Scottish Nationalists to make play for Berwick
The English town of Berwick on Tweed looks set to be a battle between three contending national identities in the General Election. The Scottish Nationalists have indicated that they are considering putting up a candidate for Berwick on Tweed, calling for Berwick on Tweed to “come back” to Scotland. The British Establishment parties will, of course, be putting up candidates to take the seat from the Liberal Democrats on the retirement of their sitting MP, Alan Beith. The English Democrats will also be standing in Berwick on Tweed to campaign to keep Berwick part of England.
Berwick on Tweed was originally an Anglo-Saxon foundation back in the 6th Century as part of the Kingdom of Northumbria, before the Scots even arrived in Scotland from Ireland.
In the late Dark Ages/early Medieval period Berwick on Tweed did change hands several times with the fluctuations of the fortunes of Northumbria, but by English Unity Day on the 12th July 927, Berwick on Tweed was firmly part of England, only to be sold to the Scottish King by Richard I (Coeur de Lion), as part of his fund-raising efforts to raise money to go on crusade. (This is the King who is purported to have said that he would sell London if he could find a buyer).
The next legal change occurred following the Scottish opportunist invasion to loot, rape and burn their way across Northern England when the young Edward III overthrew his mother’s lover, Mortimer, thinking that a teenage king would be unable to respond effectively. How wrong they were was proved at the Battle of Halidon Hill in 1333, in which the Scots suffered a catastrophic defeat. As part of the peace terms they agreed to hand back the legal title to Berwick on Tweed.
Since that time Scottish armies have occupied Berwick from time to time but never with a legal title. The last occasion being in1482, a little before Christopher Columbus discovered the Americas!
It will therefore amuse any impartial observer that Scottish Nationalists would talk about getting Berwick back, when the last time they had any proper title to it was 1333 and the last time they even occupied it was before Europeans had even discovered that there was the continent of the Americas and well before most of the current Nation States of Europe were even thought of!
The strategic importance of Berwick however lies in the effect of North Sea oil and fishing. If the UK does break up and Scotland and England become separate Nation States, then control of Berwick will be of great importance. If Berwick is English, to work out the sea boundary between England and Scotland you will follow the average of the national land boundary, which broadly speaking would mean placing a ruler on Carlisle and Berwick and drawing 200 miles out to sea - all south of that line being English. If you do the exercise you will see that that means that a substantial proportion of North Sea oil and fishing is not Scottish at all, but is English. In fact it goes further than that because the usual international legal convention on deciding the sea boundary is also to follow the geological features which probably places more than half of North Sea oil in English waters and also places nearly all the gas in English waters.
Even ignoring such a strategic point about the position of Berwick, as an English nationalist I would not be willing to see Berwick become part of Scotland without the opportunity to campaign hard to persuade the people of Berwick on Tweed and the whole constituency to remain true to England. Let them sing Gilbert & Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore, Boatswain that “in spite of all temptation to belong to other nations, I remain an Englishman!
Below is the article from the Scottish newspaper, The Herald, about the SNPs intentions. What do you think?
We shall be calling for funds so that we can make as bigger splash in campaigning in Berwick as possible! Will you help?
Here is the article:-
SNP could stand for Berwick seat in UK elections
The SNP could stand for Berwick in the UK general elections this May, in a bold but very smart move to gain a spot in the UK-wide television debates.
Christine Grahame, MSP for Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale, has offered to stand for the English seat. She says broadcasters have no plans to include the SNP leadership in any UK-wide debates to be screened in the run-up to May due to their presence being confined to Scotland, but a move to stand in an English seat would automatically provide the party with an ‘across the UK-presence’.
Ms Grahame’s proposal would mean that the SNP could claim to be standing right across the UK because it would have candidates in England as well as Scotland. Ms Grahame believes that would justify a place on the national stage for new SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon when it comes to pre-election leader debates.
Berwick has long been a divisive territory for the Kingdoms of Scotland and England in a historical sense, however more recently, the people of Berwick have become increasingly envious of SNP policies just a few minutes drive over the border including free prescriptions, higher education and travel for the elderly.
Any contest from the SNP for the seat would be seen as a direct attack on the UK establishment and could confidently succeed as many residents of the English constituency could use an SNP vote to voice their discontent with the UK government and may well see it as an avenue from which to introduce fairer local policies and raise issues which matter most to them, being just across the border from Scotland.
Ms Grahame said: “I have offered to stand in Berwick as a candidate so we can get equal coverage on the television because we fight throughout the UK.
“I can still keep my seat in the Scottish Parliament but then they would have to say we stand all over the UK, we should have all our leaders in these debates.”
And this isn’t the first time English-born Ms Grahame has set her sights on Berwick, where she took part in the independence referendum debate in September.
Speaking at the BBC’s pre Scottish referendum ‘Scotland and Us’ debate at Berwick’s Maltings Theatre, she told the audience that Scotland breaking away from England would be good for the area and would stimulate the case for devolution of powers to the north of England.
And in the run up to the 2008 general election she lodged a motion in the Scottish Parliament calling for the town to “return to the fold”.
Standing in bordering English constituencies would certainly frighten the Westminster political elite and would give the SNP a greater chance at strengthening their presence in the UK Parliament.
Border constituencies may be more likely to vote for the SNP as an alternative to the mainstream parties in England, especially with the prospect of a strong SNP contingent at Westminster which would wield greater power and sway over issues affecting those constituencies.”
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