SOME time ago, Mr. Mitchell, the Treasurer of the Scottish Home Rule Association, wrote to me with regard to the publication of certain pamphlets. These pamphlets all related more or less to the general subject of Home Rule, and they certainly embodied the personal opinions of divers members of the Association, although it could not be said that any or all of them expressed the official opinion of the Association, as such. My reply was to ask him to excuse me, not only because I was not a member of the Association, but also because some of the pamphlets in question dealt with Irish politics, upon which I did not feel called upon to express an opinion, and others advocated ideas from which I told him frankly that I differed. My letter – as is indeed sufficiently evident from its gossipy style – was not written for publication. As, however, Mr. Mitchell thought it worth while to publish the latter part of it, and as, moreover, this was reproduced by some newspapers in a very inaccurate and mutilated form, I am glad to take the present opportunity of dealing at greater length with the points referred to in it.
The ignorance which prevails in England with regard to Scotland is sometimes amusing, and occasionally irritating. It is often astonishing. This is the case with the notion that the desire for a National Parliament is limited to the actual members of the Scottish Home Rule Association. As a matter of fact, there is a very wide-spread and increasing consciousness that whatever may have been the merits of the Union of 1707 when it took place, it is an arrangement which time has now outgrown. The Union was brought about under peculiar financial circumstances, in which a large share must be attributed to the great skill and success with which William III. had striven to use the Darien scheme as a means of reducing Scotland as nearly as possible to a condition of national bankruptcy; and it was immediately based upon the dynastic questions connected with the Act of Security. The degree of national prosperity which the country has now succeeded in attaining in spite of the Union is great, and perhaps as remarkable under the circumstances as it is gratifying, while the dynastic question which was the Union’s very reason of existence, is absolutely dead. Whether the Union was or was not desirable in 1707 is a question of ancient history, almost as useless for any practical purpose as those of the identity of the Mons Grampus or Graupus, or of the moral character of Mary, Queen of Scots. History is almost pricelessly valuable in its own sphere. Things which are good in themselves are all the more venerable upon account of antiquity. But it is absurd that the living present and the future should continue to be injuriously bound and hampered in deference to a set of circumstances belonging to a long dead and buried past.
The subjects upon which popular discontent with the Union is most often expressed are probably two. One of these is the habitual neglect of Scottish legislation in Parliament. The Session of the present year is one of those exceptions which prove the rule. It will indeed certainly be followed by a re-action. The Scottish people are moreover represented in the House of Commons upon a different and smaller scale than those of either of the two other Kingdoms, whether regard be had to number of population or to wealth and amount of contribution to the Imperial revenue – a fact which they pretty generally realize. Akin to this are the complaints as to the manner in which proposed legislation of a purely Scottish character is first shaped under English auspices and after English models, and then subjected to the will and judgment of a majority of English and Irish representatives. The second most common complaint is that of the inconvenience and expense to which the parties concerned in Private Bills are subjected, by the transaction of that legislation in London, and the similar burdens laid upon litigants in the resort to the last Court of Appeal. Cognate to the latter hardship is the fact that when the House of Lords is at length reached, either the whole or the majority of the learned Lords who compose the tribunal are men confessedly without knowledge of the Scottish Law as to whose doctrines they are called upon to decide. And here also may be mentioned another and similar, though still more exasperating complaint. This is the jurisdiction claimed by the English Courts over Scotsmen in the province of common law, – a subject which was discussed in a very able and very moderate, perhaps too moderate, article in the Scottish Review for January, 1887.
