THE historian and novelist Dr James Hawes, best known for his satirical novel Speak For England and his controversial biography of the German-Czech novelist and writer Franz Kafka, was interviewed last week by Sunday National columnist John Drummond on Independence Live.

During the interview, Dr Hawes explained why he believed that the writing has been on the wall for the UK for over a century and that he expects Scotland to regain its independence within the next five years. Of the avowedly multinational European states in existence during the 19th century, with Austria-Hungary and the Russian and Ottoman empires, only the United Kingdom is still with us today, and that seems less and less united with each passing year. Multinational state structures in modern Europe seem to be inherently unstable. The two avowedly multinational successor states formed out of the rubble of Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire – Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia – both collapsed before the end of the 20th century.

That just leaves the UK and Spain as modern European states which recognise their multinational character. Spain is something of a special case as for much of the modern and early modern period it was governed as a unitary and centralised state with no official recognition that the Basques or Catalans were nations in their own right. Even today, the Spanish state does not accept that they are nations. The term used in the Spanish constitution is “historic nationalities”.

On the other hand, the UK has always accepted that Scotland – and while it was still a part of the UK, Ireland too – are countries and nations in their own right. In the 20th century, this status was recognised for Wales too, although Wales had been legally subsumed into England in the 17th century.

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It is only due to an accident of history that the UK has survived as long as it has. Pressure from both Scotland and Ireland for Home Rule had been growing throughout the 19th century. Proposals for various forms of Scottish self-government were debated seven times in the Commons between 1886 and 1900, although thanks to the opposition of the Tories who dominated the chamber, none resulted in a successful bill. Home Rule for Scotland was a central plank in the policies of the Liberal party which was electorally dominant in Scotland prior to the First World War.

Finally, in May 1914, Westminster passed the second reading of the Government of Scotland Bill 1913. The bill enjoyed the support of 85% of Scotland’s MPs at the time. It passed by 204 votes to 159, with opposition coming largely from Tory MPs representing English constituencies. The bill provided for the establishment of a Scottish Parliament which would have had considerably greater powers than Holyrood currently possesses.

Speaking during the debate, Liberal MP William Henry Cowan said that one of the most important reasons for Scottish self-government was the lack of interest in Scotland from English MPs, and in words which still resonate more than 100 years later, said: “English members will be conspicuous by their absence [during debates], or will be represented by gentlemen who, having shootings, fishings, or deer forests in Scotland, imagine themselves experts on Scottish affairs and insist on wasting our time and their own by intervening in Scottish debates.”

The bill would have given the new Scottish Parliament powers over pensions, National Insurance, employment issues and all “purely Scottish affairs”. Had it been implemented, Scotland’s workers would not currently be facing Boris Johnson’s hike in National Insurance. Scotland would also have controlled broadcasting. Only defence, the Post Office, foreign affairs and coinage would have remained under Westminster’s control. The bill essentially delivered the “devo max” which Scotland was promised 100 years later by the parties opposed to independence during the referendum campaign.

Just a few short weeks after the bill was passed, the First World War broke out and the proposals in the bill were never implemented. After the war was over, new bills were presented to the House of Commons throughout the 1920s in an attempt to revive the proposals of the 1913 bill, but all of these failed thanks to opposition from Conservative and Unionist MPs. All these bills went further than the Scotland Act of the 1990s which underpins the current devolution settlement. The Government of Scotland Bill 1927 stated: “The bill proceeds on the principle of self-determination. It proceeds throughout on the basis of Scotland being a sovereign state.”

Brexit has starkly highlighted the inadequacies of the current devolution settlement. History tells us that despite the fond wishes of British nationalists, pressure for substantial Scottish Home Rule is not going to go away.

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Since Scottish demands are unlikely to be met by Westminster, dominated as it is by Conservatives, that means that the tides of history are carrying Scotland towards independence. Of course nothing is inevitable. As independence supporters we cannot sit back and hope that the British state does our job for us. The history of Scottish Home Rule tells us that progress is only made when there is substantial pressure for it within Scotland.

It’s up to us to make it happen and the pressure is building again. It’s easier to travel with the tide than to try to stand against it. The dreams of a sovereign state of Scotland in charge of its own fate will come to pass sooner rather than later.