SUCH a difficulty as exists, or till partially removed by the prevalence of widespread agricultural depression, did exist in getting disciples of the school of the late Richard Cobden, and the late Radical but now quasi-conservative John Bright, to listen to any facts, figures, or fancies, which in the most distant manner attacked the principles of Free Trade, has been even more apparent, whenever any one has been rash enough to discuss, otherwise than with absolute and unqualified approval, the Union effected in 1707 between the free and independent kingdoms of Scotland and England. So completely has the Treaty of Union been regarded as the mainspring of Scotland’s prosperity in the Nineteenth Century (of the Eighteenth not so much is, or needs be said), that almost every event in that country’s previous history has been relegated to obscurity or depreciated as trivial and insignificant, while the condition of provincialism into which Scotland has sunk is regarded as the acmé of its good fortune. Never was there, according to this view, a stronger instance of the truth of the proverb: ‘Happy is the people that has no history;’ for saving the story of the revolts of 1715 and 1745, Scotland, as Scotland, has hardly any more history than have the counties of York and Lancaster. While to the minds of the people thoroughly imbued with this view of the Union, the Middle Ages in Europe generally come to a close at latest with the Fifteenth Century, for Scotland, the reign of darkness is prolonged till the beginning of the Eighteenth. Before 1707, these people see obscurity, ignorance, barbarism, but after that date the light reflected by its Southern neighbour begins slowly to dawn upon the belated North, and in the middle of the Nineteenth Century they find Scotland comparatively well advanced in civilization, possessed of considerable wealth and making awkward attempts at imitating English refinement, though without a name to distinguish it in the eyes of the world from the country which has swallowed it up, and which claims to speak for it, to think for it, and to act for it. It may appear to some that this is an exaggerated description of the effacement of Scotland which has resulted from its voluntary amalgamation with England as one free and independent nation with another free and independent nation; if so, let us refer to the following recent incident as an example of what may be heard any day in the year in quarters from which better things might reasonably be expected.
During last Session of the House of Commons, on 5th April of the current year, the First Lord of the Treasury, discussing an estimate for expenditure incurred in connection with the defence of the Egyptian frontier, stated that the Government came to the conclusion that only a portion of this expenditure had been incurred with the authority of the ‘representatives of England’ in Egypt, and that for certain reasons the ‘English Government’ had not called upon the Egyptian Government to pay the sum. The member for Caithness thereupon put the pertinent question, ‘Where is this English Government the right honourable gentleman has spoken of?’ So completely unconscious was the First Lord of the Treasury of having used an inappropriate term that in the innocence of his heart he replied that he did not quite understand the meaning of the question, adding in evident compassion for the obtuseness of his Scotch questioner: ‘The English Government is in England and the Egyptian Government is in Egypt.’ As the protest of the Scot that the British, and not the English, Government was concerned, merely evoked a laugh – the usual fate of such protests – nothing can be plainer than that the practical view of the Union held by our present governors is that Scotland has surrendered, while England has retained every right to recognition of separate nationality. The Queen is the ‘Queen of England’ as no doubt she is, though something more – the Imperial Parliament is ‘England’s Parliament’ which it virtually is, though it ought not to be. The army also is ‘England’s army,’ and the navy the ‘navy of Old England,’ though as we shall see later on the ‘English Parliament’ considerately allows Scotland an inordinate share of the burden of maintaining both of these branches of national defence. Look where we will, we see this tone adopted towards Scotland. It has become so universal and inveterate that even Scotsmen are to be found infected with the prevailing habit. It may be argued that it is unnecessary to attach much importance to colloquialisms, and that it is practically impossible to avoid substituting the name of the largest and most important part of the United Kingdom as representing its whole. But the wish is notoriously ‘father to the thought,’ and a still more recent incident than the one above referred to brings into strong relief the ultimate consequences of yielding to English arrogance the right of Scotland to recognition in Imperial matters. In Articles 1, 2, and 4 of the Convention between Her Majesty the Queen and the Emperor of China relative to Burmah and Thibet, dated 24th July of last year , the name of England alone appears as the agreeing party. On attention being drawn to the matter in Parliament, the First Lord of the Treasury did not venture to justify the description – a ‘mistake’ had been made which he regretted, but all the same the treaty had been definitely settled. It will remain when Mr. Smith’s apology – with the protests of Scottish members which evoked it – is forgotten, and a precedent has been established which will be valuable to English opponents of Scottish ‘particularism.’
