Monday, 7 June 2010


As the World Cup approaches and the flags come out across England, we face the niggling annoyance of a whole section of Britain actively demonstrating their antipathy towards us through their senseless opposition to our football team. This happens at every sporting event so it is no surprise and such sporting hostility can be a source of fun. The difference with regard to Scotland and England is that the cause of this antipathy is ancient history.

This overt hostility to England is simply out of date and ignores a range of straightforward truths which suggest a somewhat skewed relationship in favour of Scotland, rather than supporting the myth of the English somehow being responsible for the various ills which many people beyond Berwick are convinced afflict their country.

In a conversation today a Scottish acquaintance was asked if anything special would be happening today on what is the anniversary of the birth of Robert the Bruce? Their response was a jokey but still fervent hope that the border would be closed. That kind of comment just annoys me. Why should a Scot living in England with absolutely no demonstrable disadvantages to their position and in the light of many advantages have such hostility to my country? This is tantamount to casual racism.

Given the fact that Britain has had a Scottish dominated government for 13 years, that Scotland has more powers and democracy than England, that Scottish MPs get to tell the English how to live and that in return the English are expected to pay far over the odds for Scotland, and given the fact that Scotland's banks were rescued by primarily English taxpayers, this seems somewhat churlish and ignorant of quite how well Scotland does from the union.

The surprise for me is that we in England don't particularly care about any of this and we generally rub along quite happily with the situation without treating these various issues as problems. I suspect that that must really annoy the Scots.

I remain 100% committed to a binding referendum on Scottish independence but my one condition would be that it should be a nationwide referendum, from Penzance to Peebles. I remain convinced that our Scottish neighbours would be quite uncomfortably surprised at the outcome of such a referendum but they would almost certainly get what they wished for which, as anyone who knows the old saw will realise, may not be the best outcome for Scotland.

For the record, I am also fully supportive of the union and I believe it to be a good thing for all of us. England benefits from this union as much as the other participants but any such union requires active and positive participation from all its members. The long-standing Liberal Democrat policy of a federal Britain remains an ideal aspiration for our country which could reduce much of this resentment and even up the huge political imbalance which is currently skewed in favour of Scotland.

Here's my challenge then: if you are Scottish and reading this blog, feel free to post a message of support for the England team in South Africa. If you feel you are unable to, can I suggest that you reflect on whether that is a mature response to our ongoing, positive relationship which the union embodies in the 21st century.

However, if you do, my thanks and my very best wishes. And here's to a 'Great Britain' football team for 2012.


  1. I do not claim to have a huge tartan-clad readership but I think it is now fair to say that the case for the prosecution rests...

  2. >I am also fully supportive of the union

    I'm fully supportive of the European Union; does that automatically entail supporting Germany?

    I'll be supporting France, as it happens. And Algeria, bien sur.

  3. I support both the union and Germany - at least when it comes to football in the latter case. I tend to whisper it as it doesn't go down well but I admire the German team more than most others since they play a very 'English' style of robust football which may be why the games we play against them tend to be pretty exciting.

    If England go out I'd be happy to see Germany do well, if only to stop Argentina!

    I think France's glory days are now over for a bit so they might not be the best choice for this tournament. Almost everyone would like to see any African team do well and the Algerians beat the mighty Egyptians so they would be a good choice but sadly I don't think there is an African team which can go all the way this time around. Here's hoping I'm proved wrong, as I so often am.

  4. The creation of the Scottish parliament was a stake
    in the heart of the Union, and will be viewed as
    such by future historians. The governance of the
    United Kingdom has been woefully mismanaged by
    governments over the centuries by favouring the
    SouthEast of England whilst neglecting areas to the
    North and West. No wonder the Scots, Welsh and Irish
    - to say nothing of the English north are
    disillusioned with the Union. The Union is on it's
    deathbed but Westminster is determined to hold on to
    power and for that reason the English will never be
    given the opportunity to vote on it's future.

  5. The 'long-standing Liberal Democrat policy of a federal Britain remains an ideal aspiration for our country' only if England is one of the federal units.

