Bought and sold for English gold

How Scotland has yet to be consulted over the Treaty of Union that established the UK

On the 1st of May 1707, Scotland’s shotgun wedding to England came into force through the Treaty of Union, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain was established. News of the decision was met with rioting across Scotland and the backers of the union were forced to hide in an Edinburgh cellar to escape the rocks and chamber-pot contents that were being thrown their way.

As Robert Burns so eloquently put it: “bought and sold for English gold; what a parcel of rogues in a nation”. It was a union that the people of Scotland did not want, secured by bribing Scottish parliamentarians with lands and titles while English troops stood ready on the border. This was far from a marriage of willing and equal partners.

Fast-forward 300 years, and the people of Scotland are still waiting to be asked what it wants its relationship with England to be. The constitutional question has been central to Scottish politics since the 1960s, yet at no time have the people of Scotland been given the opportunity to decide their future in a referendum. If those who argue in favour of the continuation of the union truly believed in the strength of their argument and that the will of a majority of Scots backed their views, then what better way would there be for the legitimacy of Scotland’s marriage to finally be underpinned with a clear and demonstrable example of public support?

The fact of the matter is that the unionist parties are all too well aware that if Scotland were to be asked what it wanted in a fair manner with balanced arguments presented by both sides of the debate, there would only be one outcome: Scottish independence.

No matter what the historical causes of the union, the question of what Scotland’s relationship with England and the rest of the world should be is one that is firmly rooted in looking to the future, not the past.

A forward looking, independent Scotland would allow us create a business environment that is responsive to the particular needs of Scotland rather than those of the South-East of England. It would allow Scotland to harness the resources available to it in terms of its educated population, its huge renewable energy potential and it’s oil supplies and couple it with a business friendly environment to emulate the success of Ireland, Norway and Iceland, all three of which are in the top six of the worlds most wealthiest countries.

A forward looking, independent Scotland would grant us a seat at the table in a European Union where power firmly resides in the hands of the member states. This would allow Scotland to fight to protect her interests, particularly fishing, in a way that is not possible as long as the UK as a whole regards the industry as expendable.

A forward looking, independent Scotland would mean an end to Scotland’s involvement in bloody and illegal wars and would allow us to use our armed services to protect the fundamental values that Scotland believes in, such as human rights, rather than to protect the oil interests of neo-conservatives in the United States.

But most of all, a forward looking independent Scotland would mean an end to the illegitimate sham of a marriage that exists between Scotland and England and would allow us to cooperate on an equal footing. Where we agree England would have a new partner on the world stage and where we differ Scotland would be able to do so without antagonising her nearest neighbour. More and more it is becoming clear that it is time for Scotland and England to become ‘just good friends’.

Felipe Araujo
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Manchester's Muslim community under siege: "We are part of the fabric of this nation"

As the investigation into last week's bombing continues, familiar media narratives about Islam conflict with the city's support for its Muslim population.

“You guys only come when something like this happens,” said one of the worshippers at Manchester's Victoria Park Mosque, visibly annoyed at the unusual commotion. Four days after the attack that killed 22 people, this congregation, along with many others around the city, is under a microscope.

During Friday prayers, some of the world’s media came looking for answers. On the eve of Ramadan, the dark shadow of terrorism looms large over most mosques in Manchester and beyond.

“People who do this kind of thing are no Muslims,” one man tells me.

It’s a routine that has become all too familiar to mosque goers in the immediate aftermath of a major terror attack. In spite of reassurances from authorities and the government, Muslims in this city of 600,000 feel under siege. 

“The media likes to portray us as an add-on, an addition to society,” Imam Irfan Christi tells me. “I would like to remind people that in World War I and World War II Muslims fought for this nation. We are part of the fabric of this great nation that we are.”

On Wednesday, soon after it was revealed the perpetrator of last Monday’s attack, Salman Ramadan Abedi, worshipped at the Manchester Islamic Centre in the affluent area of Didsbury, the centre was under police guard, with very few people allowed in. Outside, with the media was impatiently waiting, a young man was giving interviews to whoever was interested.

“Tell me, what is the difference between a British plane dropping bombs on a school in Syria and a young man going into a concert and blowing himself up,” he asked rhetorically. “Do you support terrorists, then?” one female reporter retorted. 

When mosque officials finally came out, they read from a written statement. No questions were allowed. 

“Some media reports have reported that the bomber worked at the Manchester Islamic Centre. This is not true,” said the director of the centre’s trustees, Mohammad el-Khayat. “We express concern that a very small section of the media are manufacturing stories.”

Annoyed by the lack of information and under pressure from pushy editors, eager for a sexy headline, the desperation on the reporters’ faces was visible. They wanted something, from anyone, who had  even if a flimsy connection to the local Muslim community or the mosque. 

Two of them turned to me. With curly hair and black skin, in their heads I was the perfect fit for what a Muslim was supposed to look like.

"Excuse me, mate, are you from the mosque, can I ask you a couple of questions,” they asked. “What about?,” I said. "Well, you are a Muslim, right?" I laughed. The reporter walked away.

At the Victoria Park Mosque on Friday, Imam Christi dedicated a large portion of his sermon condemning last Monday’s tragedy. But he was also forced to once again defend his religion and its followers, saying Islam is about peace and that nowhere in the Koran it says Muslims should pursue jihad.

“The Koran has come to cure people. It has come to guide people. It has come to give harmony in society,” he said. “And yet that same Koran is being described as blood thirsty? Yet that same Koran is being abused to justify terror and violence. Who de we take our Islam from?”

In spite of opening its doors to the world’s media, mosques in Britain’s major cities know they can do very little to change a narrative they believe discriminates against Muslims. They seem to feel that the very presence of reporters in these places every time a terror attack happens reveals an agenda.

Despite this, on the streets of Manchester it has proved difficult to find anyone who had a bad thing to say about Islam and the city’s Muslim community. Messages of unity were visible all over town. One taxi driver, a white working-class British man, warned me to not believe anything I read in the media.

“Half of my friends are British Muslims,” he said even before asked. “ These people that say Islam is about terrorism have no idea what they are talking about.”

Felipe Araujo is a freelance journalist based in London. He writes about race, culture and sports. He covered the Rio Olympics and Paralympics on the ground for the New Statesman. He tweets @felipethejourno.

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