The dismal prophecies of Fletcher of Saltoun, of Lord Belhaven, and of other opponents of the Treaty of Union of 1707, of disastrous consequences, which they anticipated would result to Scotland from this measure, have been regarded as entirely baseless and falsified by the events which followed its accomplishment. But though treated as were the prophecies of Cassandra by the Trojans, it remains to be seen whether, like Cassandra’s, they were not in many and important respects the outcome of true prophetic instinct, and that if the Union did not become unbearable, it was owing to providential circumstances which were no more anticipated by the advocates than by the opponents of the measure. Indeed very few years had elapsed after the Union when the Scottish leaders, alarmed at the critical condition of the country, had to meet together and consider how its trade was hampered and destroyed by prohibitions, regulations, and impositions, laid on by England; how it was drained of money, and how the country was experiencing the very evils which the opponents of the Union had predicted, while at the same time the English Government and Parliament were treating the Scottish representatives in such an arbitrary manner that it seemed clear that redress was not to be expected under the Union, and that the only remedy lay in its dissolution. It is true that to ruin the trade and commerce of Scotland, there were not made the outrageous attempts which the commercial classes of England used with only too complete success against their Irish competitors. However prostrate the condition of Scotland, her representatives in the United Parliament had always influence and energy sufficient to prevent their country be- coming a second Ireland. Indeed, had the Union been delayed until a fair Parliamentary representation of all three kingdoms had been effected, as was done in 1801, it is probable that many disadvantages to both Scotland and Ireland, which have attended the Union of the three countries, would have been avoided, or would, at least, have been considerably mitigated, by the opportunities which would have been afforded to the two weaker countries, for combining more effectually against the selfish class interests paramount in England. Without further entering into the question we may assume that valid grounds were not wanting for discontent in Scotland when such an ardent supporter of the Union as the Duke of Argyll, himself one of its most active promoters, and whose timely opposition would have been fatal to its adoption, declared from his place in the House of Lords, within seven years from the passing of the Act, that he was of opinion that a Union which had been so often infringed, should finally be dissolved, and proved the sincerity of his declaration by supporting a motion for repeal, which motion was only rejected in the House of Lords by the narrow majority of four votes.
It may no doubt be said that much has happened since then, and that in view of the wonderful tide of prosperity which has flowed upon both countries, there is now no reason for recalling either the political intrigues by means of which the Union was carried, or the fears or disappointments of the generation which witnessed its accomplishment, and that it is now absurd to act otherwise than as if the inhabitants of Great Britain from Land’s End to John o’ Groats, had never been anything else than one undivided people. This view, indeed, if adopted, would render it undesirable to pay regard to some of the most express conditions contained in the Treaty of Union itself, but there might be force in it, could we suppose that every piece of good fortune which has befallen the United Kingdom since 1707, has happened not only after, but because of the Union – that to it must be ascribed not only the immense extension of Britain’s Colonial Empire, but also the discovery of steam power, of the jacquard loom, of the wonderful powers of electricity, and of the hundred other discoveries which have tripled the population, and multiplied a hundredfold the wealth of Great Britain. Of these advantages we may assume that Scotland would have had her share had the Union of the English and Scottish Parliaments never taken place, and the Scottish people need not, because of them, shut their eyes to inequalities in the contract between the two nations operating to the disadvantage of the lesser one – inequalities not dreamt of, much less introduced of set purpose, when the contract was settled, but gradually developed under circumstances to which nothing in the previous history of either country affords a parallel. So long as general prosperity increased by ‘leaps and bounds,’ it was natural that such inequalities should be overlooked, but when, as now happens, the pressure of unprosperous times makes itself felt, burdens, formerly borne without complaint, become more galling. At such times, it is more than ever desirable, in the interest of both parties, that all semblance of unfairness and every just subject of discontent should be removed which can foster jealousy or ill-feeling between two peoples who ought to live in perfect equality, harmony, and friendship.
It may be urged that a contract such as that made between England and Scotland in 1707, is not only irrevocable in respect of its scope and object, but that even its terms and conditions are sacred and beyond discussion; but if it can be shewn that in certain respects the conditions of Union do not answer the ends which the framers of the Treaty aimed at, or that what was appropriate in the Eighteenth Century is hurtful in the Nineteenth, it will surely not be maintained that we must go on unequally yoked to the end of time. It must be presumed that mutual advantage to both peoples was the object of the Treaty, and it is matter of fact that the changed circumstances of both countries have in the past necessitated the introduction of extensive modifications into the Constitution of the country as it existed in 1707, and reasonably so, for the forms of government suitable for a nation of ten millions of people must in many ways be modified in order to accommodate them to the needs of thirty-five millions.
