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British Expat Newsletter:
9 May 2007

Hello, and welcome to those who have joined up since our last newsletter.

In this issue

  • This week: “Ane end of ane old song”
  • Virtual Snacks
  • Bizarre Searches
  • Quotation and joke

This week

The more historically aware among you may have noticed that 1 May was the 300th anniversary of the Union between England and Scotland.

It’s perhaps no coincidence that although the Scottish Executive announced a year-long programme of events to commemorate the Union, including a whole range of school projects, special museum exhibitions and lectures, English commemoration has been notable by its absence. This could possibly be because England doesn’t have a parliament or government of its own, so any English commemorative effort has simply appeared as part of a UK-wide initiative (like the special £2 coin, for instance – although the number of different issues of those make them about as special as those collectible coins you used to get from Esso garages). Or it could simply be that the English ignore the Scots except when they need something from them, like oil revenue or some decent Cabinet Ministers.

Perhaps it’s also no accident that in the Scottish Parliament elections on 3 May, the SNP were the largest party for the first time, elected on a mandate to hold a referendum on Scottish independence. They’re still a long way from getting that referendum. The Lib Dems, one of their most likely partners in government, are against the idea, as are Labour and the Tories, so there’s a clear majority against one. But eventual independence is starting to look a less unrealistic proposition than it was even eight years ago, when the new Scottish Parliament first met.

Why do so many Scots want to leave the Union? The main reason, I suppose, is the feeling of resentment that the Union was largely imposed on the Scots by the English and by their own (corrupt) rulers. The bulk of the Scottish people didn’t want it. The fact was, though, that Scotland was broke – having had their attempts to set up a colony in Darien (in modern-day Panama) scuppered by the English, and losing £500,000 in the process (at that time, almost the entire value of the coinage in Scotland). So the Scots nobles took the chance to replenish their coffers – reluctantly, but they took it. The Scots Parliament passed out of existence, and a mere 45 MPs and 16 representative peers joined the House of Commons and House of Lords at Westminster. (The English peers and MPs continued to sit there in undiminished numbers.)

Some Scots will tell you that every one of the 25 Articles of the Union was violated by the English. That may or may not be true. I personally doubt it – why bother, when the deal was so heavily weighted in favour of England in the first place? Even so, many Scots have managed to prosper under the Union, punching above their weight in government (and in the armed forces and the colonies). And since the late 19th century Scotland’s attracted more public spending than England, although that advantage is now gradually being eroded.

Calls for Scottish independence were few and far between by the mid-20th century (the liberation of the Stone of Destiny from Westminster Abbey in 1950 was a one-off). But the discovery of North Sea oil in the late 1960s changed all that – the feeling was that England was now benefiting from the proceeds of a natural resource which rightfully belonged to Scotland. And the resurgence of Ireland’s economy from the late 1980s onwards also encouraged Scots nationalists to argue that the Union was holding Scotland back rather than buoying it up. As with any economic question, there are more points of view over this than there are discussants, but the argument’s a seductive one.

Personally Kay and I don’t have any very strong feelings about Scottish independence. As an expat I suspect that it wouldn’t have any great impact on us apart from Kay getting a different passport. And since I was born in England I might or might not get an extra passport through marriage.

Mind you, the title of this website and this newsletter might have to change…

Do you have anything to say about this topic? Or do you have some suggestions for other issues we might discuss in our weekly email? Why not comment and tell us?

Virtual Snacks

Just a few suggestions if you have a little time to spare:

The BBC’s excellent economics editor, Evan Davis, has written a piece looking at the claims and counter-claims about the possible cost of independence to Scotland: The Scottish Gamble.

Here’s the Scottish Parliament’s perspective on the Act of Union.

There have been numerous calls within England for an English Parliament – here’s the Campaign for an English Parliament’s website.

Bizarre Searches

Some strange search terms which have led people to visit British Expat recently:

  • her royal majesty british wellies
  • fil starling
  • mcdonnell douglas md82 seating plan
  • her meaty legs
  • some days you are the fly some days you are the windscreen
  • i whant to become an auditor
  • at the hairdresser – english lesson
  • i will make you thin
  • what romanians do for fun
  • all greeks goodes wifes

Till next time…
Happy surfing!

Deputy Editor
British Expat Magazine


What force or guile could not subdue
Thro’ many warlike ages,
Is wrought now by a coward few
For hireling traitor’s wages.
The English steel we could disdain,
Secure in valour’s station.
But English gold has been our bane:
Sic a parcel of rogues in a nation!

– Robert Burns (1759-96)


The average Englishman, in the home he calls his castle, slips into his national costume – a shabby raincoat, patented by chemist Charles Macintosh of Glasgow.

He travels to work in a car fitted with pneumatic tyres invented by John Boyd Dunlop of Dreghorn, Ayrshire.

At the office he receives his mail, bearing adhesive stamps invented by John Chalmers of Dundee. He speaks to several contacts on the telephone, invented by Alexander Graham Bell of Edinburgh.

At home in the evening, his daughter pedals her bicycle, invented by Kirkpatrick Macmillan of Dumfries.

He watches the news on the television, an invention of John Logie Baird of Helensburgh. The lead story is about the US Navy, which was founded by John Paul Jones of Kirkbean, Dumfries & Galloway.

He has now been reminded too much of Scotland and in desperation he picks up the Bible, only to find that the first man mentioned in it is a Scot – King James VI, who authorised its translation.

Nowhere can an Englishman turn to escape the ingenuity of the Scots. He could take to drink, but the Scots make the best in the world. He could take a rifle and end it all, but the breech-loading rifle was invented by Captain Patrick Ferguson of Edinburgh. If he escaped death, he could find himself on an operating table injected with penicillin, discovered by Alexander Fleming of Darvel, Ayrshire, and given an anaesthetic, discovered by Sir James Young Simpson of Bathgate, West Lothian. Out of the anaesthetic he would find no comfort in learning that he was “as safe as the Bank of England” – founded by William Paterson of Dumfries.

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