Today is a rather historic day for the United Kingdom, today the people of Scotland are casting their votes in a referendum as to whether they wish to remain part of the United Kingdom or not. Tomorrow we will know the outcome of this and come to understand the implications of whichever decision is made. The government has promised more independence to the Scottish Parliament should the No vote win. Many businesses have been questioning the financial aspects of the split, whether Scotland would still use the pound (the Prime Minister has said no to that…), the tax implications, and what about memberships of other unions? Will Scotland be a part of the European Union? There are still a lot of unanswered questions, many grey areas.
Scotland has shared the same monarch as England and Wales since the Union of the Crowns in 1603, through the inheritance of the crown from Queen Elizabeth I to her double first cousin, twice removed, King James VI of Scotland. There had been three attempts to unify England and Scotland after King James ascended to the throne, one in 1606, another in 1667 (during the reign of his grandson Charles II) and again in 1689 (during the reign of William III or II of Scotland.) It wasn’t until the Union Act of Scotland was passed in 1706 followed by the Union with England Act in 1707 that the two countries (including Wales as part of England) were united to form Great Britain. Then later in 1801 the Kingdom of Ireland was included to then become the United Kingdom. So Scotland and England have a long history together, centuries of war, political unrest, family feuds (think of Elizabeth I having Mary Queen of Scots executed….) it may not have always been harmonious, and the methods of unification may not be how we would envision doing such things today, but like it or not, England and Scotland have been ‘together’ for over 300 years. In 1997 Scotland held a referendum to decide on whether or not to devolve their parliament from Westminster and after the subsequent Scotland Act 1998 the first meeting of devolved Scottish Parliament took place on 12th May 1999.
The Scottish people have always been fiercely proud of their nation, and I believe they will continue to be, either way tomorrow. I do not have any proven Scottish ancestry, apart from a potential Scottish great grandfather I talked about in my last post. My husband has a strong Scottish link in his family tree, going back to his great grandmother Elizabeth Carmichael Baird. His family continues a tradition to include Elizabeth’s father’s name as middle names down the male line. Elizabeth married Samuel George John William Cleverley in 1907 and their second child was given the names Alexander Baird as his two middle names. In turn he gave his only son (my father in law) the same two middle names, who in turn gave his son (my husband) the same two middle names – and likewise my husband gave his son the same two middle names (my stepson). Many people assume that my husband’s surname is double barrelled – as in Baird-Cleverley, which is not the case. I have always liked this tradition, and I am keen to try to help my husband, his son, and my father in law, know more about their namesake – a mason from a small town in Stirlingshire.
How would I feel if Scotland decided to part with the United Kingdom? I suppose quite sad. Underneath my political thoughts and reasons, I just believe that as a whole, we are better. I cannot really explain it. I lived in Scotland for a year, I worked for my parents in a hotel they ran in the Scottish Borders. I spent a lot of time roaming the streets of Edinburgh and it is somewhere I want to go back to soon. I have a strong desire to visit the Isle of Skye and Glasgow to visit the Willow Tea Rooms due to my love of the artist and architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh. I suppose I want to understand what will be different if the result is yes, how will travelling to Scotland change? If I still lived in Scotland I would be voting No today, but it doesn’t mean to say that I don’t understand the desire to be independent and self governing, but I just have doubts that Scotland is ready for that just yet. I suppose time will tell. The research polls over the past few weeks have swung between the two by mere percentage points, it is a tough one to call either way. It is one of the most important votes that has occurred during my lifetime, but of course one I am not eligible to vote in, not being a Scottish resident.
In 2001 my parents bought a ten bedroom country house hotel in a small village called Walkerburn, between Peebles and Galashiels in the Scottish Borders. The house was one of several large houses in the village which had been built by a wealthy tweed mill owner, Henry Ballantyne, for his sons. Walkerburn had once been a thriving little village with two mills, but with the gradual decline of the textile industry, eventually the mills closed and the population changed. I moved there at the end of August 2003 and worked with my Mum doing all kinds of jobs, and we also held civil weddings at the hotel. My parents sold up in 2005, due to a slump in the fishing and shooting in the area and moved down to Wales where they run a B&B, and live very close to the areas my father’s paternal families were from.
So whatever the outcome is tomorrow, I will still have a fondness for Scotland. I hope that it wont mean that access to genealogical records will change or become more expensive if Scotland gains it’s independence!