While, however, we may incidentally touch on points whereon we consider that the Union of 1707 has detrimentally affected Scotland, it is not our purpose in the present paper to discuss, much less to attack that measure. On the contrary, we are ready to acknowledge that in many and most important points it has been of incalculable benefit to Scotland as well as to England, and that any disadvantages from which our country suffers, are light compared to the evils formerly entailed upon it by the cat and dog life of previous centuries. Neither do we propose to enter upon the question of legislative reforms by which the condition of Scotland might be ameliorated. We prefer to take the Union at the highest value which its most enthusiastic admirers can possibly place upon it, and to regard it as a measure of the utmost advantage both to Scotland and to England; but while doing so we shall shew, what many Scotchmen little dream of, that a price is being annually paid by the former country to the latter for the boon – a price partly paid in hard cash, the amount of which it is possible with more or less certainty to approximate, but partly also in disabilities and deprivations which have followed as direct consequences of the Union, and which have entailed, and continue annually to entail, upon Scotland a vast pecuniary loss which marks but cannot measure certain lamentable social evils from which Scotland suffers.
In our enquiry we shall endeavour to show – (1) that Scotland contributes a disproportionately large share of Revenue to the Imperial Exchequer, but does not receive equally with England a fair share of the expenditure of that revenue. (2) That Scotland is unduly burdened with expenses attending the procuring of legislation for local purposes, and for obtaining judicial decisions dealing with Scottish matters. (3) That Scotland suffers serious loss through enormous sums of money being withdrawn or diverted from it; directly, through the transfer of the seat of Parliament to London, and indirectly, through the absence and alienation of the landed aristocracy and other members of the wealthiest classes of her people.
It is obvious that many matters embraced in a calculation of the nature contemplated in this enquiry cannot be submitted to the test of precise and definitely ascertained figures, but we are confident that we shall adduce sufficient reliable data to enable us to show that, to an extent of which the general public has little idea, Scotland is burdened in a manner entirely disproportioned to the number of its population and the extent of its resources, and that it suffers thus from grievances which seriously affect its well being.
In the first branch of our enquiry it will be observed that we point out that the Scottish contribution to the Imperial Exchequer is disproportionately large. Taking the standard of population as our guide, we find that the census of 1881 shewed the population of Scotland to be in the proportion of 10.6 per cent to that of the whole United Kingdom, that of Ireland 14.6, and that of England and Wales, with the Isle of Man and other small dependencies, to be of 74.8 or nearly ¾ of the whole. That figure 10.6 per cent., which approaches very closely to the proportion of representation allowed to Scotland in the Lower House of Parliament we shall take as our basis in the calculations which follow. If the fairness of taking population as a basis of reckoning be disputed, we would not object to taking instead the taxation returns of the United Kingdom, in full confidence that our case would thereby be strengthened rather than weakened. But we prefer the weaker ground, partly because we wish to avoid exaggerated estimate, and partly because the excess of taxation per head of its people which Scotland contributes to the Imperial Exchequer over the average for England, is the first point which we desire to bring out.
A Return of the Gross Revenue received from taxation for the year 1884-85, published in April of last year, gives the total for the United Kingdom as £73,908,000, or an average of £2 1s. 1d. per head of population – the proportion yielded by Scotland being £8,826,000, or an average of £2 5s. 8d. per head, while the average for England is only £2 2s. 3d. Comparing these figures, we find that while the population of Scotland is 10.6 per cent. of that of the United Kingdom, the average taxation which it bears is 11.9 per cent. The averages for both England and Scotland are indeed considerably higher than the average for the United Kingdom, the reason being that the average for Ireland is the extremely low figure of £1 11s. 3d. per head. To compare the position of matters between Scotland and England and dealing only with the gross Revenue derived from these portions of the United Kingdom we obtain the following results:-
Gross Revenue derived from England and Scotland, £66,153,000
„ „ England alone, – 57,327,000
„ „ Scotland alone, – 8,826,000
giving percentages of 86.66 for England, and 13.33 for Scotland. To put the matter in another form, Ireland, according to population as in 1881, ought to provide 14.6 per cent of the gross Revenue of the United Kingdom; in place of this, she only furnishes 10.5 per cent, leaving the shortcoming of 4.1 per cent to be borne by the sister countries. This burden is unequally borne by the people of England and Scotland in the proportion of 20 per cent and 80 per cent respectively, or 1s. 2d. and 4s. 7d. per head. From the above we find that Scotland contributes to the Imperial Exchequer an annual sum not far short of £900,000 more than the amount proportionate to her population. As taxation is measured by the means of each individual, we of course do not say that the amount is beyond the resources of Scotland, but still in the fact that it contributes, relatively to its population, the largest proportion of the Revenue of the United Kingdom, it is clear that so far the balance of advantage arising from the Union is financially very much on the side of England.
