Seceding from the union: British style

      Randy Evans, The Evans Report

From the Atlanta Business Chronicle

 : 2013/12/06/secedingfrom-the-union-british-style.html


 SUBSCRIBER CONTENT: Dec 6, 2013, 6:00am EST 

Seceding from the union: British style

      Randy Evans, The Evans Report


 Last week was an interesting week to be travelling in the United Kingdom. For rather obvious reasons, the British do not recognize Thanksgiving as a holiday at all.


 For Americans, it was the day on which the Pilgrims emigrating from Britain paused for a moment of thanks in 1621 at Plymouth, Mass. But, because of what happened after that the revolution and all - the British just ignore it altogether. (Notably, the Canadians celebrate thanksgiving.)


 Yet, notwithstanding the decided non-event of Thanksgiving last week in Great Britain, it was nonetheless quite a newsworthy week in the United Kingdom. Indeed, all of the news was dominated by one important announcement - the Scottish plan for independence.


 After centuries as part of the United Kingdom, Prime Minister David Cameron and the British Parliament granted the Scottish people the right to hold a referendum to decide whether to remain a part of the United Kingdom. On Tuesday of Thanksgiving week, the First Minister of Scotland released his plan for what that Scottish separation from the Kingdom would look like and how it would work.


 Of course, the very thought of the Scots leaving the United Kingdom seemed strange. Indeed, some legal scholars questioned whether an individual part of the United Kingdom could just vote itself independent. (Oddly, that is exactly what the Americans did, but the British refused to accept it without a war.) The lengthy plan for independence addresses everything from whether the new Scottish nation would continue to honor the Queen and use the Pound Sterling to what happens with the nuclear weapons on the Trident submarine ported in Scotland.


 Amidst it all, the English were just astonished that anyone, including the Scots, would want to leave the Kingdom. Yet, as the Scot Ministers passionately spoke in support of independence, it became clear that all this talk was about a very simple concept - home rule. The Scotts want to decide their own future, separate and apart from the larger United Kingdom whose priorities and policies do not always align with the priorities and policies of the Scots.


 To put this in perspective, Scotland has been part of the Kingdom since 1603 when the countries decided to share the same monarch. In 1707, the relationship was formalized with the Treaty of the Union. Basically, Scotland has been a part of the United Kingdom for longer than any U.S. state has been a part of the United States.


 Of course, other parts of the United Kingdom have on occasion decided to leave o form their own countries - sometimes by peaceful democratic evolution like Canada and Australia, and other times by armed rebellion, like the United States. Indeed, until the last century, the British have not reacted well to territories seeking to leave, reacting with armed response to quell attempts at secession. But, all of that has seemed to change now.

 Not surprisingly, the obvious question that the English posed to an American traveling in the United Kingdom during Thanksgiving week was: "Would the United States even permit such a thing?" The question is then followed by the predictable rehashing of the American Civil War.

 In fairness, the United States has granted independence. In 1946, the United States recognized the Philippines as an independent nation, relinquishing American sovereignty over the Philippine Islands. Yet, to permit a member state of the United States to have a binding referendum on whether it should be an independent country would indeed appear to be a horse of a different color.

Historians insist that all of the original colonies were themselves, like Scotland, independent political states before joining the Articles of Confederation and eventually ratifying the U.S. Constitution. Another, like Texas, even existed as a self-proclaimed independent country before becoming part of the United States.

 Undoubtedly, there are states that share the frustration of the Scots on a myriad of levels.

 And so, the current British experience inevitably raises the question of where all this leads? Is it still unthinkable that a U.S. state might be tempted toward a nationalist or independence movement? Increasingly, as the world changes, anything seems possible.



Vanessa Mussenden on behalf of

J. Randolph Evans

McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP

303 Peachtree Street | Suite 5300  Atlanta, Ga 30308

Tel: 404.527.4596| Fax: 404.527.4198|



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