It happened today - July 5, 2016

One of Margaret Thatcher’s less felicitous comments was that there are no lost causes in politics because there are no won causes. As I observed in an Ottawa Citizen column on Oct. 29 of 2010, I agree that no victory in public affairs is permanent. But I can think of plenty of defeats and collapses that certainly were. Including Akkad, Bolshevism and the Mayan Empire. Still, you never know.

This thought is prompted by the reflection that July 5th is the anniversary of the signing in 1295 of the “Auld Alliance” between France and Scotland against, you guessed it, England. It had a pretty good run, being regularly renewed until the 1560 Treaty of Edinburgh under which Elizabeth I “persuaded” the Scots to ally with England and the French to smile and say they were happy to hear about it. But it certainly looked down for the count in 1603, when James VI of Scotland managed to become also James I of England and unite the English and Scottish crowns. And they apparently carried it from the ring entirely and permanently in 1707 with the Act of Union that united the two countries. And yet I seem to see it getting up off the stretcher and waving feebly from the bleachers.

You see, with the Brexit vote, the Scots are making noises about leaving the UK and joining Europe, turning their backs on Magna Carta, the Industrial Revolution and glorious stands against absolutism from Louis XIV and Napoleon to Hitler and the Battle of Britain, because, well, because, you know, that is… if you hate the English clap your hands or some such thing.

Before writing off the UK as a temporary aberration and going back to the auld days when their parliament had no significant influence on their rulers, Scots should reflect that for all its sentimental value, the Auld Alliance was a one-sided affair that did them no practical good and indeed didn’t help the French much either. They spent about 600 years trying to do in the English and mostly did themselves in instead, finally running to Britannia for help in the face of Prussian militarism. And thank goodness for them the Scots and English were fighting shoulder to shoulder in both world wars.

So yes, it might be possible to revive the auld alliance despite the odds. It would be remarkable after all this time, and it would therefore have a certain romanticism. But I doubt it would work any better this time.