The Scottish Home Rule Association was an organization devoted to removing Scottish home rule (i.e. the right to govern oneself) from London and placing it back in the hands of Scots.(2.51) The Scottish Labour Party was formed in the year 1883, and in that same year the first conference of the Scottish Home Rule Association was held. Four years later, in 1887, the Scotish Home Rule Association published The Union Of 1707 Viewed Financially and in 1912 the Young Scots Society published their 60 Points For Scottish home Rule. But the idea did not gain popular support, and by 1914 the movement was practically dead. The Scottish Home Rule Association was then re-founded in 1918 by the Independent Labour Party with Roland Muirhead as its secretary. It was Roland E. Muirhead who, in 1918, provided the main impetus to revive the Scottish Home Rule Association.
Roland E. Muirhead ~ Source unknown.
During the late-1920s and early-1930s, many nations throughout the world suffered the devastating effects of depression, Scotland was no different. She saw not only economic depression but also high infant mortality, partly due to a lack of adequate medical facilities. With such things controlled by the British government in London, the Scots suffered. Individuals began to discuss securing home rule for their nation.
In May, 1928 the National Party of Scotland was founded with the avowed purpose of achieving ‘independence within the British group of nations.’ Roland E. Muirhead became disenchanted with the Scottish Home Rule Association, and therefore left it to join the National Party of Scotland, becoming one of its first parliamentary candidates, representing West Renfrewshire, and serving that year as its President. According to other sources, R.B. Cunninghame Graham was elected as the Party’s first president and Roland Eugene Muirhead and John MacCormick were elected to serve as the Party’s secretaries. Whatever the case, Roland Muirehead was active in the young party’s history.
The Scots Independent was the NPS’s official newspaper, but it experienced financial problems until Roland E. Muirhead stepped in and revived it at his own expense. According to Dr. Robert D. McIntyre, Muirhead “was a reasonable dependable source of money when things got tight.”(2.52)
The National Party of Scotland started out with few members. In the 1929 election the party received only 5% of the votes in the constituencies in which they participated. Over the next few years, the membership increased. By 1934 the membership of the party had increased to 10,000 members, its all-time high. A poll in the Scottish Daily Express gave a figure of 113,000 favoring some sort of self government for Scotland (as compared to only 5,000 registered in opposition).
As is the case with any new movement, there were certain individuals who were not satisfied with the aims of the National Party of Scotland. They broke away and formed a new party, the Scottish Party, in 1932. The new party lasted only a few years before it was realized that splitting the votes would hinder any real prospect of gaining the intended goal of Scottish home rule. Therefore, in April of 1934 the breakaway party rejoined with the National Party of Scotland to form the Scottish National Party. Roland E. Muirhead was a participant in the establishment of this new political unit, along with his associate, John MacCormick and Professor A.D. Gibb.
Around seven o’clock on the morning of 3 May, 1941 police raids were simultaneously made on the homes of Arthur Donaldson at Lugtown, Douglas Young at Aberdeen, Muriel Gibson at Glasgow, and Roland E. Muirhead at Lochwinnoch. The reason for the raids was suspicion of ‘subversive’ activities, because of these individuals’ involvement in the Scottish Home Rule movements. According to Tom Johnston in his memoirs, Memories: “At the time, somebody took it upon himself to hint to the police that Roland might be a sympathiser with Hitler, or at any rate anti-English, to warrant a raid upon his house. A raid duly took place and after some locks had been forced there was borne off in triumph a sporting rifle of the last century vintage which had belonged to an uncle or brother... Fortunately, there existed at the time in the offices of the Crown Prosecutor and the Lord Advocate a sense of humour, and the engines of war referred to were hurriedly ordered to be returned, so that Roland Muirhead was deprived of a martyr’s crown...”.(2.53)
Roland Eugene Muirhead served as the Honorary President for the Scottish National Party and continued his affiliation with that party when his associate, John MacCormick left to form the Scottish Convention. MacCormick preferred to use a consensual approach, unlike other members of the Scottish National Party who employed more confrontational approaches to spreading their ideas. In April, 1949 MacCormick and his Scottish Convention drafted The National Convenant For Home Rule(2.54) Reminiscent of the National Covenant of 1638, this one called for the people of Scotland to “pledge ourselves, in all loyalty to the Crown and within the framework of the United Kingdom, to do everything in our power to secure for Scotland a Parliament with adequate legislative authority in Scotland’s affairs.”
