No Union, please, we’re English

December 29, 2011

The opinions expressed are his own.

In France, it is les Anglais. In Germany, die Engländer. In Italy, gli Inglesi. In Russia, Anglichane.

The peoples of the United Kingdom, for most other peoples, are habitually “English.”

Not unnaturally. The English part of the UK accounts for close to 90 per cent of the country’s population; the language is English; the capital is London, long the English capital; the accents heard are overwhelmingly English; the long-held stereotype of the country is an upper-class English gent, snobbish, prudish and insular.

This suits at least some of the English, who often do the same as foreigners when referring to their nation state.  Frequently, without any malice, they have assumed that Britain is co-terminus with England (until recently, England supporters waved the Union Jack—which represents all of the British nations–at international football matches). Once, years ago, when speaking to a former senior Royal courtier, I mildly corrected his use of “England” to “Britain.” He wagged a humorous finger at me (a Scot) and said: “Now now, none of that Scots nationalism!” – which is, when you think of it as an answer to my objection, incomprehensible, except in terms of a certain English mindset. Yet, though illogical, it was also thoughtlessly generous: the English nation had dissolved itself into the state, and by waving the Union Jack, gave an implicit invitation to the other nations of the British state to do likewise – though only the Northern Irish did.

Ironically, had I held the views he ascribed to me, I would not have corrected him. From the point of view of  the nationalists of the UK – Scots and Welsh nationalists, Irish Republicans – the more that people at home and abroad think Britain is England and vice versa, the better they like it. It underscores their belief that the Union is an artificial thing–England with a few possessions historically acquired by conquest, trickery or both.

That view – that the United Kingdom really is England, and that any self-respecting people who would not call themselves English had best get out of it – is now acquiring deeper roots. The outgoing head of the Civil Service, Sir Gus O’Donnell, has expressed his worry about the possible breakup of the United Kingdom: he regards it as the most poisoned of the chalices he passes to his successor. What had been, for much of my life, the preserve of misty eccentrics (except in Ireland), has now entered the political arteries of the world’s oldest parliamentary democracy, and may cause a seizure.

The differences between the three varieties of British – or anti-British – nationalism are sharp, and important to understand (most English have not taken the trouble: but trouble will come all the same).

The Welsh variant is weakest: nationalism is not a passionate creed here. That version proposed by the nationalist party, Plaid Cymru (“the Party of Wales”) is mild and strongly culturally based – the Welsh language is still widely spoken. The integration of the nation with England has been centuries long; Wales had few of the elements of a state before it lost what nascent independence it had. Whatever happens to the United Kingdom, Wales would be the least likely among the British nations to seek an independence its people mostly do not seem to want.

Ireland is a much more modern, much more savage story. The revolution against British rule, which consumed much of  the first two decades of last century, produced a republic in most of the island – excepting the northern province of Ulster, the most industrialized, where a largely Protestant- Unionist population refused to join the largely Catholic-Nationalist south and insisted – on the threat of armed revolt – on continuing the link with the UK. The IRA’s long terrorist war, from the late sixties to the late nineties, tried and failed to frighten them into changing their minds. It ended with an uneasy agreement to share power between the republican and unionist communities – now led by the Democratic Unionists and the IRA’s political wing, Sinn Fein – with the Unionists retaining a slim lead. The agreement has held, in spite of sporadic terrorism on the part of the hard line IRA warriors, who refused to accept the peace, and in spite of periodic suspensions of the devolved assembly. The Unionists fear that, sooner or later, they will lose their majority; the present relative peace, welcome as it is, is precarious.

But it is Scotland which lies at the heart of the gathering crisis. The Union which created the UK is that between Scotland and England; when they came together under one government three hundred years ago, both renounced their own form of statehood to form a new one. The Union survived the Highland-based rebellion, led by Charles Edward Stuart (who had a good claim to the British throne), with the Scots in the more productive and populous Lowland belt preferring “English” rule to one led by clan chieftains. The smaller nation retained a separate Church, a separate legal system and to a large extent a different culture; but the two shared in the vast expansion of both the economy and empire which the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries brought to the UK. And a history of warfare and border raiding receded into the past.

