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A New Commentary Each Wednesday       September 17, 2014


THE DIASPORA FROM SCOTLAND

    By the time many of you will have read this, Scotland could be independent of Britain. If not, it may mark the last time there has been a serious attempt to bring this about. Either way, it will be of little consequence to we Americans. The Scots may require that our nuclear submarines be removed from their waters or pay a reasonable rent and insist on a greater share of profits from the oil platforms in the North Sea.

    As the grandson of an immigrant coal miner from Scotland, who brought a wife and seven children with him just prior to the turn of the century, I've some understanding why resentment of British rule has festered for hundreds of years. It is due to the same sort of treatment that drove Americans to declare their independence in 1776.

    In Scotland, it was due principally to something known as "The Clearances." The English put down an uprising, headed by Charles Edmund Louis Stuart, grandson of exiled King James II of England, Scotland and Ireland, and pretender to the throne. The victorious redcoats, supported by massive artillery, summarily executed all of the wounded Scots on the battlefield and hunted down nearly all of the ill-equipped Scottish soldiers who had fled to the highlands. "Bonnie Prince Charlie" supposedly escaped in a boat while dressed as a woman. Scots take great pride in that no one attempted to collect the reward offered by the English for his capture.

    Afterwards, the English crown set out to punish all who had supported Stuart.

    About the same time the rebels were throwing off the British yoke on this side of the Atlantic, the English were beginning to displace entire communities from valleys in Scotland, in order to replace tenants with sheep, and to institute coal mines and salt works owned by the aristocrats.

    Many thousands, young and old, were forced aboard ships and sent all over the world. This continued throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. And it was not only the Brits who were forcing this eviction, this Diaspora. Some lordly Scots also wished to hold onto a feudal system - a la Downton Abbey, forever. 

    Also, it's not been a long time since a Scottish "Laird's" worth was known by the number of soldiers he could furnish the British for battle elsewhere. Scottish infantry was defeated by a ragtag army at the Battle of New Orleans and won over Napoleon at Waterloo. They died by the tens of thousands from disease in British colonies in central and south America, and then in revolutions in colonies once governed by representatives of the worldwide British empire, well past the end of World War II. 

    So now you know why the Scottish people are spread to so many parts of our planet, and why there is good reason for their renowned frugality, resentment of the upper classes and stubbornness.

    -Phil Richardson, Observer and Storyteller.

PS: "Scotch" is a whiskey, not a race of people.

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