    Unfortunately the Lib Dems support the balkanisation of England into regions, whilst supporting national parliaments for Scotland and Wales, thereby denying the people of England equality of representation.

  6. No, Toque, we don't. We support a convention to think about what should be done with England as it is far bigger than the other 'nations' so we have to be careful that a federal state would not be unbalanced and cause resentment among the other members.

    As far as the LDs are concerned we support listening to the people of England. That's not a bad idea, is it?

  7. The coalition aim is to destroy England, it is certainly not aspirational.

    Be under no illusions, this coalition government will do whatever it can to keep the Union embers glowing, even if that entails throwing England on the fire.

  8. Nonsense. Provide one iota of evidence for this and I'll look into it and blog on it.

  9. Wit and Wisdom said "We support a convention to think about what should be done with England"


    "LDs are concerned we support listening to the people of England"

    Word, words and more words. the ConDems are "thinking" about the WLQ and "listening" to England? Don't make me larff. They are sucking up to Scotland in case they vote in favour of independence when Salmond holds his referendum.

  10. Once again, show me the evidence for this. This Englishman is not sucking up to anyone north of the border, least of all wee, grinning Alex Salmond.

    If Scots vote for independence, so what? That simply means independence for England. If you're English, is that bad? I support the union but I wouldn't shed a tear over such an outcome.

    The key is that English and Scottish people need a say, rather than simply having to follow the narrow aspirations of some ideological Scots who haven't thought their grand 'Braveheart' plans through.

  11. Well we do agree that the English and Scottish people need a say. In fact I would go further and include the Welsh and Northern Irish. BUT WE ENGLISH ARE IGNORED AT EVERY TURN. The fate of the Union is being decided on referendums outside of England.

  12. Dave, read my blog. I agree entirely. Where I differ is that I don't think it is a 'zero sum' game as you seem to be suggesting. I think that we can all be persuaded that cooperation is the best outcome but not necessarily using the model we currently have.

  13. 'I remain 100% committed to a binding referendum on Scottish independence'.....

    But do you remain 100% committed to a binding referendum on English independence?

    You should do, this is, after all a 'union of equals' apparently.... Apart from the free tuition fees, free eye tests, free dental checks, free residential care for the elderly, free and unfettered access to expensive lifesaving cancer drugs, free hospital car parking, free or soon-to-be-free prescriptions, earlier screening for cervical and bowel cancers, free and unhindered celebration of national culture, having a very own national anthem, more money spent per head on school meals.... and a national legislature & elected First Minister whose job is to get the very best deal they can for their nation - all of which and much more is institutionally denied to the English....

    I just love being 'equal', don't you?

    Also, apparently, England simply must be broken up because it is just, well, soooo awesomely enormously massive that it would fracture the 'union of equals' so much, no amount of vinegar, brown paper and plaster of Paris could put it back together again..... Even more massive than California which co-exists perfectly OK with little Rhode Island in the Federal USA... Even more hooogier than Germany which manages to rub along with tiny weeny little Luxembourg in the European Union...

    Funny that, tiny little statelets like Luxembourg actually surviving and flourishing alongside Germany and France.... and have done since the EU / Common Market was first inaugurated when just SIX countries including France Germany and little Luxembourg got together to start the concept all those years ago...

    And in this 'new era' of 'honest John' politics, 'listening' to the public and 'open & transparent' administrations, still not a word from the Coalition regarding England's future. Call-Me-Dave has been far too busy doing a whistlestop tour of 'the nations' - reassuring and glad-handing the leaders of the devolved administrations, while back at Transparency HQ, Cleggy has been quietly back-heeling those tricky problems like 'the English Question' into the longest of long grasses.

    And in this union of equals - that's the one where apparently 'devolution has strengthened the union' - all three devolved administrations are either wholly or partly run by nationalist parties and ruthlessly exploit there ever present threat to take their balls home unless Dave regards them all as special cases...

    And the 'new breed of politician' fresh from the Coalition re-education programme promises to listen to what the public wants....