What may be generically called the social effects of the Union form an entire class of phenomena by themselves. One of these is a sort of brain-tax from which Scotland suffers, in the fact that so many able men are induced to leave the country, by the greater attractions offered to ambition in England. This movement is constantly stimulated by the steady action taken in the way of cutting down the number of honourable and lucrative offices in Scotland itself. Other facts more particularly affect the labouring classes. Among these is the absence of expenditure of public or Crown money upon public works. Comparatively unimportant in this respect is the neglect of the public buildings, of which the condition of the Palaces of Stirling, Linlithgow or Dunfermline, the Chapel Royal of Holyrood, and of nearly every ancient Cathedral in the country, forms a striking example. There would indeed sometimes seem to be a sort of wish that such historical and artistic monuments of the past, the sight of which is calculated to quicken national feeling in the present and the future, should perish. They are neglected and mostly allowed to fall into ruins, while their restoration and upkeep would be not only a source of pride and pleasure and of historical and artistic education to the whole community, but would also ensure the expenditure of very large sums among workmen, especially those who live by skilled labour. More serious are the scantiness of Government orders, and the absence of Government works, such as arsenals. Far more serious still is the absence of works such as harbours, which would at once aid the industries of the country, and at the same time be a protection to the lives of those who are engaged in them. Lastly, may well be considered another result of the Union, which deprives the country at once of men and of money. This is the manner in which the wealthier classes are obliged or induced to pass nearly always a great part, often the greater part, and sometimes nearly the whole of their time in England. This is not to be regretted only for the sake of the humbler classes who would profit by the expenditure among them of the incomes of the richer, largely drawn from their labour. The landowners become estranged from the dwellers upon their own estates; and the fact engenders discontent among the latter; although it must be confessed that it does so in a less degree than that in which it destroys the sentiments alike of patriotism and of kindliness in the former. Such proceedings as the ‘Sutherland Clearings’ are now happily a moral impossibility. But the conditions which the Union has produced and which rendered them once possible, exist more fully than ever. Absenteeism creates alienation of sympathies, an exacerbation of class distinctions, mutual ignorance, and finally the want of consideration, the hardships, and the ill-feeling which are now so unfortunately to be found in many parts of the Highlands and Islands, and which the Crofter Commission is a mechanical device to cure.
Several of the results of the Union of 1707, already enumerated, have a bearing upon yet another point, namely, the effect which the Union exercises upon the material prosperity of the country. This question was very clearly, ably, and moderately discussed in the article upon The Union of 1707 Viewed Financially, which appeared in the Scottish Review for October, 1887. That article, as far as it goes, is unanswered and unanswerable. Those whom it did not please, were driven at once to resort to the last refuge of impotence, viz., personal abuse of the anonymous author. It was a striking instance of ‘No case: abuse the defendant’s solicitor.’ Argument against it there could be none. It is impossible by cursing, to delete the printed figures from pages of Blue Books. But there was certainly one thing in which the well-known financier who wrote that article was wrong. He greatly under-stated his own case. With regard to a particular item, for instance, such a phrase occurs as ‘probably £500,000 would not overstate it, but to keep well within the mark, we shall place it at £300,000.’ His weakest statement is probably that in which, the annual value of land in Scotland assessed to income-tax is about 7½ millions sterling, of which about three-sevenths belong to Peers or Baronets, he proposed to name two millions as representing the amount of income spent in London and elsewhere in England. He left out of calculation any incomes not derived from land, the fact that to a very large number of Scottish proprietors their annual sojourn in London occupies the greater and certainly constitutes by far the most costly portion of their year, and that the two classes whom he names certainly do not form the half of those whose incomes are thus applied. From the figures upon which he himself went, it is clear that he ought to have set down the annual dead loss in money which is entailed upon Scotland by the Union of 1707 at a sum of eight or ten millions rather than of four.
The wonder is that all these causes do not produce in Scotland a more active agitation for a revision of the Treaty in question. To account for this, it is perhaps first necessary to remember the remarkable patience and quietness which are so characteristic of our race. But there are other reasons as well. The historical aspect of the Union, as well as of many other epochs of the national history, is not nearly as well known as it ought to be, and as, indeed, it might naturally be expected to be. The history of Scotland is usually to be found only in the form of jejune summaries of the most repellant dryness, or in costly and voluminous works by scholars, generally treating of special epochs, and both alike often written under the influence of violent prepossessions, and sometimes inflamed with the most furious polemics inspired by religious, political, or historical sympathies. There has been and is a gradual if not