But something other than peace, wealth and empire came too – unbidden and unforeseen. Again with Ireland as the exception, a nation state came into being which rested on a civil, not an ethnic, base. A British citizen could be English, (Northern) Irish, Scots or Welsh; and as greater social equality and fuller civil rights were achieved, the divisions within the new nation became more those of class, less of nation. The United Kingdom, as it ceased to be an empire ruling over half the globe, could emerge as a state which was better placed than most to adapt to a world where many cultures, by choice or of necessity, live together. It could do so because it had a citizenship which was already rooted in a union of diverse nations – and which had, with difficulty and toil, learned something of the art of cultural compromise.

The success of the Scottish National Party, more than any other single fact, puts the Union, and that achievement, at risk. An object of more derision (by Scots) than support for most of its life, it broke through in the late sixties and has, bit by bit, taken over more of a country which had been, after the war, largely Conservative, then largely Labour.

The trick seems to have been to marry economic advantage – the nationalists claim the oil off Scotland’s coasts, in the North Sea, as the country’s property – with the contemporary desire to portray oneself or one’s cause as a victim. Since Scotland has done well out of three centuries of Union, it has been necessary to look further back: nothing has succeeded so well in this as the Mel Gibson film Braveheart, which showed the mediaeval chief William Wallace take on the English, lose, then be tried, tortured and executed. Sparing neither in sentimentality nor distortion, the film became wildly popular, was adopted by the nationalists, watched by Scottish teams before international matches and provoked a rash of anti-English rhetoric, and a few scuffles. It was a huge boost to the cause, courtesy of Hollywood.

Nationalism found in its leader, Alex Salmond, one of the subtlest politicians in the UK, one who has coaxed a population in which a majority consistently oppose independence into support for a party which was created to win it. In the last election for the Scots parliament, he won an absolute majority; and he holds out, as both a promise to the Scots and a threat to the English, the prospect of a referendum on independence whenever the sentiment of the nation favors it.

He has done something still more effective. He has nursed into existence a resurgent English nationalism – nursed it, by insisting, with as much publicity as possible, that Scotland has no use for the English any longer, and would be better on its own. The English, aware that Scotland receives a higher proportion of public spending than do the regions of England, have increasingly said: So go!  More than one poll has shown that where a majority of Scots oppose independence, a majority of the English would welcome it.

The Union Jack isn’t waved by England supporters any longer; instead, it is the cross of St. George, red on a white background. The unhappy premiership of the Scots-born Gordon Brown – who tried, in his ponderous and increasingly ill-attended way, to create a new sense of pride in the Union – instead boosted a growing distaste for Scotland among the English. The old ties – of war against a common enemy; of class solidarity across national boundaries; of a shared religion; of family links – have either weakened or seem irrelevant.

Salmond retains control of the process. As England becomes more Euroskeptic and supports Prime Minister Cameron’s lone refusal to accept the new plan to save the Euro, he emphasizes that an independent Scotland would be Euro-friendly, with a place at the top tables of the Continent. It would have nothing to do with foreign wars, in which Scots soldiers have died. It would renounce nuclear weapons. And it would lay claim to the oil which, though dwindling, will still gush up from the bed of the North Sea, off Scotland, for some years yet.

In the end, a decision to form – or re-form – a nation depends on a common view that it will be a better place to be for its people, because it will in its institutions and in its customs, in its actions and in the place it makes for itself in the world, more resemble them and how they would like to be seen. For four centuries the crowns of the two nations have been united; for three centuries, the Parliaments have been too. Now, Sir Gus O’Donnell, head of the British civil service  – no English gent: lower class born, Catholic raised, with an Irish surname – looks beyond his term of office and wonders if his successors will have a British bureaucracy to supervise. Or will a refurbished, modernized, comforting and self-flattering nationalism can be draped over enough Scots shoulders to warm them to the prospect of a separate state. And “England for the English”, until these last few years the motto of right-wing extremists, becomes an inevitability.

