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Let us not cling to a Union with such a shameful colonial past

RICHARD Mowbray (Letters, May 15) may be a passionate Unionist but he should mug up on colonial history.

His comment about Scots contrib­uting to "an empire that was, despite some lapses, a force for good in the world" whitewashes the colonial experience of people living in poverty and violence in large swathes of Africa and Asia today. Despite some lapses? It was the British who created the mess in the Middle East that has given us the dispossession of the Palestinians and sectarian wars in Iraq and Syria. It was the British who arbitrarily foisted borders on former colonies in the decolonisation era that have fomented ethnic and religious wars ever since.

I have just returned from the Thai side of the border with Burma where I was teaching a course in intern­ational development to Burmese refugee students on behalf of an Australian university I used to work for. The students became refugees as a result of a bitter war between the Karen people and the Burmese military. In exchange for Karen assistance in fighting the Japanese in the Second World War, the British Government promised autonomy to the Karen but, on granting independence to Burma, broke its word and what was to be the world's longest-running civil war started.

The "lapses" of the Empire form a shameful chapter of English and Scottish history. Scotland has a chance now to change tack on behalf of the world's poor by becoming independent of the neo-colonialism offered by London rule and introducing a development and foreign policy not hidebound by neo-colonial delusions. I know the world's poor will welcome this new Scotland.

(Adjunct Professor) Duncan MacLaren,

14/20 Montrose Street,

Glasgow.

UNLIKE archaeologist Neil Oliver, I can reasonably claim to be a qualified historian, with (it is to be hoped) some "historical grasp" of the British past ("Rift with Britain 'may not heal'", The Herald, May 16, and "Oliver's armies", Herald Magazine, May 17). This is why I get impatient with people like Mr Oliver who describe the Union as a "marriage"; it was not, and is not, anything of the sort recognisable in Western culture. It is more accurately described as an abduction.

The Union was effected in 1707, when the pre-democratic Scottish Parliament voted to enter an unequal partnership with England; it was called an "incorporating union", and Scotland was indeed incorporated into England where it really mattered - parliament and govern­ment.

Scotland's 45 MPs and 16 lords could never hope to block legislation unfavourable to Scotland. Our own parliament had caved in to English pressure: bribes, blackmail, threats, and, ultimately, the probability of an invasion - English troops had been moved to the Border. The parliament did so despite knowing, from petitions, street rioting and other indications, that the vast majority of Scots vehemently opposed the Union; it was no marriage of willing partners.

Nor is it a "marriage" of equals today. Under English (but not Scottish) constitutional law, Westminster reigns supreme. The minority of Scots MPs there still cannot block measures unfavourable to Scotland. And in Holyrood, the Scottish Parliament exists at the pleasure of London, having been set up by legislation passed there which can be repealed as easily, technically speaking, as a law against dog-fouling.

Only by regaining our betrayed independence can our parliament be rendered permanent, and the unwilling "bride" restored to her dignity.

Donald R Buchanan,

75 Antonine Road,

Bearsden.

RICHARD Mowbray states: "And if ... Scotland were then [after a Yes vote and an initial socialist government] to elect a non-socialist adminis­tration of Conservatives and Liberals, what then? Independence would have been all for nothing." Surely he misses the point: such an administration would have been elected by Scottish voters, in contrast to the present situation.

Ken Anderson,

10 Douglas Terrace,

Broughty Ferry,

Dundee.

IT is past time to recognise that David Cameron, despite his pretence to be an interested bystander, was and is the leader of the No campaign.

He took, and only he could take, the two strategic decisions.

One was to refuse inter­government talks for contingency planning while demanding answers only such planning could provide. As the referendum draws nearer daily visits have been made by Coalition Government ministers that only he could arrange.

The other main issue is Scotland's status on EU entry. Both Scotland and the rUK should be recognised as joint successor states. The EU accepts the decision on this issue of the current member state.

Repeal of the broken Union of 1707 should leave both parties equally independent, so in honesty Mr Cameron should declare before the referendum - as should Ed Miliband - that Scotland is a successor state.

As for the promise of more powers ("Cameron promises more power if Scots vote No", The Herald, May 16), it looks that they intend more liabilities. There is no security in the UK's debt-fuelled economy.

John Smart,

38A Kinneddar Street, Lossiemouth.

HAS any other country ever approached its independence day in such a conservative and business-like fashion? The Yes campaign promotes minimal change and the No people contend even that as unaffordable.

If there is so little appetite to assume the powers of defence, foreign and monetary policy and to change the environment for big business and banking, globalisation, social ethics or public services, what is so wrong with the present devolved arrangements?

Political sniping and pointless speculation over a few pounds is unlikely to influence the outcome of the referendum. Perhaps all questions resolves to whether real democracy is more likely to be rekindled in London or Edinburgh.

RF Morrison,

Millig, 29 Colquhoun Street, Helensburgh.

ROCKALL, an isolated Atlantic outcrop 240 miles west of the Scottish mainland, has been the subject of nationalistic rivalries since 1810. As I understand, it was in this year that the Royal Navy landed a landing party and claimed it for the United Kingdom.

Since then the UK has made representations to the United Nations Commission on the Limits of Continental Shelf (UNclos) in 2009 for Rockall, basing its claim on the proximity of St Kilda (about 150 miles distant).

This claim is also contested by Ireland, Iceland and the Faroes.

The importance of these continuing negotiations concerning the sovereignty of this lump of uninhabited volcanic rock lies in a possible oil-rich Atlantic sea bed.

I wonder, that in the event of a Yes vote in the forthcoming referendum, will Alex Salmond be seeking sovereignty over Rockall?

This could be another opportunity for him to display his grasp of international diplomacy along the lines of his admiration of Mr Putin and his implied threat to mount a blockade of the North Sea.

I thought to ask as it does not appear to have been mentioned before.

Joe Hughes,

38 Gair Crescent,

Wishaw.

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