a systematic tendency to supplant the study of the National History, even in the higher seats of learning, by that of the History of England. It is more than probable that these lines will be read by many who do not know what is meant by the Darien Scheme or by the Act of Security, and who have never heard that the disastrous consequences of the Union were so immediately and so appallingly evident that its own authors endeavoured to undo their work only six years later. Then, the social consequences of the Union are widely accepted as a matter of habit. People are accustomed to see the clever and aspiring go to seek a career in England. The neglect of public works is looked upon as the normal state of affairs, except from time to time when some terrible disaster such as the loss of fishermen’s lives causes a spasmodic demand for some preventive. That wealthy landowners, the representatives perhaps of great historical races, and the proprietors of vast tracts of the country, should never visit their properties except for a few weeks during the shooting-season, or that they should abandon them altogether and let them to alien strangers, is accepted as a matter of course. These things are not infrequently bewailed, or at least regretted, but it is not nearly so often known or realized that it is the Union of 1707 which is their cause, and that its repeal would be their immediate and almost entire cure. Lastly, with regard to the purely monetary question, it is a singular fact that an idea or belief does actually still extensively prevail that the Union has been beneficial to the material interests of the country. Even the pages of the financial writer just cited are not free from some lingering traces of this superstition, although with the figures before him he is obliged to transfer the benefits of the Union to some vague and undefined sphere. It is curious to conjecture how a delusion so entirely opposed to facts ever arose. It was one of the false prophecies of the advocates of the Union at the time, and their reputations became of course involved in the success of their prediction. On the other hand, while the Union was regarded as irrevocable, the notion that there was at least some compensation of a material character, offered a last consolation to despairing patriotism. The wish was father to the thought on all sides. Hence comes all the nonsense of this sort which Sir Walter Scott – although, evidently, much against the grain – thought it necessary to write. Perhaps the popularity of his works has something to do with the survival of a mistake so extraordinary. Anyhow, strange as it may seem in the face of the inexorable logic of facts, it is not an uncommon belief in Scotland even at the present day that the Union has conferred great benefits upon the country from a financial point of view. People do not know that as a matter of fact the Union nearly beggared the population for several generations, and that the country is still bled annually at the rate of about £2 per head of the population in deference to a totally extinct dynastic question which happened to exist in the year 1704.
There is still another cause which has operated hitherto to prevent as strong an expression of national impatience under the existing state of things as might otherwise have been the case. This cause acts upon the membership of the particular Association of which Mr. Mitchell is the Treasurer, as well as other reasons of different sorts and of a special kind into which it is unnecessary here to enter. The cause in question is the desire of most men individually not to loosen in any way their adhesion to that one of the two great political parties, into which the country is generally divided, to which each man may chance to belong. The Tories are indeed the historical heirs of that great national party, if party it could be called which embraced nearly the whole nation, which was opposed to the Union at the time when it took place, and which would in all probability have averted it, had it not been for the vacillation (or the treachery ?) of the Duke of Hamilton. But the English Conservative party to which these gentlemen adhere has hitherto given them no encouragement to act upon the principles of their ancestors, and has indeed sometimes brought them into such strange company that they can hardly be distinguished from Liberal Unionists. It would sometimes be amusing if it were not pitiful to see Scottish Tories indulging in private or even in public in the glorification (mostly, it must be confessed, in the form of literary effusions,) of their political ancestors, and then proceeding to the enunciation and support of political doctrines to oppose which the ancestors in question cheerfully laid down their lives. The followers of Mr. Gladstone, upon the other hand, represent historically the group of Whig and Hanoverian statesmen by whose singular labours the Act of 1707 was passed and upheld, and, although they have, of very recent years, accepted certain principles of an Home Rule character when applied to Ireland, they have received from the head-quarters of their party just as little encouragement as their Tory opponents towards any movement for the establishment of a Scottish Legislature. There is widely prevalent among them the avowed doctrine that even if a thing be right in itself, it is wrong to take it up unless at the desire of Mr. Gladstone. To such a length is this carried that the Scottish Home Rule Association has actually been termed anti-Gladstonian, merely because its members have associated themselves without Mr. Gladstone’s initiative, and regardless of the fact that it has been the aim of the Association from its very inception, to keep itself clear from being identified with either of the great political parties in the State, (from both of which its members are, as a matter of fact, drawn,) and to rest solely upon the basis of pure patriotism.
