The parallel between the reasons for the 1707 Union due to losses made with the Dariaen colony and the losses made by the Royal Bank of Scotland in the recent financial crisis was drawn by Lord Forsyth of Drumlean, in the debate in the House of Lords on Scottish Independence Referendum on 30 Jan 2014.
“(…) I know that it is a cliché to say, “United we stand, divided we fall”, but it applies to companies, political parties and families, and it certainly applies to countries. That is what is at stake here. It is important that we remember how this union came about in 1707. The truth is that it was an arranged marriage. It was a deal, and the deal was that the English got defence and the Scots got money.
They needed money because of the disastrous experience of the Darien project, where Scotland tried to build its own empire, its own colonies, and failed. One-quarter of the money in circulation in Scotland was lost, along with thousands of lives, in that failed venture where Scotland and England tried to continue to compete with each other. The brilliance of the Act of Union was that a partnership was formed and we started to work together, rather than against each other. And, hey ho, after about 20 years of misery—because the Scottish economy was protectionist and we had to adjust to free trade—suddenly prosperity bloomed. We had the Age of Enlightenment. Scottish philosophers such as Adam Smith, Scottish engineers and Scottish architects were dominating not just the United Kingdom but the globe.
It is very important to remember the financial aspect. All that money, one-third of the GDP, had been lost on the Darien scheme. A new institution, the Royal Bank of Scotland, was formed on the back of that scheme. Today, 300 years later, the Royal Bank of Scotland, with £40 billion lost—nearly one-third of Scotland’s GDP—again was rescued by the union. With 300 years’ experience, what kind of madness is it that cannot look to the past or to the present and conclude that the United Kingdom needs Scotland and Scotland needs the United Kingdom?
I said that the other half of the deal was defence. What happens if Scotland leaves the United Kingdom? Where will our nuclear deterrent be? That is let alone the effect on Scotland of the loss of 10,000 jobs at Faslane, and the loss of future defence contracts for the shipyards, with a further loss of jobs and everything else. But what about the position of the United Kingdom, which would be forced in practice to give up its nuclear deterrent? Where would Scotland be if it was cut off from the intelligence sharing and resources that we have, when we can see the threat that we face from terrorism? What of the British Army and the other armed services? Are we to say, as Mr Salmond proclaims, to the Scots men and women who fought in Afghanistan and Iraq so bravely with the union flag on their shoulders, “You have got to choose between the British Army and Alex’s Dad’s Army. You have got to choose whether you wish to be, in effect, mercenaries working for a foreign country or go off on this half-baked idea which Salmond proposes”. It is insulting. The lesson of the union and the prosperity that came was that free trade and a global outlook—not an inward-looking outlook—are the keys to success. (…)”