    Yet still will not acknowledge that English people do not under any circumstances want our country to be regionalised, balkanised or pizza-sliced into bite sized chunks - (68% voted against a NE regional assembly).

    Yet still will not acknowledge that English people demand that our own English Parliament be reinstated - and stop us from being the only country in Europe without any national representation. (Latest opinion poll has 70% of people in England in favour of an English Parliament).

    Mine and 50 million others democratic emasculation is far too big a sacrifice for the sake of this God awful 'union of equals'. A national democratic parliament in England is our absolute birthright. It cannot be kicked into any long grass and it is not in the gift of an Eton old boy to manipulate it away into some vacillating report delivered by some old fuddy duddy establishment yesman years into the future.

    ENGLISH PARLIAMENT NOW - It's what 70% of the people want folks..And politicians are the servants of the people, right?

  14. Don't beat about the bush, Alfie, say what's on your mind...

    I'm opposed to an English Parliament because I don't think its the right solution for our country. However, if in future the Scots vote for independence then of course this is the only course.

    The key problem for me is not whether I am proud to be English - I am, very - but whether we should keep the shitty, violent little genie that is nationalism tightly locked in its bottle or allow it to run free to increase antagonism on our small island.

    Pretty much the whole thrust of my original post was that I think the Scots are misguided in their antipathy to England and I would like to see a more mature approach to their identity not based on hatred of our country. I do not want England to go down the path Alex Salmond and his ilk are dragging Scotland down, which is a shame for Scotland, England and the whole union.

  15. 'I'm opposed to an English Parliament because I don't think its the right solution for our country. However, if in future the Scots vote for independence then of course this is the only course'....

    So why is it up to the Scots to decide the future of the union? Why is the political fate of 50 million people in England up to the whim of around 3 million people of voting age in Scotland?

    You call for more maturity - but at the same time seem to completely ignore the fact that 70% of people in England actually want a national legislature and First minister of their own...

    You say that you don't believe a national parliament is right for our country - that somehow, we alone in the western world are uniquely different, somehow not worthy of this national democratic option.... Even though it works everywhere else just fine..

    The truth is the 'devolution settlement' was a complete camel - an attempt to kill nationaism stone dead in Wales and Scotland..... but as Dewar once said, "Devolution is a process, not an event".

    Once the genie was out of the bottle, it was never going to go back. And as the English look on enviously at the goodies being lavished upon Joe Public in Wales and Scotland, that envy is turning to bitterness.

    If the powers-that-be don't address the issue right now then the union really will be in terminal danger.

    Remember, it's about democracy. 68% of people in the NE said they did not want a regional assembly. 70% of people in England said they want their English Parliament back.

    It's not about a shitty genie called 'nationalism', it's all about a noble national birthright called democracy.

    That word is hardwired into your party title isn't it?

  16. It is, which is why ias I have said several times now, I want people to have a choice - a choice over Scottish independence (read the original post) and a choice over precisely what happens to England in any future settlement. That's democracy: giving people a choice, not just relying on an arcane, skewed vote in the north east.

    Let's have the debate, let's have the referendum, let's have proper democracy and when we do I will fight for the union.

  17. What the original post is failing to realise is - there is an educated mass of Scottish people who are in favour of independence who are not of the narrow-minded anti-English brigade. Yes, I will support anyone who play England at football, but that is not because I am anti-English, as this is the only occasion where this happens, and it is not done in an aggressive or overt way.

    It is not anti-English to want an independent Scotland, and the sooner English people realise this, the better. It's about re-establishing our identity - we are not the same ethnically, and some of us resent having to write British on official forms, as we do not recognise a British ethnicity (there isn't one, by the way, if you care to do some research).

    As for the Scottish MPS and 'running the UK' - that is again not a direct choice of the voters here. It's just what has happened due to Westminster's insistence that we be given a parliament but have to remain subservient to the Union nonetheless. We are not proud of these idiots, and we are not running around going "Haha, look at all those English being ruled by this handful of Scots". If anything, we are ashamed.