It would indeed be deeply to be bewailed if the movement, which demands the re-constitution of a Parliament in Scotland, were to become identified with either the Toryism or the Liberalism of the present day. The sentiment which inspires it is elevated in a sphere far above the wranglings of political partizanship, and has its life in affection for country and countrymen. It ought to be carried on in the same remarkable spirit of common devotion to the good of the common Fatherland which animated the meeting held in Edinburgh, but a few years ago, to demand the resuscitation of the office of Home Minister for Scotland, where the Tory Lord Lothian presided over a gathering composed mainly of Liberals, and where no voice of partizan division marred the patriotic unanimity of the assembly. In the presence of the great object to be attained to-day, historical recriminations must be silent. It would be especially to be deplored if the Scottish National movement should in any way be mixed up with the discussion of the Irish question. The nature of the cases and of the arguments which affect them are entirely different. A single remark is hardly necessary in order to show this. If an opponent of Irish Home Rule be asked why he objects to such a measure, the reply, in ninety-nine cases out of an hundred, will be that, in his belief. Home Rule in that country would be followed by civil war, by anarchy, by oppression, by insecurity to life and property, by the withdrawal of capital, that it would mean an Irish Government acting under an overwhelming clerical influence of a particular character, that it would put power in the hands of men hostile to the Monarchy, who might even, in the contingency of war, place Ireland as a point of vantage at the disposal of a foreign enemy. No one in their senses would predict such consequences as contingent upon the sitting of a National Parliament in Edinburgh, occupied upon such legislation as may be necessary for the internal well-being of Scotland. Moreover, the Irish themselves have no wish for any association, far less fusion, of the questions. It was Mr. Parnell who thought it best to say; ‘Scotland has ceased to be a nation.’ The Irish colony in Scotland have never shown any inclination to identify themselves with the land of their birth or adoption. On the contrary, they sometimes manifest an unprovoked hostility. Finally, it is enough to remark that there are plenty of persons who associate themselves with Irish Nationalist ideas, regarding whom every Scotchman would exclaim, as so many of the leading men of Ireland are fain to exclaim – ‘Non tali auxilio.’ [‘Not with such allies.’]
If it would be insanity to suggest that the result of a Parliament sitting in Edinburgh would be any of those evil consequences which have been and are constantly suggested as the prohibitory objection to a Parliament sitting in Dublin, it is worth while to consider for a moment what the consequences of the Edinburgh Parliament would be. The first benefits would probably be felt at Westminster, and by the English Conservative party, for the House of Commons would be relieved, and the English would be free to manage their own national concerns in their own way. In Scotland itself there would be an intensified sentiment (if that be possible) of loyalty towards the Throne, a quickening of all social life, of which the benefits would chiefly fall upon the working classes, and an increased diffusion of wealth, of which the results would be immediately apparent. The National Parliament would not sit for a preposterous period of the year. It would not be noisy and dilatory. It’s proceedings in the way of debate would consist of a limited number of grave and careful speeches, probably little more extended as regards length and number than are the proceedings of the House of Lords. Some have feared that a Scottish Legislature would lend itself to measures of an extremely Radical or, as they would be termed, Socialistic nature. That immunity from such measures is a merit of the present system cannot be asserted in view of the recent attempt of the present Conservative Government to abolish primogeniture. But leaving such a consideration upon one side, and leaving out of the question the power of the Crown in giving or withholding the Royal assent, it may be confidently anticipated that such fears are groundless. Measures of this sort are generated by the embitterment of class feeling. Whatever embitterment of class feeling there may unfortunately be in Scotland (and it is almost if not entirely confined to the Highlands and Islands) is the direct and undoubted result of the Union of 1707. With the cause, the effect would die. So far from there being any natural animosity between the different classes of the Scottish people, it is remarkable to what an extent the old families are regarded by those to whom they are near with a kind of historic pride, and it is sometimes touching as well as wonderful to see how the feeling of affection survives in such cases, even when absenteeism, alienation, or other like fruits of the Union of 1707, have made it necessary to transfer – let us say, pride – to an abstraction. A National Parliament would probably begin by separating into parties over some such question as Disestablishment, and it would go on to concern itself with matters like Compensation for Unexhausted Improvements, Education, Public Works, and similar topics.
The composition of a Scottish National Parliament is of course a question which naturally falls to be discussed, at any rate to some extent, in the present paper. An anonymous article upon the subject appeared in the Scottish Review for July, 1886, and another, by Mr. Mitchell himself, in April, 1888 – the latter, at least, of which was to form the contents of one of those pamphlets of which the proposed publication has been the indirect cause of the writing of these pages. The silence in which the greater part of the articles in question will be here passed over must not be understood as implying either assent to or dissent from the propositions which they contain. But they contain two proposals in particular to which exception will here be taken.