PHOTO: Scotland’s First Minister and leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) Alex Salmond delivers his speech to delegates during their annual conference in Inverness, Scotland October 22, 2011. REUTERS/David Moir


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Annus Caledonius:

Posted by Frankly2014 | Report as abusive

In an otherwise interesting and factually accurate article which makes compelling reading John Lloyd makes one glaring mistake. Discussing Irish independence he writes: “….excepting the northern province of Ulster, the most industrialized……………..”
Not so sir! Only 6 of the 9 counties of Ulster opted to remain in the UK. The 3 Ulster counties of Donegal, Cavan and Monaghan are an integral part of the Republic of Ireland. The mistake perpetrates the myth the Ulster and Northern Ireland are one and the same.

Posted by NWMusgrave | Report as abusive

As an American with deep roots on this side of the Atlantic (my earliest colonial forebears arrived here from Gloucestershire in 1630), I find this discussion of a possible break-up of the UK as interesting, if only theoretical. Is the secession of Scotland something that could actually happen, or is it akin to the chest pounding bluster of some Texans who scream “secede” at the same time that they genuflect at the Constitution and invoke god to bless America? I’ve been to Scotland, lovely land, but a quirky, hard drinking people, and I wonder if they would even know how to run their own nation successfully any more than would xenophobic, democracy averse Texas? Maybe, maybe not. Would Scotland adopt the euro or print their own currency? Or would they become a northern Greece, forever poor, and always looking for ways to sponge off of their southern neighbor? If nothing else, it would be good theatre.

Posted by IntoTheTardis | Report as abusive

Wow, how out of touch. The author does not even come close to understanding the power of British. Here in London many 3rd generation kids from South Asia, China, France, Germany, Italy and other places who have been here for three to four may have an “english” accent but we call consider ourselves British. British is more than ethnicity – its also the what makes the country. The Union Jack is inclusive, the English Flag is quaint but tainted by racism. If you dont factor this in an article – well I guess you dont understand the demography of London and many other areas of the UK.

Posted by John2244 | Report as abusive

It would benefit the author to be a little more balanced in their article. Firstly – The IRA’s intention was not to frighten Irish Unionists to change their minds, it was a armed struggle against an oppressive British state (which is well documented) with intent of liberating the north-east of Ireland from Britain. Have a bit of intellectual rigour!

Secondly, English nationalism has existed long before the rise of the Scottish National party. It’s not entirely fueled as some form of response to rising Scottish nationalist sentiments. Although, devolved parliaments elsewhere will fuel their desire for their own.

And Alex Salmond hasn’t ‘coaxed’ anyone into anything. He has presented a clear vision for Scotland, and the SNP have shown to be a very capable Government. That is why Salmond’s vision of a new Scotland is warming more and more to the people. The way the author frames it, you’d swear he was subtly winning people over through hypnotism.

I welcome the break-up of the Union. England’s influence in Westminster is well and truly past it. Almost 90% of the make-up of it English MPs, which leads to a situation like we have today where Scotland only elected ‘one’ Conservative MP, but yet lives under a Conservative Government. That isn’t the vision of real democracy under any banner.

Posted by SeanOB | Report as abusive

The ignorance about Scotland in the outside world is truly breathtaking, but then that is a consequence of the incorporating Union which England imposed upon the country in 1707 instead of the federal (or even confederal) arrangement which Scotland was and apparently still is interested in. The English, unfortunately, are still opposed to a federal UK constitution, which is one reason why independence is a real issue and a realistic prospect.

In the case of Scotland the factors necessary for mobilization of a peripheral national community towards what may be characterized as a form of rebellion are well and truly in place and have been for some time, i.e. the political opportunity structures formed in the processes of state transition in creating ongoing cycles of reform-protest-reform that are necessary for continued heightened levels of peripheral mobilization.

When the process has progressed as far as it has done in this case, it cannot be stopped until a point is reached at which the peripheral national community is satisfied that it has achieved the constitutional framework which meets its requirements. Plainly, Scotland is not so satisfied at this time. Nor do the devolution reforms based on the recommendations of the Calman Commission provide what would satisfy it. Scotland may confidently be expected, therefore, to continue to advance in the direction of independence.

