Commonwealth of Nations

Four years ago, our summer holiday comprised of a week camping at Loch Lomond and travelling into Glasgow to attend events at the Commonwealth Games. There was a fantastic atmosphere everywhere and it was a privilege to see the athletes compete. That the subsequent games have just finished in Australia’s Gold Coast is proof that time really does seem to pass quicker the older you get! Scotland’s medal haul totalled 44 consisting of 9 Gold, 13 Silver and 22 Bronze – a remarkable achievement. From Duncan Scott’s outstanding collection of 6 medals to the heartbreaking end of Callum Hawkin’s marathon, there were many memorable moments at these Games as well.

There are 53 current members of the Commonwealth Association, a group of countries of which some were once governed by the might of the British Empire. A staggering 62 countries have gained their independence from the UK over the last century with the exception of the USA who gained theirs back in the 1700s. From the well known former colonies of Australia and Canada to the perhaps more surprising Kuwait and Iraq, each country has their own story about their journey to self-determination. Some had long drawn out bloody battles whilst others just had to battle the might of the establishment; more fortunate territories gained their new status without too much difficulty.

The current Commonwealth host, Australia, was colonised by Britain in the late 1780s. It became federalised in 1901 with full independence from the realm not occurring until 1986. The UK retained legislative rights over Australia until 1942 and until the 1986 Australia Act was passed, parliamentary process still had to be legally approved by Britain. Kuwait conversely willingly entered into an agreement with Britain to become a protectorate, a partnership that lasted until 1961. Although Britain paid a subsidy to the Kuwait Royal Family every year, their claims over the countries governance were more beneficial to the British and, of course, the populace saw no benefit. My cousin and her family live in Gibraltar which has historically voted to remain part of the UK even though it is “attached” to Spain. Such loyalty however goes one way only which is not surprising; as in the Brexit Referendum, they unsurprisingly voted remain, yet are in the ridiculous situation where they will be pulled out of Europe.

Another cousin lives in Myanmar which was also a colony of the British; indeed, the UK government still refers to it by its old name Burma and due to the large number of Scots who settled there, it is sometimes also known as the Scottish Colony. Glaswegian, David Cargill, founded the Burma Oil Company which was one of the leading oil companies until its demise at the turn of this century. Ascott & co were the Scottish business who monopolised the import/ export trade and the Irrawaddy Flotilla Company was another Scottish owned business. Yet another Glaswegian, Sir James Scott made a name for himself there and is credited with introducing the country to football. British Burma (or Further India as it was initially named) was colonised after three wars and remained under British control until 1948. Initial improvements to the economy and living standards of the country quickly fell away under the continual exploitation of the country’s resources by the British and political instability followed. Independence came after the assassination of leader Aung San.

With Jeremy Clarkson once again insulting the Scots (although this time actually noticing that we are not one homogenous race) on his brief visit to the north highlands, it shows yet again how Scotland is perceived by our southern neighbours. Time after time, it is claimed that we are an equal constituent state of the union and whilst we have a voice in all constitutional matters , and you know, you Jocks certainly do know how to complain, it always proves to be only a voice as we are constantly outvoted by the sheer size of population of our southern neighbours. I did smile however when I heard that approximately 100 people had turned up to watch his journeys end in Inverness. Popular as ever!

However, one part of his diatribe is worth mentioning and it shows why the fight to keep us in our place is so important to Westminster – “Scotland had a vote on independence in 2014, and sanity prevailed. Then those who lost immediately decided they’d like another vote. And so it will go until, eventually, they win,” – that day cannot come soon enough.