It is suggested that the Scottish constituencies should return two sets of representatives, one to the Imperial and the other to the National Parliament, although it should be possible to return the same person to both. Whether it is in itself desirable, from a purely Scottish point of view, that Scottish representatives should regularly attend a Parliament in England, is a question which is not here discussed. The affirmative has generally been enunciated and accepted, and is assumed here. It will at the same time be remembered that the notion of returning members from Ireland to the Imperial Parliament at Westminster is one which has been viewed with very great dislike in Ireland itself. One of the great merits, perhaps the chief merit, of Mr. Gladstone’s scheme, was that it excluded them. The Irish argument is that if they have to return members both to Westminster and to Dublin, they will only get an inferior class of candidates for the seats at Dublin. It would be idle to pretend that the same argument does not hold good in Scotland. Many able men, from ambition, family connection, taste, or other causes, would compete only for the membership of the Imperial Parliament. The National Parliament, for which nothing that the country could yield ought to be too good, would be deprived of their services, and left to those of an inferior class of members. There would be a distinct liability to an habit of creating 1st Class, 2nd Class, and 3rd Class Members, according to the body or bodies to which they were returned; and it is quite possible that the 1st Class would be the members returned to Westminster alone, and more than probable that the 3rd Class would consist of those specially returned to Edinburgh. There would be encouraged the growth of a particular type of member, to which it is said that the popular language of America has affixed the expressive if inelegant epithet of ‘Carpetbagger.’ These would be a species of professional candidate, selected and sent down to Scotland by London political clubs, by them, as it were, warranted sound, and elected upon that warranty, who would have no intention of settling in Scotland, and would only pay an occasional visit for the purpose of addressing their constituents, while they themselves lived in England and especially in London, and, even if they happened to belong to the 2nd Class, or members of both Legislatures, would look upon the Scottish Parliament as a kind of inferior local committee, where they might or might not occasionally condescend to appear, and for the reversal of whose decisions they could always use their votes at Westminster. Such a system, instead of curing the evils of the Union, would both perpetuate and aggravate them. Moreover, such an arrangement is open to the obvious and insurmountable objection that the country might possibly send men to represent one set of opinions in London and another in Edinburgh. There seems to be only one way in which such a possibility can be avoided, and the best legislative talent which Scotland could produce secured for the National Parliament in Edinburgh at the same time as representation in the Imperial Parliament in London. This is simply by adopting the plan which was already in use in the time of Charles I., after the beginning of the Troubles. Let there be no entrance into the Imperial Parliament except for a member of the National Parliament, and let such members of the Imperial Parliament be chosen by the National Parliament from it’s own body, under the name of Commissioners. The representation of any respectable minority is a mere matter of mathematical arrangement as regards the manner of voting. It is here assumed that the number of members of the National Parliament would be much larger than that of the Scottish members of the House of Commons. That such should be the case, would not only entail the advantage of a fuller representation of the Scottish population to legislate upon home questions and to serve upon Committees, but also secure the services of men who for any cause (and it is very easy to imagine several) might be willing enough to attend the Parliament in Edinburgh, but would shrink from the additional bondage in London.
The other proposal of the writers above mentioned to which exception is here taken, is the suggestion that a National Parliament in Edinburgh should be composed of two Chambers, an House of Lords and an House of Commons. No such thing as an House of Lords was ever heard of in Scotland. It is not, however, upon a merely antiquarian ground that it would seem undesirable now to invent one, nor is it intended here to say anything as to the possibility of any improvement in the constitution of the present House of Lords at Westminster. Surely a little reflection will show to anybody the numerous objections to now importing or introducing such a novelty into Scotland for the first time. Even, however, if it were otherwise desireable to invent an House of Lords in Edinburgh, the Scottish Peerage does not afford the materials out of which to form such a Chamber. The creation of a Scottish Peer ceased to be possible in 1707, and even if a set of new Peers were to be made, the new Peers would always represent a second and markedly inferior class in regard to a dignity as to which antiquity is one of the most esteemed features. The Scottish Peerage consists of barely eighty persons, of whom a certain number would always be disqualified by sex, age, or infirmity. Some are absolute foreigners, such as Lord Newburgh (the Roman Prince Giustiniani-Bandini,) others are completely Englishmen; some do not possess a square inch of land in Scotland, others never or very rarely come there. Indeed, if aliens were to be excluded, more than a fourth part of the whole body would probably find themselves disqualified. Even historically, the Scottish Peerage, considered as such, is not a particularly venerable body. The families, it is true, are nearly all ancient, most going back to the Thirteenth Century or earlier; but more than half owe their original titles to the Seventeenth. There is perhaps no one who would wish to see the Scottish Peers deprived of their titles and precedence, which form an interesting and indeed picturesque historical monument, but it is a monument which is crumbling down under the hand of time (more than half the Peerages which existed in 1707 have dis- appeared) and it certainly does not afford all the materials necessary for the constitution of a separate legislative Chamber.