As for “the power of British” (John2244), get real. The emperor has no clothes and is now seen in Scotland to have no clothes. A state which cannot keep order on its own streets, whose deficit is comparable to that of Greece, whose economy is structurally unabalanced and whose excessive public debt is not being substantially reduced because it cannot produce sufficient economic growth to achieve that . . . does not constitute a power which can either impress or intimidate Scots, a sober, rational and highly educated people without whom the residual UK will have difficulty managing if Scotland opts for independence.

For those who might care to have some background info on these matters:

See also the Step by Step pages at that site.

A guid new year to you, by the way.

Posted by Frankly2014 | Report as abusive

It seems that some residents of England are out of touch with the REAL English. Let me say that as an ex londoner born and raised an english man , I and thost that don’t live in London don’t consider London as England any more. i feel like a stranger and an outsider if i have under duress to go there. why do you think so many people moved out in the past decades. all the 2nd and 3rd generations consider them selves as chinese , indian , whatever whatever British. This is the whole point I consider myself English as all my friends who are English do. Now you can start chanting the usual mantras of racism if you can’t think of any debate. however I have seen my once great country given away on a gilded plate to anyone who wanted to come and surplant their own culture. that is why I don’t want to be British i won’t use union flag I’ll stick to my quaint St George cross.How many other flags bear racism and quaintness, nearly all i suspect. I love the Welsh, scots and Irish and want them to retain their charachters as i want to keep mine however flawed it may be.And don’t say xenophobia either i have no fear of any other race.

Posted by saxon51 | Report as abusive

Don’t underestimate Plaid Cymru. Having achieved many of its aims in seeing Welsh medium education widely available, an parliament with law making powers established, and a broad consensus amongst the Welsh branches of the unionist parties that there is such a thing as a ‘Welsh National Interest’ it is now re-inventing itself. Under a new leader, in the new year, it will be much more focused on economic and social issues, and clearly pronounce itself to be fighting for independence.

The English do not come close to understanding just how insulting – hurtful even — the casual conflation of Britain and England is to us Celts. We have had enough of that, and are fighting back!

Posted by SionJones | Report as abusive

The scale of the SNP victory in May is difficult for some to grasp obviously. I’m writing from the town of Leith, in Edinburgh. Leith is now the *only* town in Scotland not to have an SNP MSP representing it in Holyrood. A tipping point has most definitely been reached in Scotland, and were there to be a Westminster General Election in 2012 (a distinct possibility given the state of the ConDem coalition) it is likely given Labour’s collapse that the SNP could sweep all Scottish seats. Scots, here, in Scotland, accept that Independence will happen in the next few years, and few are worried by the prospect. How England and the English deal with their Independence is, of course, entirely up to them…

Posted by SophiaPangloss | Report as abusive

IntoTheTardis, I think you fail to understand the complexity of the UK. I find your statement regarding scots governing themselves laughable…Scotland has been runnning its own affairs in terms of policing, national health service, legislature, judiciary & legal system, local council authorities, universities & colleges, education as a whole …. And I could add more.

The creation of the Scottish Parliament in 1999 devolved a substantial but limited amount of powers to Scottish politicians, who now run these aspects of the Scottish nation without input from the London based govnerment. The main 3 areas that London still controls are; defence, immigration and taxation. The Scottish Parliament can run its affairs effectively and arguably, better than the London based politicians. Whether you agree with independence or not….to paint my nation as a land full of heavily drinking ,quirky people who are unable to govern themselves is offensive. Some of the worlds most prized inventions, scientific discoveries, and politicians were born in Scotland….I can assure you that 99% are sober, educated and able to make decisions effectively reegarding our future.

Posted by Semisonic35 | Report as abusive

Despite your manifest hostility to Scottish nationalism, John and your nostalgia for a failing UK and a crumbling empire, you are at least a realist, so I’ve picked a couple of your quotes for Twitter.

An inevitable historical process is underway, and misty-eyed nostalgia for a ‘Britain’ that never was won’y halt it.

The Scots are the realists, and theirs is the zeitgeist.