Turning to the second division of our first head, we shall find that Scotland derives relatively small advantage from the expenditure of the vast amount annually raised by taxes levied in the United Kingdom. Following the order in which the expenditure is given in the Budget estimate for the Financial Year to 31st March, 1887, we pass over the annual charge for interest on the National Debt, as that has been incurred, mainly, since the Union; and though England in 1707 had a debt of some 13 millions, while Scotland had none, and the policy of England has undoubtedly been the principal factor in the accumulation of the present debt, still Scotland accepted joint responsibility for the debt of 1707, bargaining for certain adjustments of taxation which now appear ridiculous in their insignificance, and her representatives have concurred generally in English policy. We shall leave out of account also all Imperial expenditure made abroad, regarding that as equitably apportioned among all parts of the United Kingdom. Neither shall we raise the question of local taxation, in the magnitude of which Scotland is again relatively far ahead of its neighbours, because the objects for which that taxation is raised are of interest to Scotland alone, and the money being spent within that country, on that point no just subject of complaint can arise. We take first the charges on the Consolidated Fund for the year mentioned on account of the Civil List:- viz., Annuities and Pensions, Salaries and Allowances, Courts of Justice, and Miscellaneous Charges, £1,762,000. The share of this sum which corresponds to the population of Scotland is £186,772; but, tracing as well as we can the actual amount spent in Scotland, we find the following results:- Civil List Annuities and Pensions, Nil; Salaries and Allowances, Courts of Justice, and Miscellaneous Charges, £130,926. While the difference of about £50,000 between these sums is a part of the price which Scotland pays for the Union, we admit that the Civil List expenditure is altogether an Imperial matter, and as it must have been fully kept in view as such when the Union was effected, we are not disposed to place much stress upon it. Indeed, it will occur to many that the partiality shown by her present gracious Majesty for Scotland as a place of residence, and the expenditure occasioned thereby, fully compensates it for any loss under this head. The liking of the Queen for her Highland home, however, is merely a temporary circumstance, which may cease to operate when some other Sovereign succeeding her may prefer, let us suppose, to live in Ireland.
The Army and Navy charges in the Budget for 1886-1887 together absorbed the large sum of £31,226,000, in sums of nearly 18¼ and 13 millions respectively. It is a matter, not only difficult but altogether impossible, to ascertain exactly what share of these large sums directly benefits Scotland in the manner in which England is benefitted. It is not, however, at all difficult to discover that that share, whatever it may amount to, is entirely out of proportion to the importance of Scotland as a portion of the United Kingdom. Excluding the charges for auxiliary and reserve forces, and non-effective services, of which we may assume that Scotland receives its full share, the total estimate for military services for 1886-87 was about thirteen and a half millions, or to be exact, £13,518,800, providing for an army of 151,868 men, of whom 93,758 officers and men, with 294 field-guns, formed the home force. According to population the proportion of this force to be maintained in Scotland should fall but little short of 10,000 men, but in place of this, the total number of troops maintained in Scotland in the beginning of 1886, by the expenditure on whom that country benefitted, was only 3987. The meagre nature of the military establishment in Scotland may be gauged by comparison of the number of officers on the general and departmental staff stationed in it, which, out of a total of 1790, reaches the imposing number of a round dozen. As a matter of course the great military educational establishments and arsenals are all situated outside of Scotland. It must not be supposed that we complain that a large and useless expenditure on military show and parade is not kept up in Scotland – this is not at all desired. Scotland has abundantly proved that it is ready to pay its portion of the blood tax, whenever called upon, and freely to spend the lives of its sons in maintaining the honour of the Empire, and in contributing effectually to its stability. The returns which have been obtained of the nationalities of the soldiers composing the British army, show that Scotsmen are in fairly proportionate numbers to Englishmen and Irishmen; and it is all the more creditable to Scotland, that its sons freely enrol themselves under the national flag without being enticed, under it by the exhibition of military show and parade, which is so much more abundantly lavished upon the other portions of the United Kingdom.
It is difficult to say what would be a fair sum to name as the deficiency in Scotland’s share of the expenditure for military purposes, but that the sum is a large one, the above figures clearly prove, – probably £500,000 would not overstate it, but to keep well within the mark, we shall place it at £300,000.