The old Parliament of Scotland consisted of a single Chamber, in which sat representatives of Four Estates, viz., the Clergy, the Peerage, the Counties, and the Burghs. The Estate of the Clergy was abolished in the reign of Charles I., restored under Charles II., and abolished again under William and Mary. No doubt, it had been of most use in the early Middle Ages, before the foundation of the Universities and the development of Grammar Schools, and before the Church of Scotland had been ravaged by the later abuses of the right of Patronage. At that time the Bishops, Abbots, and Priors served to represent the interests not only of religion and of landed property considerable in character rather than in extent, but also, in a great measure, those of agriculture, jurisprudence, education, learning, and science. It is to be presumed that no one would now propose to restore it again. At the same time, it would certainly be just to abolish the political disabilities of the clergy. A Catholic or Anglican Priest or an ordained minister of the Established Church of Scotland cannot be a member of the House of Commons. Any other minister of religion may. The distinction drawn between an Established Church minister and a Free Church minister is senseless. Clergymen sit freely in the House of Lords, and the fact causes no inconvenience. Several are frequent, and one, at least, a remarkably powerful and brilliant speaker. If a constituency wishes to return a clergyman as a member, it is hard to see why it should not. The same remark applies to Peers. The Scottish Peers, however otherwise qualified, are not allowed to vote in Parliamentary elections or to be themselves elected, because they are Peers, and they are not allowed to sit in the House of Lords, because they are Scotch. In the case of a Scottish National Parliament, they ought to have the same rights of voting and being elected as are enjoyed by commoners.
The fact that both the entire and unbroken historical tradition, and the present conditions of Scotland, are opposed to the invention and introduction for the first time in all Scottish History of an House of Lords, and that, even if they were not, the Scottish Peerage does not supply the material out of which such an House could be formed, need not deny to a Scottish National Legislature the advantages which the House of Lords in London affords to the Imperial Parliament, and which the representation of the estate of the Peerage in the old Scots Parliament afforded to Scotland before the Union. The House of Lords represents less exclusively than it did in the Middle Ages the interests of landed property, of the agricultural districts, and of mental culture, because these things are now more widely diffused, and the hereditary Peerage, as it now exists, is not as strong a guarantee of them as it was then. But it does continue to afford to the country a protection, if it choose to accept it, against the vagaries of representatives who may no longer reflect the sense of their constituencies, and the advice of a body of men mostly of mature years, of experience in business, and of the highest education which the discipline of school and college and the practical knowledge of life affords, and who are, moreover, raised above the temptation of being corrupted by the dread of offending electors. The same end could be attained in a Scottish Parliament by a body of Life Peers, who, forming, like the Estate of the Peerage in the old Scots Parliament, a fourth part of an assembly of some 200, of whom the rest were the representatives of counties and burghs in proportion to population, would give all these advantages, while avoiding the danger inherent in the possibility that a wise and good man may be the ancestor of a fool or a knave. Such a body would be large enough to embrace those of the hereditary Peers whom the Government might deem it desirable to see members of the legislative assembly, and men whose advice might be valuable but whose temperament, whose means, or whose work would lead them to shrink from the repellant turmoil of contested elections at frequent though irregular intervals. The fact of a fixed number would preserve the Chamber against liability to be arbitrarily flooded by a batch of new creations, which is one of the stock menaces employed towards the House of Lords. At the same time, as Life Peers would be created upon the advice of the ministers of the day, the group so formed would always represent the steady current of national opinion, safe, upon the one hand, from being carried away by transient whims of popular excitement, and, upon the other, from the danger of ceasing to live in accord with the developments of national life.