Saor Alba

Posted by Moridura | Report as abusive

The first of the above comments raises some very relevant points (there are undoubtedly parallels with Texas), and the second makes a good argument in favour of the British “brand”. However, for all its wonderful strength and diversity, London will not decide whether or not the Scots vote for independence. They don’t live in London, and frankly London is the very place many of them resent the most. Still, if it’s any consolation, I think people in England could still get away with calling themselves British if they wanted to, even after Scottish independence. If the Welsh went their own way too, of course, it would become a bit ridiculous. I think in that case we’d have to get used to describing ourselves as English, and the nation as England, whether we liked it or not (while the Scots, of course, could still refer to us as “perfidious Albion”).

Posted by CO2-Exhaler | Report as abusive

The union is over ,the quicker Scotland becomes independent the better.The Union Flag is referred to as the Butchers Apron .

Posted by macars | Report as abusive

an interesting article, although i’m struggling to see the parallels with texas, as scotland was an independant nation untill the act of union, the english have been forso long trying to convince the rest of the UK that were all british, that they forgot abouit being english, where we scots and the welsh, irish never forgot our scence of national identity.

Posted by raibeart | Report as abusive

We have a situation where devolution was so ill thought out, you’d think it was done especially to destroy the United Kingdom. The Scots, Welsh and N-Irish were given a devolved sense of nationhood but the then Scottish leg Gov denighed the same right and equality to the English who also wished for it. This was outright discrimination and racism. The UK is breaking not just because of the SNP drive for it, but also the English wish to enforce it due to the Act of Devolution being an Act of discrimination. Especially with the ‘West Lothian Question’ and the Barnett Formula, where England finances Scoltland who can do what they want at our expence. A positive drive for an Englsih parliament is gaining streong support now, obstuctions to it will only advance the real and urgent need.
The UK as we know it finished. The Set up of an English poalriament will address this problem in a federal system but perhaps too late. Good bye and God Bless Scotland, Hello and God Bless England.

Posted by Wessex | Report as abusive

Wow, how out of touch John2244 is.

“The Union Jack is inclusive, the English Flag is quaint but tainted by racism.”

This is what the British establishment would have you believe but as with so much of what the British establishment says it is lies. The English flag is not tainted by racism. The racist organisations in the UK such as the BNP and the NF and the BUF before them were all staunchly British (like you) and they all waved the Union Flag (that’s the Union Jack to you John). All three groups were British not English.

The Cross of St George is not tainted with racism – except to those who blindly believe British propaganda aimed at undermining Englishness and in your case – working.

The vast majority of the immigrants you mention John have settled in England. It’s England that’s the multiracial part of the UK. It’s England that’s the tolerant part of the UK. Englishness is more than a than an ethnicity it’s the people that make up the nation of England. You may consider yourself British but I as an Englishman consider you to be as English as I am. The question is why are you happy to live in England but not happy to be English?

The English flag is not tainted with racism. The English are not a racist people.

BAck to the main article. Repeated surveys put support for the re-establishment of the English parliament at 60-70% in favour. The UK government maintains that no-one wants an English parliament.

A (suppressed) poll by the BBC earlier this year put support for English independence at 36% (50% among the skilled working class). Things are changing in England. Every day more and more English people are becoming aware of the raw deal they’re getting because they’re English.

I hope the Scots do go for independence although devolution max looks like a safer bet. No-one will be speaking for England whatever happens. Support for English independence will continue to rise – and when the English have had enough of this so called “Union” it’s over.

Home rule for England.

Posted by Wyrdt1mes | Report as abusive

Sadly the journalist of this article has forgotten the Cornish. In the last Cornish schools survey of ethnic identity 40% of kids recorded their identity as Cornish rather than English or British. In 2002 campaigners gathered a petition of 50,000 signatures calling for a Cornish assembly akin to that of Wales.

We are a Celtic nation and constitutional Duchy with its own brythonic language and autonomoist party called Mebyon Kernow.

Yes, most of the world confuses England/English with Britain/British. Unfortunately most English people confuse Cornwall with England as well.