If the state of matters with regard to expenditure upon the army shows a result such as we have described, it is natural to expect that the expenditure upon the navy will show results still more disadvantageous to Scotland. After making the necessary deductions tor services abroad, and a fair allowance for Scotland’s share of coast guard services, officers’ retired pay and allowances, etc., of which we may assume that a fair portion falls to Scotland and is expended within it, so far as the individual recipients choose to make that country their residence, and keeping in view, also, that the private enterprise of Scottish builders secures some portion of Government contract work for shipyards on the Clyde, we still find that the great bulk of the expenditure upon Dock-yards, naval and victualling yards, and the provisions for the materiel and armament of the fleet goes to the more favoured portion of the Island. As illustrating this fact, we may remind our readers that during the Session of Parliament just ended considerable pressure was applied to the Government by Scottish Members with the view of opening up army and navy contracts to more general competition. As a result of their importunity, there was obtained from the War Office a list of contractors who had up to that time been on the official list, and who had therefore enjoyed the privilege of receiving invitations to tender. The list affords an admirable illustration of the exceeding smallness of the mercies for which it is supposed Scotland cannot be too thankful. Out of several hundreds of names which figure upon it, only three, it appears, are those of Scottish traders. Keeping in view facts like this, we do not suppose that any one will say that in naming £200,000 as the deficiency in Scotland’s share of Naval Expenditure, we take anything but an extremely low estimate.
Taking next in order the enormous expenditure upon the Civil Services, we find that this in the Budget we have quoted amounted to nearly £18,009,000 divided as follows:-
a. Public works and bridges, – – – – £1,860,074
b. Civil departments, – – – – – – 2,476,470
c. Law and Justice, – – – – – – 6,305,534
d. Education, Science, and Art, – – – 5,442,352
e. Foreign and Colonial Services, – – – 644,864
f. Non-effective and Charitable Services, 1,239,264
g. Miscellaneous, – – – – – – – 40,133
Making as above, – – – – – £18,008,691
According to population the share of this sum falling to be expended in Scotland should be £1,928,954, or, deducting as Imperial expenditure the entire sum provided for Foreign and Colonial services, £1,840,598: but so far as information is obtainable, the following is the proportion allocated to Scottish purposes:-
a. Public works and buildings, – – £109,005
b. Public departments, – – – – – 83,784
c. Law and Justice, – – – – – – 489,852
d. Education, Science, and Art, – – – 551,688
e. Foreign Colonial Services, – – – ————
f. Non-effective and Charitable Services, 103,571
g. Miscellaneous, – – – – – – 2,403
showing a short-coming of upwards of a half million sterling on this head. The figures given under d and f will no doubt attract attention from the unwontedly liberal provision made for Scottish wants. Surprise at this liberality will, however, be lessened, when the nature of the charges is examined – the one consisting almost entirely of the Education grant, and the other of the grant for maintenance of lunatic paupers. Both sums are virtually repayments of the proportions of money raised for these purposes by local taxation, and in regard to them, it naturally follows that the better these purposes are attended to by the people of either part of Great Britain, so much the more must they receive in repayment.
For the Customs and Inland Revenue departments we find the provision made in the Budget of 1886-87 to be £2,754,000, or a little more than 2¾ millions. Taking the population of Scotland as before at 10.6 per cent, of the whole; the proportion applicable to it is £291,924 or close on £300,000. In place of that sum Scotland receives roughly speaking about £200,000, or a little more than two-thirds of her fair proportion. The three remaining items of the supply services absorbed in the above Budget the following amounts:-
Post Office, – – £5,219,000
Telegraph Service, 1,845,000
Packet Service, – 736,000
or a total of – £7,800,000
Scotland’s proportion of which reckoned as above should be £826,800, while the actual sums estimated as required for Scottish purposes are –
Post Office, – – £470,980
Telegraph Service, 116,887
Packet Service, – 22,197
or less by upwards of £200,000 than the due proportion according to population.
Recapitulating the results of our enquiry under the first branch of the subject, we find that part from the excess of contribution yielded by Scotland to the Imperial Exchequer, which we have estimated at £900,000 per annum, there is a large deficiency in the amount of public monies expended on Scottish purposes or on Imperial purposes within that country. That deficiency we estimate as follows:-
In Charges borne by Consolidated Fund, say £30,000
Army expenditure, – – – – – – “ 300,000
Navy, “ – – – – – – “ 200,000
Civil Services expenditure, – – – – “ 450,000
Customs and Inland Revenue, – – – “ 80,000
Post Office, Telegraph, and Packet Services “ 200,000
In a calculation such as this where so much depends on estimate it is easy to err – keeping this in view, where error seems possible we have endeavoured to secure that error should be on the safe side, by understating rather than overstating these deficiencies. The net result appears to be that while Scotland contributes nearly a million sterling in excess of its proportion of taxation according to population, the expenditure from that taxation applicable to it is about a million and a quarter under its fair proportion.
