for David Cameron (‘prices will rise if you think for yourselves ) Asda is American, we’ll be alright ? We can survive on Asdas own make ?
    I also understand ( besides the well established black market in trade) in order to avoid paying customs ( when trading with the Low Countries) Scottish trade was passed through England. Oh how times have times have changed from what I understand , all the tax from ‘Scottish goods’ leaving a port in England is credited to the treasury.
    Wonder how that would work out for you Ruth?
    Anyway having just had a lively Portuguese taxi driver drive me across the border to Spain , pointing out Shengen , Shengen , I wonder sometimes what century Unionist politicians live in ?
    Maybe we could have a understanding with say – China about trade ? They might have access to other markets ?

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