There remains one other element whose representation in a National Parliament ought to be a matter of consideration. It may be roughly called the Official. In the present state of things, seats have to be found for ministers, which gives a great deal of needless trouble. The House of Lords contains a class of members who may be strictly called official. And Parliament has the right of summoning the judges to give their opinion upon questions of law. In a Scottish Parliament it would surely be better at once to give seats ex officio to all the ministers and great officers of the Crown, and to all or a large section of the Senators of the College of Justice. To these it would be natural to add some representative of military matters, such as the Commander-in-Chief, and possibly some other persons. Thus, for instance, the Chancellors or Principals of the Universities might represent the interests of the higher education and learning, and the chief magistrates of Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Dundee, the municipal authority of the great centres of population. But these are details, into which it is quite needless here to enter. One remark only may be added. There are certain officials of the Crown whom it might be held very desirable to admit, such as the Dean of the Chapel Royal, as representing the relation of the State towards the Church, the Lyon King, as the official guardian of the National History, and the High Constable, as head of the Royal Household. Some of these, like the last named, might be hereditary. And it might well be that as the hereditary principle rules in the Crown itself, it should be recognised, in a Scottish Parliament, in the case of the Dukes, whose rank as Princes separates them from all other subjects. The matter would be of but little importance numerically, as the Duchies are only eight in number, and of these one belongs to the Heir Apparent, one to the first subject next to the Blood Royal, and two more are the Duchies of Buccleuch and Argyll, the holders of which no one would be likely to wish to exclude. The other four are the hereditary representatives of the great races of the Gordons (Lennox, Richmond and Gordon), the Murrays (Athole), the Grahams (Montrose), and the Kerrs (Roxburghe). One thing may be said with certainty. Should it ever unfortunately be the case that any of these dignities were held by a man whose voice was not worth having, he would be a man who would not put himself to the trouble of giving it.
Such a National Parliament for Scotland as is here tentatively sketched would therefore consist of a group of official persons, possibly about 30 or more in number, and then of a body of some such number as 200, of whom one quarter would be Life Peers, and the rest the representatives of the Counties and Burghs in proportion to population. This Parliament, as an whole, would send up to the Imperial House of Commons, under the name of Commissioners, a body of representatives, whose number should either be the same as at present or one corresponding to the wealth and population of Scotland as compared with those of the two other Kingdoms. The right of the hereditary Peers to send representatives to the House of Lords would remain undisturbed.
The crucial difficulty in all Home Rule schemes in themselves is that of finding a solution of the question of what is to be done in case the National Parliament disagrees with the Imperial Parliament. The answer in this case seems to be, The Power of the Crown. If there is to be a Scottish National Parliament in Edinburgh, the Scottish people must be prepared to accept a very much freer exercise of the Royal Prerogative of refusing assent to Bills which have passed, than has been the case for many a generation. The Crown would naturally be guided by the opinion of the Imperial Parliament. The National Parliament would therefore in practice be liable to have it’s will thwarted by that of the Imperial Parliament. This is exactly what is the case at present. The majority in the Imperial Parliament is often not in agreement with the majority of the Scottish members, and necessarily overpowers them. Moreover, it is to be observed that the occasions upon which the Royal veto would be exercised would probably be few in comparison with those when the wishes of the Scottish people are now out-voted or put aside, and that the ancient and undisputed prerogative of the national Crown would be less vexing than silence imposed by an assembly of English and Irish subjects. Upon the other hand, with a Scottish Legislature, Scottish legislation would not be impeded and neglected owing to the plethora of business which overwhelms the House of Commons at Westminster; Scottish Private Bill legislation would be transacted upon the spot; and it is to be hoped that in litigation the Scottish tribunal would be again the Supreme Court in reality as well as in name. A fresh number of honourable and lucrative careers would be opened at home, in which the able and aspiring might rise; the public money would flow in public works for the benefit of all, and especially of the working classes; and the duties, the occupations, and the inducements which would keep the rich much more in their own country would encourage mutual sympathies, and do away with much hardship and ill-feeling, while it would pour upon Scotland herself the bulk of that wealth which she yields, but which is now annually taken from her to swell the abundance of England.
There is one factor which has not been taken into consideration in the preceding pages, but which makes for the re-establishment of a Parliament in Scotland. That factor is the sentiment of pure patriotism. The emotion of Scottish patriotism is none the weaker because it is subdued and rather shy in expression. It is very strong. It is to be hoped that it is growing stronger. It is that sentiment which, among other things, will make men otherwise of differing political parties to be of one mind in this. It is that sentiment which will make men ready, as the present writer is ready, to yield their own opinion in matters of detail, and loyally to accept such as the Scottish people shall, when the time comes, regard as offering the best security for the prosperity and happiness of our country.
5 thoughts on “Art. VIII. – PARLIAMENT IN SCOTLAND, Oct., 1889, Vol. 14, pp.399-416.”