In connection with the second branch of our subject, enquiry will reveal that a good deal exists, if not to qualify our admiration for the union of the two kingdoms, at least to convince us that Scotland pays a pretty heavy price for the boon, and that the commercial abilities which that measure has undoubtedly developed among Scotchmen to so large an extent had not in 1707 developed sufficiently to enable them to cope with John Bull in driving a bargain. There is, however, little ground for surprise that adequate provision should not at that date have been made for the manifold wants of the kingdom. It was then the day of small things, and only prophetic instinct could have foreseen that the enormous development of the country would necessitate constant recurrence to the Imperial Parliament for authority to carry out the public works and improvements which since then have changed the face of the land. Had, the framers of the Treaty foreseen that every Session Parliament would require to deal with scores of applications for legislative authority to construct railways, canals, and bridges, to enable municipalities to lay out enormous sums on city improvements, and for sanction to the thousand and one schemes which, during the present century, have engaged the attention of Scotchmen, we may reasonably think that they would have refrained from imposing upon their country so grievous an obstacle as is placed in the way of progress of every kind, by the necessity which exists for recourse to London for legislative sanction to schemes purely Scotch in object and interest. Without doubt the difficulties and expense entailed by this necessity have strangled in their inception many desirable projects, which might have been brought to a successful issue had the reference required been to a parliament in Edinburgh, composed of Scotchmen understanding the wants of their country, and anxious that these should be properly met.
This necessity for constant recourse to the Imperial Parliament for sanction to purely Scottish business, not only hampers Scottish enterprise, but has also the minor result of virtually levying a heavy pecuniary fine, mainly for the benefit of London parliamentary agents. Of purely Scotch measures we find that since 1877 an average of 22 Local Acts have received parliamentary sanction; but we have no record of the numbers which during the same period have failed to obtain that sanction, after enormous expenses have been incurred in the endeavour to do so, or which have only obtained it after efforts repeated again and again during many sessions of Parliament.
Such applications to Parliament also affect the rights of many parties who are interested not in promoting, but in opposing them. Both parties alike, however, find themselves compelled to face the trouble and expense of fighting their cases far away from home, and at ruinous expenditure of time and money. That this is a delightful state of matters for the army of London parliamentary agents which the system keeps up, goes without saying; and had the Union been made for their convenience, things, as they stand, could not have been better arranged. The returns obtained by Mr. Craig Sellar for the years 1883-1884-1885, showed that during these years the sums spent by Town Councils, Gas, Water, Tramway, and Canal Companies, and Harbour Commissioners, in promoting Private Bills, was £225,000. But these years were by no means distinguished for extraordinary enterprise, and we may safely assume that the amount quoted does not afford a fair average of the expenditure under this head. Less needs to be said of the expense attending the promotion of, or opposition to. Public Bills, although this is no doubt considerable, owing to the great distance to which deputations, etc., must travel to make support or opposition available.
Another very considerable item of expense occurs in the recourse which must be had to the House of Lords to obtain decisions in cases of appeal from judgments of the Scottish Courts. The average number of such cases during eight years taken at random since 1868 was 22. Those who have had personal experience of the expenses attending the prosecutions of suits at so great a distance from their homes, are only too well able to appreciate the serious nature of the burden; and though that burden is one which does not fall on the general public, but is borne by individuals, it still forms a portion of the price which Scotland pays for parting with its competence to regulate its own domestic concerns. Taking everything into account we shall probably fall considerably short of the actual loss to Scotland entailed by the transfer of legislative and judicial authority from Edinburgh to London, in estimating it at £150,000 per annum. If mere distance, however, were the only grievance, it might be possible to bear the burden with a certain degree of equanimity, for places remote from the seat of legislature must always be at some disadvantage, as compared with places situated near it. But how shall we qualify the attempts which have been made in quite recent years to subject Scotchmen to the authority of English tribunals, and to increase the influence of English Courts and the gains of English lawyers, by removing the administration of Scottish estates and the prosecution of Scottish suits to the English Courts. A financial article is not the most appropriate place for dealing with an abuse which should be attacked on far higher grounds than that of pounds, shillings and pence; but as desire of gain mingles with greed of power in inducing Englishmen to encroach upon rights and privileges reserved by the Treaty of Union, it is not out of place to point out here that every encroachment of this nature adds to the pecuniary loss which Scotland has borne for many years with amazing patience.
