Before the Union the English certainly regarded Scotland's links to the continental powers as a threat. The various Jacobite rebellions after 1707 showed that the Hanoverians — in lowland Protestant Scotland as much as England — were right to fear a Stuart invasion with French Catholic support. But after the 1745 uprising, Enlightenment Scotland immersed itself for two centuries in the Union and the business of empire, profiting enormously and enjoying political, financial, industrial, military and cultural clout within Britain wholly disproportionate to the size of its population. England, I maintain, benefited greatly from this arrangement too.
Then after the Second World War the bonds, from the Scottish end, began to fray. There was the winding down of the British empire, Thatcherism, industrial decline and the exploration of Scottish identity by artists and historians. All played their part, of course, as did the corrosive creeping power of municipal socialism north of the border. Its assumptions gradually so polluted Scottish thinking that Adam Smith's countrymen could no longer recognise the power of his ideas when Mrs Thatcher articulated them. But the role of Europe has been overlooked. It is surely one of the main reasons behind Scottish moves towards separation.
Before Britain joined the EEC in 1973, Scotland's position in Britain was straightforward. It had held on to its own legal and education systems but the centre of political gravity was London. The high road to the imperial capital was the route Scots usually had to travel if they wanted access to power or influence in the outside world. With the UK in the EEC, and then the EU, Scotland found itself, for the first time since the Reformation and the break with Rome, in a triangular relationship with the English.
On the continent, the architects of European integration were quick to realise in the late 1970s and 1980s that this presented a tremendous opportunity to weaken the foundations and undermine the integrity of the country most sceptical of European integration: the United Kingdom. The apparat talked of a "Europe of the Regions" and flooded Scotland — and Ulster and Wales — with "investment". New bridges, roads and arts festivals resulted, always stamped with the cursed flag of Europe with its twelve golden stars on a blue background. As ever, many voters had trouble grasping the idea that they were being bribed with their own money. Inevitably, many in the Scottish political class (who loved the attention from Brussels and the chance to pose as being good Europeans) responded by becoming fanatically and unthinkingly pro-EU.
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