    If you care to do a financial review - you will see the amount of money Scotland receives per capita is actually in line with how much money Scotland puts in. The 'don't bring up the oil' brigade will have a field day here - but why shouldn't we bring it up? It's extracted in what would legally be Scottish waters, yet London decides what is done with the revenue. Can you imagine if suddenly revenue from English industry was sent to Edinburgh to have the final say on its usage?

    Also, if there is any anti-Englishness among Scots, it is directed towards that uneducated group amongst your population who equate England and the UK and Britain, and also the ones who say "why do you want independence?". Think before you ask such a question - what ethnic group WOULDN'T want independence if offered? The English? I'm sure there are many proud Englishmen and women who would love their own country.

    As for a referendum - it should be Scotlandwide, not UK-wide. It's none of England's (or Wales or Northern Ireland's) business if we want to go it alone. It's a human right to self determination. Some of us feel distinctly Scottish, and we do not want to be part of a fabricated country that has no reality in ethnic or cultural terms.

    If you read your history, Scotland was bankrupt at the time of the union - hence why the union took place. The people who made it bankrupt were not the ordinary people, they were the people in control who decided forming a colony in Panama was a good idea. They had borrowed heavily from London for this venture, and had to do some sucking up to England when they came back penniless and broken. This sucking up is now called the UK. It was never agreed to by the ordinary people of Scotland, and we haven't been asked whether we want to be part of it yet.

    I'm detecting a lot of resentment from English people at the perceived 'moaning' of Scots who want independence - but why shouldn't we moan if we have no constitutional vehicle to even state our desire for independence? (Even if Salmond introduces a referendum, it would still need approval by London).

    Again, I re-iterate - Being pro-independence does not equate to mental immaturity nor does it equate to anti-Englishness. Put yourself in the shoes of a minority people and stop thinking in terms of the majority. I know it's hard, but try. Russia was happy to maintain the USSR, Serbia was happy to maintain Yugoslavia. Notice a pattern? The majority constituent part of the country with most power wants to maintain the status quo.

    Nobody is saying we are victims or we are under any hardship - but some of us want to go our own way - EVEN IF IT MEANS BEING WORSE OFF FINANCIALLY. For goodness sake give us the right to ask for it if nothing else.

  18. A very detailed comment, Mcruic, but it fails to address a number of points and raises others. Just to pick one or two:

    1. Who says the English favour the union? One reason why I want a British-wide referendum is because I think Scots who want independence stand a better chance that way.

    2. You nare wrong - and surprisingly arrogant - when you say Scottish independence is nothing to do with the other nations in the union. Of course it is our business, since the union belongs to us all. Some of us are proud of it but if a few nay-sayers want out, I won't stand in their way.

    3. What happens when the islands off the coast of Scotland start to discuss their independence from Scotland? They did in the 1990s and Alex Salmond blathered about it not being a sensible idea. I wonder how far your independence tendencies would go if thus challenged.

    4. For that matter, what happens to Berwick-upon-Tweed? Do the people of that town get a separate vote to finally decide who they belong to or will they have to abide by the decision of a commission?

    5. If, as has happened before, a majority of Scots fail to vote for independence, will those calling for it stop their complaining. [This question is rhetorical as we all know the answer]

    6. What is your view on the many thousands of Scots who are settled, working and - I trust - very happy in England returning? Do you think they would vote for independence or do you think they might just see the benefits of a bigger pond in terms of their social and economic well-being while still allowing them to remain proudly Scottish?

    For the avoidance of any doubt, I am fully supportive of the union but if a majority of Scots want independence I would happily support it and help to erect the picket fence along the border. I see no problem with Scottish independence at all but I do hate, despise and detest narrow nationalism, which serves no purpose beyond dividing people. Scottish independence would, in my oh-so-humble opinion, do nothing less than release that nasty little genie from the bottle that we in this island happily locked it away some generations ago.

    What would Scots gain from independence beyond a flag, an anthem and the insufferable Alex Salmond ruining your economy? Is that enough to persuade people to cut off ties which have endured and flourished for 300 years - in countless ways to the inpordinate benefit of the Scots?