We come now to the third branch of our enquiry, which is at the same time the most important and the most difficult, namely, the loss which Scotland suffers through the withdrawal and diversion to England of so much of the expenditure of the wealthiest classes, and, especially, of the landed aristocracy, which has followed as a consequence of the Union of the Kingdoms and the transfer of the Legislature from Edinburgh to London. This, in our view, is the heaviest price which Scotland has paid for the Union with England, and forms a weighty offset to the blessings which have flowed from it, at however high a value these may be rated. It is a price too, of which the pecuniary amount, though vast, is the least considerable portion. Before we have done we shall point out some other considerations entering into the subject, but as it is with pecuniary results we have mainly to deal, we shall attend to these in the first place.
From a ‘domesday’ book published a few years ago we may, without guaranteeing the absolute accuracy of the figures, take the following as the annual income of the nobility and titled commoners of Scotland so far as derived from real estate situated in that country:-
Dukes, – – £698,699
Earls, – – 1,007,326
Viscounts, – 36,934
Barons, – 398,627
Baronets, – 855,763
The total value of lands in Scotland assessed to income tax for the year 1885 was about 7½ millions sterling, so that the proportion of gross revenue from real estate in the hands of the classes included in the above table may be taken roughly at three-sevenths of the whole.
Of these classes a large proportion, and that among the wealthiest of their number, reside for a considerable part of the year in London in order to discharge the duties incumbent upon them as members of the Upper House of Parliament. Most of them are adherents of a Church which is not that of the mass of the Scottish people, and look to England for the education of their children; thus enhancing the prestige of English schools and universities, while Scotland sees with regret her schools of higher education, deprived of the presence of the class which ought to be their support and mainstay, dwindle and fall into disrepute.
The centre of social attraction which was formerly situated in Scotland being removed elsewhere, that portion of the community, which from its circumstances is not bound to the soil, naturally and inevitably gravitates towards that centre as the tidal wave with everything that floats upon it follows the moon. Everything Scottish falls out of prevailing fashion, is regarded as provincial, and is rigorously shunned by the very class which ought to feel the greatest pride in its nationality and to do its utmost to maintain and uphold it. An English gentleman in his own country, let him be ever so highly privileged by rank, feels himself surrounded by Englishmen who, equally with himself, cherish every memory with which he has been associated from his youth upwards. The Scottish gentleman, on the contrary, returns from his English school or university an Englishman in everything excepting perhaps recognition as such by his class-mates, and with habits and manners and aspirations which often render him a stranger among his own people. In this way it is not surprising that Scotland should be, to a large extent, deserted by the very class which owes most to it – its wealth, its importance, its dignity, rank, and privileges – and that the curse of absenteeism, with its train of attendant evils, becomes so prominent as to form a source of real danger both to the country and to the higher classes themselves. We may be sure that with a people so democratically minded as the Scotch, the alienation from their country shewn by the higher orders will one day be repaid by a right cordial dislike, and in time be visited upon the heads of their successors. This alienation of the Scottish aristocracy from their country is no new phenomenon; it showed itself immediately after the Union, to an extent of which the following extract from Wodrow, written in 1731, will give some idea:-
‘I find it observed, that, very soon, Scotland must be drained of money, in specie, and really it is a wonder any almost is left with us. Indeed, except it be coals, and that is a trifle, linen cloth, and black cattle, which may bring in a little, we have scarce any other branch of trade that brings in money to us in specie. Add to this, that there is £24,000 yearly in the Civil List and Crown Rents which is carried away, after all pensions, posts, garrisons, and officers, are paid, and what a prodigious quantity of money is every year expended by every family of any rank, for body clothes of English or foreign produce I and to this may be added that the greatest estates in Scotland, in land rent, are all taken out to England in specie – Buccleuch, Roxburghe, Argyle, Montrose, Queensberry, etc., etc., – besides members of Parliament who spend at least more than they get.’
