The earliest surviving reference to the town of Berwick date back to the 11th Century. In 1097 it was named in a charter by Edgar, King of Scots. In 1120, it was one of only two Royal Burghs, the other being Roxburgh. Berwick was important from both a commercial and a military point of view. It was Scotland's most important trading link to the European mainland but its position on the Scottish border made it particularly liable to attack by the English.
Berwick was first captured by the English in 1174 and held until 1189. The town was sacked by King John of England and his army in 1216. Following this event, eighty years of peace and prosperity made Berwick the richest trading community in Scotland. In 1286, the entire customs revenue of England amounted to £8,800. In the same year, Berwick generated a custom revenue of over £2,000.
Following the disputed succession to the Scottish Crown, Edward I of England saw his chance to invade Scotland and sacked Berwick in 1296. The sacking was especially brutal (some say that over 17,000 were slaughtered) with none escaping the most gruesome cruelties at English hands. For two centuries afterwards, Berwick was fought over almost continuously and changed hands no fewer than ten times. Berwick was captured by the English in 1482 since which time it has remained in their hands.
In 1502, Berwick was acknowledged as a neutral or independent state "of" England, but not "within" England. Interestingly, Berwick did not become legally incorporated into England until as late as 1836. The town of Berwick has practically no medieval remains due to the destructive wars which raged over it.
As regards economic development, it is obvious that Berwick did not benefit from being a northern outpost of England. Under Scottish rule, Berwick flourished as a major port linking Scotland to the Continent; under English rule, it became something of a dowdy market town. Had Berwick remained in Scottish hands, it might have had a brighter future; England's policy was merely to prevent Scotland using the port to trade with Europe. Berwick's future wellbeing will be best served by a return to an independent Scotland.
The policy of Northumberland Council seems to be to decant Geordie council tenants to Berwick. This has somewhat altered the town, which, until fairly recently, had predominantly retained a sense of Scottishness. That sense of Scottish Identity is currently in regression. It is perhaps a wonder that Scottishness in Berwick has survived at all when one surveys the massive Elizabethan Walls built to keep the Scots out. It has survived despite the frequent expulsions and bans on Scots settling in the town. Berwick symbolises all the brutality and physical force of conquest and colonialism. England holds just a few square miles of Scotland, but that is enough to make the point. England has won Berwick by force, against natural law and justice, and intends to keep her by force. It is essential to English virility to retain Berwick. That is why we must challenge this occupation.
The geography of Berwick is dominated by the River Tweed. It is a natural border. Wouldn't it be much more logical and harmonious to have the border marked by a large river than to be stuck out three miles around Berwick in the middle of the Scottish countryside ?
The false border is crossed by the A1. At this point developers plan to create a phoney "Gateway to Scotland". Seedy commercialism is at the root of this historical absurdity. The "Gateway" will be nothing less than a national disgrace.
We cannot bring back the lost years of Berwick's history. We can only strive to undo the cultural and social damage which has been the result of English expansionism and intereference in the rightful and lawful affairs of Scotland. In addition, we Scots can only regain our full self-respect as a people when Berwick has been liberated. We cannot ever accept that even a few square miles of our country should remain under the domination of the English.
People, the Scots in particular, should not scoff at the above and declare that "it's all in the past", the insidious English habit of replacing or substituting their own kind in every area of Scotland is not a matter for jests. Remember, Scotland has a population of 5 million, it has remained this way for decades, now consider, Scotland loses its people at the rate of almost 15, 000 per year to emigration, and yet our population figure remains the same? This huge number is taken up almost entirely by incomers from England, or "White Settlers" as they are often termed. In 1989, we in Siol nan Gaidheal published figures to support this claim and created such an upset with the establishment that the press and media went almost hysterical in the long accepted knee-jerk response to anything that would support True Scottish Awareness. We were subjected to cries of "racists", "troublemakers", "fascists", "liars" and all the usual simplistic indictments. Why? Did we not support our claims with statistics available to anyone who wanted to take the trouble to research this phenomenon.
The answer to the above is quite simple, England Rules, no matter what colour of political party is in government, England and the English nation is where the power is. Scotland is merely viewed as a relatively underpopulated area awaiting future development to accomodate English expansionism and will be exploited as the need arises. Ask yourself this....When did any English/British government ever cater to the wishes or demands of the Scots? The Poll Tax? Was it our choice to have our powerless parliament sited on Calton Hill? More access to the income from OUR natural resources? REMEMBER..Scots pensioners are still dying every year from hypothermia because of the governments determination NOT to grant a cold weather allowance to them, mainly because the OAP's in England don't demand it because of their milder climate. REMEMBER...there are still hundreds if not thousands of young Scots sleeping rough in our streets because of legislation from OUR government.... REMEMBER... English/British government's decision to disband the Scottish Regiments when they thought they had no need for "cannon fodder"... REMEMBER... You who would cry "racist" at us, when the English Incomers take your job, or take over in your town or village, don't cry "White Settlers". Was it not after all, your oh-so-altruistic and liberal attitude and pro-British/English stance which made our cries for attention to the problem, a taboo subject in Scotland?
It is interesting to note that the Government are discussing passing a law on anti-Englishness in Scotland, this in answer to demands from English settlers up here. Many Scots having stayed in England for a short while themselves, it is significant that so many remember the slurs aimed at them and our nation generally. How about the portrayal of the Scots one sees on television?? Drunks, thieves, violent, knife-wielding gangsters, junkies? The list is endless. How about asking some squaddies? Jocks, Paddies & Taffs? What is the term for the English squaddie? Perhaps SIR? If truth be told, however, there isn't one. A simple enough example of English racism, but of course it has been ignored for years, only when they are on the receiving end or imagine they are, do things get done to put a stop to this. We have all witnessed the English attitude to the French, Germans and other nationalities. Even more revealingly to those of African and Asian background. How strictly were the racism laws applied on behalf of these people living in Mother England? That's a hard one, undoubtedly. Particularly as the media were forced to show that it was the respectable face of the English establishment who were most guilty of racist attacks on these minorities. The stories of victimisation and beatings by the police, the exclusion of "coloured" people within the police force etc. The catalogue of such abuse is extensive indeed.
What it all boils down to in the end, is simply this, that, empirically at least, the English have ever been imperialists. They suffer from a superiority complex, they know that whatever they do, it can be justified. This is very apparent in the north of Ireland when it was proven that they had broken every rule in the book of The Geneva Convention, and had simply ignored every report of their atrocities. It wasn't all that many years ago that the Scottish National Party were treated as lepers and all the quaint little departments of The British Intelligence were taking an unhealthy interest in all they were doing. It is therefore important not to get carried away with the hype that the SNP have got to where they are now because of the British/English government's respect for Democracy. No danger. The British/English establishment, sensing the rise of Nationalism in Scotland, preferred to allow and work with a political party who understood what politics was all about, rather than have to deal with a more determined general public who might act in a somewhat more militant fashion. The lesser of two evils, as they saw it. We know what their latter-day imperial games are and will not be cowed into meek subservience. Within the context then of colonial expansionism, the current levels of disinformation both in the official and media down-playing of immigration and electoral distortion, merely serve to stiffen the resolve of those of us intent on retrieving what is ours and fighting to protect nothing less than our very existence as a people.
|Return to Demographics||Return to Index|