WE'VE uploaded 20 of the top entrants to our Sunday National Yessay competition in this section of our website.

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THE weather was cold that day. Traces of snow lay in the clefts of the hills to the south, and a bitter wind blew from the Forth. It was late January 1707, and the final vote in favour of the Treaty of Union had taken place in the ancient Scottish Parliament exactly one week before. The measure had passed by 110 votes to 67. Henceforth Scotland and its neighbour to the south would have one parliament, one flag, one sovereign, one coinage, one system of taxation and one trading regime.

Discontent was growing in the streets. Many felt cheated by the manipulations of the major personalities and interests that had ensured the passage of the Act of Union. One hundred and ten votes to 67.

But supposing, just supposing, that the result had gone the other way.

Yes, there would have been severe economic consequences. Scotland, without colonies of its own, would be barred from access to England’s colonial markets. But it would be free to plan its own destiny. Trade with the Low Countries and the Baltic states was flourishing, as it had for centuries, and there were emerging markets in Poland, Russia and Scandinavia. The Scottish Army deployed along the Border to prevent any English attempts to interfere in Scottish politics, as they had done in 1547. The Royal Scottish Navy patrolled the seas around Scotland’s coasts, and secured the trade routes to the Baltic.

The years passed, and the land was at peace. Relations with England improved as trade links were further developed, even though there were difficulties and setbacks along the way. The planning and development of Edinburgh’s New Town was delayed until the 19th Century. Glasgow was little affected by the changes that were taking place elsewhere, as trade burgeoned with England’s former colonies in North America, which had won their own struggle for independence from “the Mother Country”.

With Scotland’s future as an independent country secured, fewer and fewer Scottish nobles sent their sons to be educated in England. Scotland’s five universities flourished, and Scotland’s leading families no longer looked to England as their intellectual superior. The Act of Union, had it been passed, would have ensured the Hanoverian succession once the Stewart, Queen Anne, had died. Scotland was free to choose its own form of government. The country was therefore able to avoid the dynastic wars of the mid-18th century. The slaughter of the Battle of Culloden never happened, and although Scottish soldiers seeking adventure volunteered to serve in the English Army overseas, the Scottish Government declined to become involved in England’s Colonial Wars of the 18th and 19th centuries. The infamous Press Gang method of recruitment to the Royal Navy was outlawed in Scotland.

The Scottish-educated aristocracy began to see Scots as fellow citizens rather than economic assets. Whilst areas of the Highlands were still given over to sheep-rearing, there was a much more sympathetic view towards the Highlanders themselves. There was, of course, no post-Culloden bitterness towards them, and what Clearances there were, took place in a less brutal manner. As a result, there was far less depopulation of the Highlands.

On, then, through the 19th century and into the 20th. Although young Scottish men seeking adventure were free to join the English Army, many of them chose not to take part in the Colonial Wars of England’s Victorian era. Very few, if any, Scots were killed in action or, more significantly, died from disease in the Crimea War. Due to its massive coal and iron reserves, and first the building of the canals and then the arrival of the railways, the Industrial Revolution spread to Scotland, as it did elsewhere in Europe.

Scotland remained neutral during both the Boer War and the First World War, in the latter case saving the lives of a generation of men. The Second World War was different, however, and Scottish troops played a full part alongside other troops from the Commonwealth, of which Scotland was still a full member.

And now, Calum, I hear that you are undecided as to how to vote in the forthcoming referendum on whether the Treaty of Union should be revived, and that after all our centuries as an independent country, we should at last unite with our neighbour to the south.

Before you make up your mind, just think what we would be giving up as a nation. The first to go would be our independent Armed Forces – our Army, Navy and Air Force that have played their parts so well with the forces of other similar-sized Nato countries such as Norway, Denmark and the recently joined Baltic and Balkan states. Then we would have to close all our embassies abroad that have done such a good job in promoting Scotland’s interests overseas. We would be required to give up our membership of the European Union, very much against our collective will. In future, any trade deals we entered into would be negotiated on our behalf by a government in Westminster that paid only lip service to our needs and aspirations.

