Why is it that of all the various parts of the UK, it is only in Scotland that there is a broad based movement in favour of independence. Why not an independent Yorkshire for example? The reason is quite simple really. Scotland as a distinct and separate jurisdiction exists and has continued to exist for centuries. Scotland has always had its own legal system, religious settlement and educational system. The origins of the Kingdom of Scotland are the subject of much historical debate. But by the early 900s there was an established Kingdom of Scotland. This Kingdom consolidated itself over the following centuries. To such an extent that it was able to fight and win the Wars of Independence in the early 1300s. Scotland remained a distinct and separate Kingdom right up until the Treaty of Union in 1707. Though this treaty did away with the then Scottish Parliament, Scotland still kept its own legal, religious and educational systems. This union with England to create the Kingdom of Great Britain worked well for both parties for many years. However as the role and powers of governments expanded over the last century or so, Scotland became even more distinct and separate from the rest of the UK. From the 1880s onwards separate Scottish bodies were established in areas as diverse as health, schools, local government, police and social work. In this context it is worth noting that the National Health Service, that icon of Britishness, was never a UK wide organization. From its inception the NHS has been organized and run on a territorial basis. So, in Scotland we have our own NHS Scotland. And of course in the world of sports, Scotland has its own governing bodies for football, rugby, hockey, golf etc. In each case they are all separately represented in their respective world governing federations. In football for example, Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland all compete separately for a place in the finals of the World Cup. It is only for the Olympics that there is a UK wide team.
All this is in sharp contrast to areas like Yorkshire. For all its attractions, Yorkshire has never had its own legal, religious, educational systems. There is no Yorkshire international football team. Not even a Yorkshire international cricket team. The only other part of the UK which could make a similar claim to Scotland for distinct and separate recognition is Wales. Though Wales was conquered by England way back in the 1200s. Since then it has been integrated into the English legal and administrative system. There is for example no Welsh legal system, nor educational system. However Wales has remained a different place and in sports, separate Welsh teams compete in international competitions. With the recent establishment of the Welsh Assembly, there is the basis for an independent Wales. As yet there is not much of a broad based movement for this.
Scotland on the other hand has a history and culture of its own going back centuries. The key elements of this Kingdom survived the union with England – law, religion and education. All these remained and remain to this day different and separate from the rest of the UK. Other areas of government have since developed their own separate policies and practice. The advent of the Scottish Parliament has only made this distinctiveness even more widely known and appreciated. It is the continued and continuing existence of these distinct and separate institutions which makes independence such a natural next step for Scotland.