How the Union has robbed the Scottish people.
This week Leah Gunn Barrett was speaking at the opening of the new Salvo hub in Edinburgh, what follows is much of the content of her speech. Since the 1707 Treaty of Union, Scotland’s wealth has been stolen and exploited by our larger “partner” in an ongoing act of colonisation. Colonialism is economic exploitation by a dominant power that exercises political control over itsContinue reading "How the Union has robbed the Scottish people. "
This week Leah Gunn Barrett was speaking at the opening of the new Salvo hub in Edinburgh, what follows is much of the content of her speech.
Since the 1707 Treaty of Union, Scotland’s wealth has been stolen and exploited by our larger “partner” in an ongoing act of colonisation.
Colonialism is economic exploitation by a dominant power that exercises political control over its colony. This describes Scotland’s current position within the union where we have no control over our land or resources and our MPs are overwhelmingly outvoted by English MPs. Because Scotland has no veto over English decisions, the union is a sham.
In 1707, Scotland had 1.1 million people, 20% of the population of England and Wales. Today, Scotland has just 8.1% of the UK population, of which over a quarter were born in England and Wales. This is one of the largest single non-war depopulations in Europe for a country of Scotland’s size and was a direct consequence of Scotland being in the union.
The union has resulted in Scotland being under-developed and poorer than it should be. Scotland’s economy lags far behind its prosperous Nordic neighbours, and over a fifth of Scotslive in poverty. Most of Scotland’s assets have been sold to foreign entities with the Scottish people receiving very little. None of the major economic sectors are Scottish owned.
This ongoing theft of Scotland’s assets is a clear violation of the Treaty and Acts of Union. Since the year 840, the Crown of Scotland was and remains the Community of the Realm, the people. The people, not the monarch or parliament, were sovereign and had the right to elect or depose a ruler who did not govern in the people’s interests.
By contrast, the Crown of England, established in 1066, was the monarch, who owned all the land and exercised political and legal sovereignty over England and its people. This sovereignty was transferred to the English Parliament in 1689 which is where the modern doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty comes from.
The two Crowns are irreconcilably different. The English concept of the Crown has been illegally imposed onto Scotland. And it is by the English ‘right of the Crown,’ the feudal right of an overlord, that the theft of Scotland’s territorial assets has been legitimised. The Treaty of Union never enabled this to happen nor did it have the competence to authorise it. The Treaty is no more than a legal fiction, masking an illegal act of annexation. It explains why the people’s wealth has been stolen from them.
What follows are a few examples of how the union has robbed the Scottish people of their wealth. There are countless others.
Scotland was once a great seafaring and trading nation, with active ports around our vast coastline that were owned by the local communities, the burghs. These ports supported the entire economy, creating much of the wealth of the town and sustaining the local population. They raised substantial revenues from local taxes on goods and ships, enabling the Burghs to re-invest in new port infrastructure.
In the 1960s, the UK government transferred port ownership from councils to private trusts which operated in the vested interests of the trustees, not the community. In 1991, the UK Government allowed the trusts to sell the ports to private companies, with half the revenue going to the UK and half to the trust owners. Burghs received nothing. The owners then sold the ports to offshore private equity firms at inflated prices. The private equity model doesn’t allow for investment in new infrastructure because the ports are bought in leveraged transactions with debt. Port profits are then used to pay the interest on this debt, profits that used to flow to local communities.
To see what the return of local port ownership could bring to Scotland’s communities, look at the Northern Isles in Orkney and Shetland where the councils continued to own the ports. They were able to build up sovereign wealth funds from massive oil tanker trading, charging dues (taxes) on ships and goods. They also charge dues on ferries and cruise ships and other vessels. This provides for an additional income to these councils which employ large numbers of people in maritime activity and also generate surpluses for general use. In Shetland the oil fund helped pay for leisure centres and swimming pools in most parishes and outer isles, and also helped fund major road upgrades and maintain internal ferry services.
Scotland’s North Sea Oil
In 1975, the UK Government faced a dilemma: how to exploit the potential of its new North Sea oil fields, 90% of which lay in Scottish waters, without fuelling demands for Scottish independence. So, it buried the evidence in the incendiary McCrone Report, authored by Professor Gavin McCrone.
McCrone wrote that an independent Scotland’s budget surpluses as a result of the oil boom would be so large as to be “embarrassing”. Scotland’s currency “would become the hardest in Europe, with the exception perhaps of the Norwegian Kronor.”