That this alienation so graphically described by Wodrow has not ceased to operate, but continues in our day to an increased extent, is abundantly clear. To what extent it pecuniarily affects Scotland it is impossible to define with anything like precision, but we shall probably be under, rather than over, the mark in estimating that from the causes above referred to, and others similar, a full third of the income of the Scottish aristocracy is spent outside Scotland; that is, more than a million sterling of the produce of her unfruitful soil. So vast a result as this could not in the nature of things have been conceived possible in 1707. But, after all, the mere loss of money is an inconsiderable part of the evil compared to the loosening of the ties which should unite the higher with the lower ranks of the community; for it has ever been found that the affection and respect of the people is a much more precious possession than the wealth which their labour places in the hands of their natural leaders. Though hard to eradicate from their minds, these feelings of affection and respect once lost are hardly ever to be regained, and their loss will certainly entail sooner or later heavy penalties upon the numerically weaker party. But the loss to Scotland does not stop short at this point. The example of the aristocracy tells powerfully upon the class immediately beneath them, the untitled gentry who are the possessors of the greater portion of the remainder of the soil, who, descended from the same stock, or for generations associated with them, share the feelings and sympathies of their titled brethren, and who follow the mode of living of the higher classes as closely as their rank and means will permit, but to whom fortunately circumstances do not as a rule allow full freedom to disengage themselves from the ties which bind them to their native country. This class is therefore, to a large extent, still closely associated with the people, retains their confidence and takes a leading part in the management of county and, in rural districts, even parochial matters. But neither does the example of the higher classes fail to affect, to some extent, the classes whom commerce has enriched, and who, day by day, by mere force of wealth – the result of successful enterprise – force themselves to the front, and take the place of those whom expensive habits, often the result of contact with southern neighbours have compelled to part with their patrimony. Among these classes is divided the bulk of the remainder of the real property of Scotland, and we may mot unfairly assume that of the revenues, derived from real property in Scotland belonging to its untitled gentry, another million is thus diverted from the country which, had it remained an independent kingdom, would have been spent within it. Large, however, as is the annual revenue from real property, it is far and away exceeded by that derived from other sources, and though, proportionally, a much smaller part of this revenue can be, or at any rate is, expended outside the country, a very large sum must be added to our estimate, as given above, in order to represent fully the vast amount of Scotch money which the absorption of Scotland by England causes to flow into the larger country, without corresponding benefit to the smaller.
We find, then, on reviewing the results which, however imperfectly, we have endeavoured to deduce from our enquiry, that Scotland contributes to the Imperial Exchequer a sum not far short of a million pounds sterling in excess of the pro portion which corresponds to its population, but say £900,000; that of the expenditure of the general taxation of the United Kingdom, there is applied to Scottish purposes a sum less than that to which it is fairly entitled in proportion to its population by £1,250,000; that the transference of the seat of legislature to London causes an annual extra expenditure in connection with local objects which may be very moderately estimated at £150,000; and that that transference and the Union of Scotland with England causes a withdrawal from the former country of expenditure from private revenue which would otherwise directly benefit it, which must amount to many millions annually, but which may be moderately stated at £2,000,000, making an annual total of upwards of four millions sterling – or about a pound per head per annum for the whole population of Scotland.
We have endeavoured, where reasonable ground of doubt existed, to keep our estimates under the mark, and largely so; but even were it otherwise, and that our estimates require large abatements to bring them into strict conformity with reality, it can hardly fail to be admitted that even the diminished total would show that an enormous sum is annually provided by Scotland as the price which it pays for its Union with England.
This price, large as it is, excessive as some may deem it, would we doubt not be ungrudgingly paid, could it be shewn that the result is in all respects mutually advantageous; but if, as we have incidentally endeavoured to show, the Union is, to a large extent, accountable for the denationalization and alienation of the higher classes – for vexations, delays, and positive hindrance to legislation necessary or advantageous to Scotland – and for much practical injustice to its people, the price will not continue to be paid as heretofore in blind confidence in its fairness. The Union has been extolled in times past as the highest effort which Britain has seen of good and wise and patriotic statesmanship – as such, we would wish it in our power to view it, and into such we hope it may yet develop; but veneration for the treaty of Union need not and will not prevent the Scottish people from insisting that their rights shall be better respected in the future than they have been in the past. What the result to Scotland would be were the golden shower, the product of the toil of its hardy and industrious sons, poured upon it which rises only to descend upon other lands, it is easy to perceive – native industries would thrive which are not now encouraged – population would increase in rural districts, now being steadily and rapidly depopulated – Scottish national feeling would revive, and Scotland would rise from the position of a subordinate and little regarded province of England, as it virtually is under present arrangements, to that of a kingdom administering freely its own domestic affairs, and sharing, according to its population, wealth and importance, in the management of the Imperial concerns of the British Empire.
7 thoughts on “Art. I. – THE UNION OF 1707 VIEWED FINANCIALLY, Vol. 10, Oct., 1887, pp.213-234.”