Posted by Fulup | Report as abusive

99% of the “English” are not politicians and therefore few feel the same way about things as the ruling elite who are nearly all rich privately educated Oxbridge output. They are about as distant in views from the ordinary public as you can get.
I suspect the average “English” public do not give two hoots if Scotland declares independence as the impact on their lives will be zero.
Politicians worry incessantly about the number of the public they control so losing Scotland for them would be a negative as their self-importance is directly proportional to the size of the population they control

Posted by skeptic | Report as abusive

I was at ease with being british and English until 1997 when blair gave parliaments to the other nations but not ENGLAND
Everything changed then,I shun the Union flag and britishness,I am “ENGLISH and Proud” I love “THE CROSS OF ST GEORGE” its my flag, and nothing but England for me,I want a”ENGLISH PARLIAMENT” with self determination for ENGLAND ! NOTHING LESS!
(As regards the lefty comment my flag is tainted, I say Anglophobic rubbish and Discrimination)
(The BNP is suppose to be the racist party the “B” standing for “British” and they fly the “Union Flag” NOT the CSTG) Facts not Fiction spread against the English.

Posted by Edwin99 | Report as abusive

With a little wisdom and courtesy, this could all settle down untraumatically, on the Scandinavian pattern.

Posted by Michael_Lakey | Report as abusive

The real question is when will we English get a vote for our independence?

Posted by Bristol1 | Report as abusive

The Scotish nation will soon have their own state.The breakdown of the UK is a certainty.

Posted by ektope | Report as abusive

Freedom for England at last

Posted by Bristol1 | Report as abusive

So independence for Cornwall, Devon, Norfolk,etc etc what is the point? so that as tiny little enclaves we can have no clout in the world but hold our zenophobe heads high, together we are strong divided we are at the mercy of the big guys…

Posted by Gillyp | Report as abusive

I take exception to your omission of the Cornish. Cornish nationalism, while a good ten to twenty years behind our Scottish and Welsh brothers and sisters, is a growing force in Cornwall.
It may be 250 years since we had our own parliament, but Cornwall Council, agreed upon by Westminster as a “stepping stone to a Cornish Assembly”, has been promised a great deal of devolved power by David Cameron. We also must not forget that the Cornish presented a petition of 50,000 signatures in favour of Cornish devolution in 2001.
Cornwall Council’s official policy is that the Cornish constitute a racial group and is actively looking at ways to secure that status through the courts. This year 41% of school children in Cornwall identified themselves as Cornish rather than British. On the 2011 UK census people were officially allowed to put their Nationality as Cornish and their Country of Birth as Cornwall.
Cornish Law, like Scottish Law, is different and separate to English Law, and you can be Domiciled in Cornwall, Scotland, Northern Ireland, or England and Wales.

I really do hope for the day when there are no big countries, only small nations working together for the betterment of human society.

Posted by JohnEllery | Report as abusive

“The revolution against British rule, which consumed much of the first two decades of last century, produced a republic in most of the island – excepting the northern province of Ulster” – corrections required here: The Irish Republic was established in 1949 – it was the Irish Free State that was established in 1921 consisting of three Ulster counties and the counties of the three other provinces. No revisionism will aid the thesis here no matter how balanced it seems.

Posted by Kielty | Report as abusive

If I may contribute to this debate while living in Canada.
The same arguments have been put forward by unionists for generations.
I fail to see the advantage that Scotland has gained through 300 years of union when at the begining of it we had roughly one third of the population of England and now have less than one tenth.
The extreme poverty that I witnessed as a child in the east end of Glasgow did not seem to provide much proof of any union dividend.
The mass emigration of Scots to Canada, Australia,and England thoughout my lifetime because of massive unemployment and deprivation does not fit with this union advantage either.
I have yet to hear one solution other than the status quo from any unionist.
Too small, too weak, too stupid,
I live in Alberta, a province that has control over its own natural resources and industry. Its a booming and succesful part of the economy of Canada.
If the federal government had control of the resources we would all be poor farmers and all the wealth would have been transfered to Quebec and Ontario.
Scotland could be a dynamic and vibrant part of the UK economy if it had more control over its own resources.
The Scots and I daresay alot of Northern Englishmen have had it with central control from London for the benefit of Southeast England.
The internet is a new ballgame and the mainstream media can no longer influence public opinion the way it once did.
The majority of Scots still feel a sense of Britishness seperate from their Scottish identity.
If anyone cares to fix this Union its easy.
Stop treating Scotland like a region. Its every bit as much a country as England is.
Maka all the Unionist parties in Scotland independent of their London masters.
Come up with a federal solution that has a positive vision for the future of Scotland.
Set up a seperate English parliment with the same powers to get rid of the west lothian question.
And finally stop the BBC from using such negative and parochial language when discussing all things Scottish.
A federal state would work (it does all over the world).
Keep doing what your doing and Alex Salmond will get exactly what he wants.