The comparison with Norway particularly worried Westminster. Independent Norway in the mid 1970s was about to capitalise on an oil boom that today has made Norway one of the world’s richest nations with a sovereign wealth fund worth over $1 trillion. Scotland’s oil and gas reserves exceeded Norway’s so had we been independent, our wealth would arguably be even greater.
Oil would make Scotland far wealthier than England, putting it in a position to lend heavily to its indebted southern neighbour. At the time of the report, the SNP estimated that North Sea oil would yield £800 million per year by 1980. McCrone criticised this estimate as being far too low, putting the sum at £3 billion.
No wonder Westminster’s mandarins instructed that the 19-page report be classified and buried for the next 30 years until a Freedom of Information request finally unearthed it.
But by then, the damage had been done. The entire value of North Sea oil – hundreds of billions – had flowed to the UK Treasury where it was squandered on tax cuts, mass privatisations, English infrastructure projects such as the Channel Tunnel, Eurostar, Canary Wharf, and, of course,nuclear weapons, stored half an hour from Scotland’s largest city.
Scottish oil has repeatedly bailed out a sinking UK economy. In return, Thatcher shut down Scottish industries, destroying whole communities. The incalculable harm from both the theft of our oil and the decimation of our industrial basereverberates to this day.
Scotland’s Sea Border
Scotland’s national borders comprise one land border with England and several sea borders, one with England and several others with the Isle of Man, Ireland, Faeroe, Norway, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands. However, the UK Government has twice moved Scotland’s sea border with England north, once in 1968 and again in 1999.
In 1968, the UK government ignored Scotland’s constitutional North Sea true border that starts from the centre of the mouth of the River Tweed (55°45’53.28”N) and extends due east, and illegally moved it north to Lamberton (55°48’42″N) by imposing the Continental Shelf (Jurisdiction) Order 1968.
This violated Article 15 of the International Law of the Sea, which recognises a nation’s “historic title” to sea boundaries.Since the 14th century, Scotland has had “historic title” to the mouth of the River Tweed as the latitude of the sea border with England.
Then on the eve of the opening of the Scottish Parliament in April 1999, the Tony Blair’s government illegally promulgated ‘The Scottish Adjacent Waters Boundaries Order,’ which secretly moved Scotland’s North Sea border to the north, transferring some 6,255 statute square miles (5,540 nautical square miles) of Scottish waters to English jurisdiction, in clear violation of the Treaty and Acts of Union. Tony Blair’s government feared that after devolution Scotland would leave the UK, so this was designed to pre-empt that.
Significantly, at least twelve producing oil and gas fields are in the stolen North Sea area. Each of these fields sends taxes and licence fees to the UK Treasury. Not one penny of this money from the fields is credited to Scotland, thus understating the GERS accounts to Scotland’s disadvantage. Naturally, the UK Treasury does not publish information to allow the understatement to be calculated.
Ten years later, the London Times published an article, ‘Secret plan to deprive independent Scotland of North Sea oil fields’.It stated, “Treasury officials advised that the boundaries of Scotland’s coastal waters should be redrawn and a new sector created to “neutralise” Scotland’s claim to North Sea oil – a step that was taken.”
Scotland’s Renewable Energy
Scotland is abundantly gifted with renewable energy, which is cheaper and cleaner than fossil fuels. Scotland generates nearly a quarter of the UK’s renewable energy and 85% of its hydropower. And Scotland is a major European player. Based on current projected installation capacity, Scotland is on course to deliver nearly half of Europe’s offshore wind grid supply by 2035, over half of the entire offshore grid potential in the Mediterranean Basin.
In 2022, renewables provided 97% of Scotland’s electricity consumption, led by onshore wind at 78%, hydro at 12% and the remainder from solar, wave, tidal and biomass.
The UK has played down Scotland’s renewables wealth, just as it did our oil wealth. The reason is simple. It wants us to believe we can’t possibly prosper outside the Union when the truth is England can’t survive without unfettered access to our resources.
The Scottish Government, a colonial arm of Westminster rule, has a poor record of managing those resources. In January 2022, it auctioned offshore wind licenses for 5,000 square miles of the Scottish seabed, setting a maximum one-off price of just £700 million. Some ‘auction’! The licenses went to energy giants including Shell, BP, French TotalEnergies, Spanish Iberdrola and Danish Orsted. At around the same time, an area off Long Island, New York, 25% the size of the Scottish area, sold for $4.3 billion.
The second great rip-off has started. Scottish renewables arecurrently being cabled south to England with no compensationand no new businesses and jobs for the Scottish people.