We would have to forfeit our independent membership of the United Nations, and our opportunities to be elected to the UN Security Council, as well as our independent (non-nuclear) membership of Nato. Our participation as an independent state in supporting overseas charities such as Oxfam and Save The Children would come to an abrupt end, as would the right to control the licensing and regulation of broadcasting.

Some aspects of Scots law would be directly passed to London. For example, the Supreme Court of the newly established United Kingdom would have jurisdiction over any matters that the London government chose to devolve to whatever governance they chose was appropriate for the former country of Scotland. Much the same would apply to human rights legislation.

Then, Calum, look at our transport system. Air Scotland, which has operated in close co-operation with the Scandinavian Airlines System, or SAS as it is widely known, would fall under the wing of the UK Ministry of Transport, and would almost certainly be privatised. Our state-owned railway, Rèile na h-Alba, would doubtless face the same fate. Our ferry links to Europe from our ports at Leith, Dundee, Aberdeen and Wick would no doubt move south, so that our nearest Continental link would be from Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

I know, too, that you are a keen sports fan. At present, Scotland can compete in the Olympic Games as a sovereign country. That, of course, would go. And there would be no guarantee that, in the future, the Westminster regime might vote to end Scotland’s participation in sports such as football, rugby and even cricket, as a separate country. The fact that we do so might well be seem to be an anachronism, and Team GB may yet herald the future. And there is nothing we would be able to do about it if it were voted through. The argument would be that this affects “the whole of the UK”, and would not be devolved to Scotland.

Had the original Treaty of Union gone through back in 1707, we would at least have been guaranteed the continued existence of our own Church of Scotland, our own legal system and our own system of education. There is no guarantee that this will happen next time round.

We have been able to conserve output from our oil fields for the benefit of our own population, which has meant our oil reserves have lasted longer than they would have done if exploited for the benefit of England’s economy. We would, of course, have to give up our use of the Euro as currency, subjecting ourselves to the vicissitudes of the friendless English pound sterling.

You would, of course, cease to be a citizen of the European Union, which I know is very dear to you. I know that, as a student, you were looking forward to taking part in the Erasmus programme, allowing you to study in a European university, and that you were looking forward to completing your degree in Paris. Well, Calum, if you vote to join a “United Kingdom”, you can kiss goodbye to all that. You will be told by the UK Government that they will come up with “something better”. Well, we’ll wait and see. But it might be a long wait.

Some siren voices, from politicians on both side of the Border, have “vowed” that after unification, Scotland would “lead” the new state rather than follow it. For goodness’ sake, Calum, don’t fall for that one. Once they have “scotched” us, as they put it, we’ll have no choice but to do as we are told. True, it might be possible to negotiate some form of devolved government, but remember – power devolved is power retained. On the contrary, expect to be treated with scorn, patronised and ignored by politicians from whom we are free at the moment. Have no truck with this nonsense at all.

Just think what we would be losing if the measure went through. We would be giving up our ancient, independent Parliament of 129 members, and the right to make our own laws, subject to the usual EU constraints. In return, we would be allocated 59 seats in a House of Commons consisting of 650 seats in all. Does that appear to you to be fair, Calum? Can you name any other country, in the whole world, where that would be seen as a valid reason for linking up with another?

But then again, we would be told: “You can nominate peers to the House of Lords.” Just think about it. An anachronistic, unelected legislature of 786 members. We would no doubt be assured that there must be some Scots who would be willing to take a £300 daily attendance allowance for doing little else, even though that’s hard to believe.

The Referendum for Unity with England (RUE) will be held on St George’s Day, Thursday, April 23, 2026. Less than a year to go.

I would ask you to think very carefully about the issues I have raised, Calum, before you decide how to vote. But there is one other thing that I forgot to mention. As a country, we would lose our anti-nuclear status.

Who knows, the Westminster regime might even decide to base nuclear weapons on the Gareloch, less than 40 miles from Glasgow. You never know what might happen, do you?

Date: In the near future.