Posted by bassbhoy | Report as abusive

@Gillyp: So that Alex Salmond can call himself the “President” of Scotland; no doubt…

Posted by matthewslyman | Report as abusive

> “with a place at the top tables of the Continent”

This is the bit that makes me laugh the most… A place at the top tables of the Continent; along with countries like Slovakia, Croatia and Moldova…

I’ve got ancestors from every part of the United Kingdom. On all my official documents such as the National Census, I identify myself as “British”, not English as some misinformed people might who don’t know their own roots (there are very few true “English” these days, even if you only look back four or five generations).

> “Braveheart… Mel Gibson… Sparing neither in sentimentality nor distortion, the film became wildly popular, was adopted by the nationalists, watched by Scottish teams before international matches and provoked a rash of anti-English rhetoric, and a few scuffles.”

From what I’ve heard of the film’s historical “accuracy”, Mel Gibson has as much chance as anybody of being arrested under the UK’s new “incitement to racial hatred” laws. Promoting “Braveheart” as a history lesson is wrong and unconscionable. Promoting it as national propaganda is even worse… So “thank you” to our American “friends” in Hollywood, for that one!

Posted by matthewslyman | Report as abusive

I would like to note I doubt strongly one of your statements. You note “The English, aware that Scotland receives a higher proportion of public spending than do the regions of England”; this is mentioned again & again, yet where is the evidence? If it were so then Westminster would not obsessively prevent us from getting our freedom, our Independence. This did not even happen under Margaret Thatcher, reknowned as a non-sentimental politician. If we had been costing England money, we would have been ditched.
The Union was basically bought by agreeing to pay of the debts of the aristocrats who lost money on the Darien scheme. Now all we want is, finally, after hundreds of years of economic bondage, is a say in our own future. This we will achieve courtesy of the competence of our current government and the incompetence of the Westminster elitist coalition.
Freedom approaches

Posted by MarkRB | Report as abusive

Bwahahahaha … ok… well, I guess I will be the voice of the Native Texan pounding her chest shouting “Secede!” Not that my voice matters (or the average British, Scottish or English voice, depending upon your self identification). It is about all we can muster anymore. One quick shout in between the Tsunami waves of bureaucratic BS and propagandist journalism trying to drown us with dis information. This is what I can say for a fact, and I learned it from my Dad: “When you are up to your eyeballs in alligators, it is hard to remember your initial objective was to drain the swamp.” If you can not get rid of the alligators, it is probably time to get out of the swamp. Just sayin…. :)

Posted by TerriCalhoun | Report as abusive

Let them have it, and the Welsh, and then put a barbed wire fence between us.

Posted by ValenF | Report as abusive

England literally destroyed millions of peoples from many nations and continents around the globe for the past 5 centuries. Now the chickens will come home to roost for England. I wish Scotland all the best in their quest for freedom from the English occupation. It is long overdue.

Posted by AlexZ83 | Report as abusive

@MarkRB: “If it were so then Westminster would not obsessively prevent us from getting our freedom, our Independence.” Nonsense. The reason we don’t want independence is because Britain has always been better, stronger, more prosperous and a greater force for good in the world than the mere sum of its parts. It’s a fact that Scotland and Northern Ireland receive way more than their “fair share” of British revenue (I’ve been told as much by people that I trust who come from these countries). Care to do any research before challenging Mr. Lloyd on this? Where are your figures?