To appreciate the sheer scale of the rip-off, the UK Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) estimates that 35 TWh(a terawatt is 1 billion kilowatts and a terawatt hour is a measure of electricity generation of 1 TW produced over one hour) of electricity was sent to England in 2021 and this isexpected to increase to 124 TWh by 2030. The UK Government estimates the price for 35 TWh to be £600 billion. In 2030, the UK expects the number of TWh of energy flowing from Scotland to Great Britain will rise to 124 TWh. At today’s prices, that amount of energy is worth an estimated £2.12 Trillion!
The 35 TWh of energy that Scotland sent to GB in 2021 is enough to power Scotland 3.5 times over. The expected future growth is even more staggering, with the 124 TWh of renewable energy able to power all of Scotland’s 2.5 million homes more than 12 times over.
Not only does it not control its energy assets, Scotland doesn’town the energy transmission and distribution system, either. The UK’s privatised National Grid levies the highest electricity standing charges in the UK on Scots, who pay 50% more than Londoners. And Scottish generators pay the highest rates to connect to the grid in Europe, despite Scotland accounting for 52% of the total UK network. Naturally, Westminster is loathe to change a system where Scotland so generously subsidises the rest of the UK.
But that’s what colonialism is all about. The colony’s resources are extracted and then sold back to them at a premium by the coloniser. It’s why a quarter of all Scottish households can’t afford to heat their homes.
Scotland as the UK’s nuclear waste dump
For decades, Scotland has been the UK’s dumping ground for radioactive nuclear waste. The Solway Firth and Irish Sea are polluted with 60 years of discharges from Windscale (Sellafield) and radioactivity is measurable in the River Cree. Areas in Caithness around the Dounreay experimental fast nuclear reactors won’t be safe for use for 300 years. SEPA announced in 2011 that it was not possible to remove lethal particles of spent nuclear fuel from the seabed near Dounreayand HMS Vulcan because the contamination is beyond recovery. The MOD is dismantling 27 nuclear submarines at Rosyth, burying the nuclear waste in new nearby dumps.
The Dalgety Bay shoreline on the Fife coast is contaminated with high-level radioactive waste from WWII and Kirkcudbright Bay is heavily contaminated with over 6000 depleted uranium shells from an armament testing range at Dundrennan.
In 2020, the MOD applied to SEPA increase discharges of radioactive waste from its nuclear submarine bases at Faslaneand Coulport into the Firth of Clyde by up to 50 times. The liquid waste comes from the reactors that power the Royal Navy’s submarines and from the processing of Trident nuclear warheads. It will be discharged from Faslane into the Gareloch nearby via a proposed pipeline. (And there are plans to increase the number of nuclear submarines at Faslane with the UK’s new Dreadnought-class.) The move has been condemned by Dr Ian Fairlie, a radiation expert and former UK government advisor, who said not enough work has been done on estimating the increases in the levels of tritium and cobalt-60 in the flora and fauna.
Despite being a signatory to the 1972 London Dumping Convention for the prevention of marine pollution and the 2006 Protocol to the Convention that ban the dumping of radioactive materials and waste, the UK has tried to circumvent these international agreements by nominating ‘Scottish Sea Areas’ such as the Minch in northwest Scotland for dumping obsolete nuclear submarines and a fishing ground, Stormy Bank to the west of Hoy in Orkney, for the burial of nuclear waste.
In 1975, the UK government named Mullwharchar in the Dungeon Hills, a sub-range of the Galloway Hills, as their chosen site for the “UK high level nuclear waste dump.” Their reasoning was not because the granite would contain the waste – it won’t – but because it deemed the local communities to be “sparsely populated, unsophisticated and therefore unlikely to protest successfully.” Mullwaharcharwas spared its fate by a level 5 earthquake in December 1979, an event the nuclear industry had claimed would never happen in Galloway.
There is no secure disposal method for nuclear waste and neither is it a solution to climate change. In 2022, former heads of nuclear power regulation in the U.S., Germany, and France, along with the former secretary to the UK’s government radiation protection committee, issued a joint statement that, “Nuclear is just not part of any feasible strategy that could counter climate change,” because of its cost, the risk of accidents and nuclear waste. And yet the UK has announced it will build at least 6 more nuclear power plants in England and is desperately blasting the Irish sea bed and Solway Firth in a damaging and fruitless search for a place to store nuclear waste.
The UK thinks it doesn’t need permission to dispose of its radioactive waste in Scotland, just as it thinks it doesn’t need permission to site its weapons of mass destruction in Scotland.
For centuries, the UK has gotten away with the theft and defilement of Scotland’s resources and land, and the suppression of its people, language and culture. The only way to end it is for the Scottish people to escape from an entity that masquerades as a union but is in reality a colonial overlord.
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