Labour and Scottish Nationalism by Michael Keating

By Michael Keating

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The 1912 miners' strike, the largest ever in Britain up to that time, involved 1 million men and concluded after Government intervention and the passing of a Minimum Wage Act. This established district minimum wages and the miners were forced to accept greater regional variations than they would have liked. Thereafter, the Scottish Federation, though active in the MFGB, retained a large measure of autonomy. In 1915 the eight county associations became more closely associated in the National Union of Scottish Mineworkers, with Ioo,ooo members.

RADICALS AND HOME RULE It was the revival of radical Liberalism following the franchise reforms of 1867 and 1884 which established the link between Scottish nationalism and radicalism. Scottish Liberalism had for most of the nineteenth century been dominated by the Whiggish east, until in 1876 a radical West and South of Scotland Liberal Association was formed. In 1885, following joseph Chamberlain's example, Scottish radicals formed the National Liberal Federation of Scotland. l 2 Around this time, radicals in Scotland and Wales were noting with envy the discipline and success of Parnell's Irish Party and began to see Home Rule as a possible way of advancing causes such as disestablishment, temperance and land reform, while liberating the energies of the Scottish people for further democratic advance.

In I 886 the Board of Trade Labour Department conducted a wage census which showed wages and earnings of Scottish industrial workers to be generally lower than the average for the United Kingdom, though the differences were not very great. The Board of Trade Earnings Enquiry in I go6 showed that by then the prosperity HOME RULE AND SCOTTISH LABOUR MOVEMENT 33 of the iron and steel and the shipbuilding industries had brought men's earnings above the United Kingdom average, while earnings in engineering were close to the average.

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