In 1952 Muirhead, then at the age of eighty-two, left the SNP and formed the Scottish National Congress, considered at the time to be a somewhat radical offshoot. According to an obituary for John Murphy (1926-2002), he was a political protégé of “the Renfrewshire industrialist, ex-ILP pacifist, and SNP founding-father, Roland E. Muirhead.”(2.5) Murphy also “became caught up in (the Scottish National Congress’) sometimes controversial, though always strictly ‘non-violent’ protests against ‘English rule’ – including, for example, the solemn burning of copies of the Treaty of Union to mark its 250th anniversary in 1957.”(2.56)
Supporters of the Scottish National Congress met at Mr. Muirhead’s office at Elmbank Crescent in Glasgow to study the constitutions of countries throughout the world, and it was as a result of those meetings that, in 1962, the Scottish National Congress drafted A Constitution For Scotland.
The Scottish National Party continued in its efforts to achieve independence for Scotland. Following the Second World War, unemployment was very low, due to the need for rebuilding; but by 1957-58 unemployment was rising. The heavy industries that had supported the nation through the war years were declining. Also declining was the membership in the Scottish National Party; its membership dropped to a meager 2,000.
Roland Eugene Muirhead, who was noted for having kept together the Scottish Congress (which served as an alliance between factions such as United Scotland, The Scottish Patriots, The Scottish Socialist Party and The Scottish Republican Party) and for having published “the longest lasting ultra nationalist newspaper, ‘Scottish Forward’…” died in 1964.(2.57) But the movement to which he had devoted his life continued to propell Scottish Home Rule forward, as indicated by the name of his newspaper.
2.51 The information for this section on the role of Roland E. Muirhead in the ‘devolution’ of Scottish home rule was obtained from a variety of sources, including the websites, Devolved Government at the url: http://www.scotland.gov.uk.; Significant Scots at the url: http://www.electricscotland.com/history/other/muirhead_roland.htm; The 1940s – King John’s Rule at the url: http://www.electricscotland.com/history/mcintyre/chap9.htm; The Immediate Post-War Period at the url: http://www.electricscotland.com/history/mcintyre/ chap15.htm; John Murphy at the url: http://www.theherald.co.uk/obituaries/archive/1-3-19102-21-9-49.html; Siol Nan Gaidheal – History Of Our Movement at the url: http://www.siol-nan-gaidheal.com/hstoom.htm; and Home Rule For Ireland, Scotland And Wales at the url: http://www.lse.ac.uk/library/pamphlets/IssuesinBritishHistory/ IssuesinBritishHistoryPamphlets/home_rule_for_ireland_scotland_and_wales.htm and the books, Scotland – History Of A Nation, by David Ross 2002, pp 31, 32 275; and Scotland – The Story Of A Nation, by Magnus Magnusson 2000, pp 666-668, 670, 673, 675, 687-692.
2.52 The Immediate Post-War Period at the url: http://www.electricscotland.com/history/mcintyre/chap15.htm
2.53 The 1940s – King John’s Rule at the url: http://www.electricscotland.com/history/mcintyre/chap9.htm
2.54 Scotland – The Story Of A Nation, by Magnus Magnusson 2000, p 673.
2.55 John Murphy at the url: http://www.theherald.co.uk/obituaries/archive/1-3-19102-21-9-49.html
2.57 Siol Nan Gaidheal – History Of Our Movement at the url: http://www.siol-nan-gaidheal.com/hstoom.htm