Scotland and England have long been discussed as if they were mutual enemies of each other, and despite the recent referendum result that saw Scotland remaining 'united' with England, Wales and Northern Ireland there are undoubtedly ongoing tensions and differences between the two nation states.
The political union of Scotland with England dates back to 1707, when the Act of Union, linking the countries to the same political governance, was signed here in Edinburgh. Prior to this, the countries had been ruled by the same monarch - the 'union of crowns' - since the death of Elizabeth I in 1603, when James VI (of Scotland) also became crowned James I (of England).
On the 5th January 1596, just a few years before this union, however, an official proclamation had been put out from Edinburgh, "declaring perpetual peace between Scotland and England, and that none of the Borderers [those living in the border territories] should invade each other, under the pain of death".
It may have been a trifle optimistic to expect 'perpetual peace', but it was a bold wish to express, especially as the Battle of Flodden in 1513 would still have been within living memory for the older generations in Scotland. This was the biggest armoured conflict in history between the two countries, and one in which Scotland fared very badly, with the loss of up to 17,000 soldiers (including the reigning Scottish king, James IV) from the Scottish army, against less than 2,000 for the English.
Nor would the desired peace last for very long, with a number of significant uprisings and revolts in the following centuries (including the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745, following the union of 1707). And certainly there were acts of repression and exploitation which were waged against the Scots by those wielding English power, including moves within the most recent decades, which have left an understandable ill-feeling amongst many in Scotland.
Scotland reconvened its own devolved parliament in 1999, and in 2014 a referendum (held on the anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn, a famous Scots victory over the English) was an important event in modern Scottish political history, which saw a record turnout of voters right across the country, engaging with probably the most significant political issue they have ever been consulted on. The outcome of that referendum (a narrow majority voting to stay in the union) has left a resounding impact on many Scots, and the political conversation about independence is continuing in Scotland in a variety of forms.
So although Braveheart-style cries for freedom make for a striking and colourful characterisation of the Scottish general public's relationship with England and the rest of the UK, as a visitor you are encouraged to be sensitive to the fact that this is a serious historical issue that manifests in a wide variety of shades and forms for those on either side of the Scotland-England border. But at least the spirit of that proclamation for 'perpetual peace' from 1596 continues to hold, and that is only to the mutual benefit of those living under the political governance of both nations.
Explore more Scottish history with a private walking tour of Edinburgh!
Edinburgh Expert Walking Tours is run by Gareth Davies, an adopted native of Edinburgh since 1998...