Sunday, November 12, 2006

The most important fact in my country’s history: Scotland

The new Scottish parliament building
Scotland is one of four countries which make up the UK. Many people, particularly in America, use the term England to refer to the whole of the UK when, in fact England is only one country. So let’s start with explaining a few terms. The official title of the UK is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It consists of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

Great Britain consists of England, Scotland and Wales.

I’m going to choose a very recent part of my country’s history as it probably has most impact on the daily lives of Scots living today.

In 1999 Scotland opened its first parliament in nearly 300 years. Although we remain part of the United Kingdom we now have our own devolved parliament where we have control over certain areas.

This has let Scotland vote through its own legislation on issues that affect Scotland in particular and not the rest of the UK. Previously there was no time on the busy agenda of the UK parliament for such issues. One example is the Land Reform Bill. Crofters (small tenant farmers) now have the right to group together and buy their land from local landlords. This came about as we had a big problem of absentee landlords in Scotland. Huge tracts of land in the Highlands were owned by big estates – often foreigners who bought the land simply as an investment and to have a couple of weeks’ holiday shooting and fishing each year. They had little interest and concern for the livelihoods of the people who lived there all year round. Now several remote communities (the islanders of Eigg and Gigha and the inhabitants of Knoydart and Assynt) have bought their land from the landowners and run their own communities. They’ve received grants from the Scottish Office to do this. We also have our own Public Access laws which gives people the right to access the mountains and remote areas all year round. And finally Scotland has had a ban on smoking in public places since March 2006. England is still considering this. It means when you go to a pub you don’t come home smelling of cigarette smoke which is great for me as I don’t smoke and find smoke irritates my eyes. The smokers aren’t so happy though.

Some issues are still controlled from Westminster like finance, taxes, defence, … so we still have elected representatives in the British parliament as well as MSPs (members of the Scottish parliament). Many English people get annoyed that we still have representatives at Westminster and that Scottish MPs vote on English issues. The answer most Scots would give to this is that we still need to be represented to decide on UK issues but we would be quite happy not to vote on issues that concern only England.

The actual parliament building caused a lot of controversy. It was originally budgeted at £40 million (GB pounds) but the final cost was around £431 million and was several years late finally opening in September 2004.

4 Comments:

Blogger Jock said...

Mo,

So Scotland do use £ instead of euro too.
That smoking law is great! Where in Brazil we have it too! On public closed places you can only smoke in some areas.

By the way, a stupid thing I´ll say. I always wanted a Kilt!! I tried to find some to buy here, but it´s veeeery expensive!!

Regards,

Diego

10:25 AM  
Blogger Rebelde said...

The Parliament will give you more independence and I find odd that you spent that much time without one... And thanks for explaining the difference between UK and Grat Britain, I have a friend in England and he couldn't explain it

6:30 PM  
Blogger Mo said...

Diego - the whole kilt outfit is quite expensive here but it's seen as an investment as it lasts for years and men wear it to weddings and other formal occasions. My husband, Alan, has had his for about 12 years now.
http://alankilt.notlong.com
Link to a picture of him in the full kilt outfit.

Rebelde - it's taken so long thanks to politicians and a long story!

11:08 AM  
Blogger Jock said...

Mo,

Great.. I´ll think a little bit more about it!

Thanks for the tip! :)

3:10 PM  

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