Time to rethink our ‘Hobson’s Choice’?

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AS A long-time admirer of 
Alf Young’s many pithy contributions to journalism, it was with some dismay that 
I found part-truths in his latest contribution (Perspective, 13 July).

He gets off to a shaky start, citing John Mair as being from Haddington. Actually from Gleghornie, Mair’s Britanniae Historia was a shrewd diplomatic proposal to deflect resurgent English aggression after a peaceful and prosperous 15th century in both countries. Henry VIII opened old wounds by claiming to be overlord of Scotland, which led first to Flodden, then to his Rough Wooing. Mair’s pragmatic proposal to avert this must be seen in this light.

Young is right to point out the growth and affluence that followed the Union of 1707 as the Scots embraced the free trade and colonial opportunities it offered.

What he fails to mention is a brutal choking-off of any Scots entrepreneurial spirit prior to that, as Scots ships were forbidden to trade with English colonies. This culminated in the shameful hostility of the English colonies – especially Jamaica (with full support from London) – towards the Scots’ 1698 attempt at a visionary, if foolhardy, investment of a quarter of the nation’s capital in Darien, from which little ever returned.

As if such a parcel were not rogues enough, in the resulting national bankruptcy of almost all the 600,000 Scots of the day, an influential few – Queensbury and Seafield to the fore – made good their losses by selling their influence in a doomed Scottish Parliament. Negotiations had far more to do with ensuring Hanoverian succession to both thrones and the exclusion of any Papists from such office than either the welfare of Scotland or the rights of its people. Parcel indeed.

Henry VIII launched England on 400 years of stroppy, bombastic imperial aggression that those nations who share these British Isles have accommodated as best they can. Scotland adopted the “if-you-can’t-beat-’em-join-’em” approach. Since England’s resources are now demonstrably insufficient to match its continued overweening ambition, why is this not a sensible time to revisit Scotland’s 1707 Hobson’s Choice?

David S Berry

Balderstone’s Wynd

North Berwick, East Lothian