The people of Scotland and England share the same island and (mostly) the same language and appearance. They have shared a monarch since 1603 when James VI of Scotland was crowned James I of England - even today Queen Elizabeth II of England is properly known as Queen Elizabeth the First of Scotland, and whether she should be called the First or Second of the United Kingdom is still debated. Since 1707, the two countries have shared a Parliament, passports, athletes, and have shed blood together as part of a single military. Wales and parts of Ireland have been assimilated to various degrees, and some minor colonies have come and gone.
However, after nearly three hundred years of political integration, Scotland and England still had different legal and education systems, and even variant flavours of the same religion and currency, with pound sterling currency notes drawn on Scots banks sometimes being rejected south of the border. The 1707 Act of Union was and still is popularly viewed by Scots as a fiat capitulation by a landed ruling class without a popular mandate, and the resentment of that never abated. As a final insult, a 1979 referendum on Scottish devolution failed because even though it obtained a 52% yes vote on a turnout of 64%, the government of the time required a yes vote from an arbitrary figure of 40% of the eligible voters - not just those that actually voted - before accepting the result. This helped to imbue a feeling that there was no point in voting, which resulted in a low turnout and a nice self fulfilling prophecy.
A long held election promise by the Labour party to hold another referendum based on a majority of actual votes was honoured when it returned to power in the United Kingdom parliament in 1997. And on September 11th 1997, the Scots people finally and conclusively voted for the formation of a Scottish parliament.
The Parliament, based in the Scottish capital of Edinburgh, has remit over education, health, agriculture and justice and can vary national taxes by up to 3% from the levels set by the UK government, while the Parliament of the United Kingdom in London retains power over the defence and foreign affairs of England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the remaining colonies.
Scotland has a healthy political climate, with four main political parties: Scottish flavours of the three main United Kingdom parties, plus the Scottish National Party, who campaign on a platform of full independence for Scotland. They are not, however, an isolationist party, as their goal is to promote Scotland as an independent nation within the European Parliament, a strategy that has been very successful for the Republic of Ireland.
In relation to other world events of September 11th, the devolution of Scotland from the United Kingdom has some valuable lessons to teach us.
Firstly, forced solutions to cultural clashes don't always work in the long term. Bringing peace with the point of a bayonet will solve the immediate political crisis, and the results might not come back to bite you in this generation, or the next, but memories are long. It took Scotland nearly three hundred years to redress the unpopular Union of 1707. Those in the USA who assert that the South will rise again can take heart that the American Civil War was less than a hundred and fifty years ago. Have patience. Your great great grandchildren might yet see a Southern Congress.
But secondly, September 11th 1997 shows that peaceful resolutions to cultural conflicts can be found. All it takes is for those with power over others - officially or de facto - to have the courage to admit that each act of coercion has to be judged not just on its immediate merits, but on its long term repercussions, and that homogenity might be an unachievable goal. Sometimes it's better to just agree to disagree and to leave well alone.
And with particular reference to September 11th 2001, let's remember that achieving peace and stability means more than just sabre rattling or picking the next regime. On this day, let's raise a glass to those politicians of principle and vision that think beyond the next election or the next crisis, that choose restraint and concilliation, and most of all, that let people decide who they want to be, and who they want to be governed by, which is arguably the best long term strategy for living together on our crowded little planet in peace, if perhaps not in total harmony.