@AlexZ83: Perhaps it’s a similar sentiment (based on a lop-sided view of history) that has caused Mel Gibson to embark on his propaganda campaign besmirching Britain’s reputation in the world. First, “Braveheart”, and we have the opinions of other persons on that film here: Historical_accuracy

Mel Gibson then brought us “The Patriot” – a film redefining patriotism, particularly the American sort; to mean [and this is the obvious sentimental conclusion], believing that British soldiers generally spent most of their time in the War of Independence burning churches down [complete with Americans they had locked inside] and otherwise hunting down and killing innocent American families, several hundred years ago; and therefore doing everything we can within the real world now to fight against that obvious injustice [largely a fiction, when its only basis in fact is that the British were deliberately forced by George Washington’s initially inferior forces into a campaign of modest pillage and “living off the land” by Washington’s planned retreat into the rural hinterlands – the results were as Washington intended, in that the people turned against the British for taking their food to avoid starvation], and to continue the fight nowadays to achieve secession and redress these wrongs against the modern inhabitants of Britain by paring all vestiges of the British Empire from England – even those who live happily as neighbours and kinsmen with them.

While I am a committed Christian, I tend to view “The Passion of the Christ” as being another episode from the same series. The general theme? Certain figures from history that we identify with, were persecuted, tortured and killed in the most horrifying fashion; and even if we shouldn’t be passionately ANGRY about it, we should at least do everything in our power to fight against the forces that caused those bad things to happen.

Can there be any more eloquent demonstration than Mel Gibson’s fictional works (which purport to be historical); of the general principle that wrath and vengeance against perceived injustices most often tend to create further injustices still?

The facts about the British Empire? It was brutal. It ruled over a commercial empire with an iron fist. But the alternatives were far worse. But for the British in the 1600s/ 1700s; the Americas (North, South and Central) might still be ruled in the most arbitrary and unconstitutional fashion by the absolute monarchs of Spain and France.

What about fighting for the good? Living a decent life? Fighting daily, to do the right thing, and to live as brothers with our distant cousins, including Scots who have forgotten their tartans and lost the art of the bagpipes, and who now call themselves Englishmen? Acting on what we know, rather than on the propaganda of one or another political party, or of some wealthy film-maker with an axe to grind?

Posted by matthewslyman | Report as abusive

All this division talk probably stems from their separate soccer teams. Silly Brits.

Posted by KyuuAL | Report as abusive

Good analysis, as far as it goes. It makes no mention of Europe though, and outside of the context of European government, no assessment of national identity amongst the British is complete. The essential point of the union is that it was forged as a union of Kingdoms. In a constitutional monarchy the union can only be maintained by the active consent of its peoples. The English do not desire disunion; they want the Scottish people to be in or out, not both. Scottish independence requires Welsh independence; fobbing the Welsh off with an Assembly as Labour did, is insult enough.The ancient kingdom of Ulster comprises more than Northern Ireland. The Irish question, simply understand by most ordinary Britons is, “Are you still here? I thought you were going!” If the Scots want to forgo the Parliament of Westminster for an Ecosse region in Europe, you can be certain that the English we will not abide by the diminution of their nationality into a set of Eurocratic regions.

Posted by Rob_InTheCity | Report as abusive

The problem with this tale is it is one of a Scotland which is too poor, too wee, too stupid. It claims economic advantage that has never accrued according to historic research into Scotland’s economy, in fact the Scottish economy has always under performed in the 300 years of Union so far.

The core issue is one our American cousins should understand – excessive taxation combined with poor representation. The yield from taxation per Scot according to economists like Professor Hughes-Hallet of Washington State or Neil Acheson is in the region of £1,000 more than we get back in pocket money. There is no subsidy ‘given to Scotland’ by Westminster we pay our own way and then some.

For every £100 Scotland receives from Westminster the Greater London Conurbation receives £175 (like for like populations).

According to the OECD assessment an independent Scotland will end up with a GDP per capita just behind that of Norway (6th in the World: UK is 16th on the same scale). There are numerous other geo-political models that suggest an independendent Scotland is now inevitable.

It is important to understand the growth in support for Scottish Independence is not about economics, it is about how we modern Scots view ourselves and the Realm of Scotland which has more in common with the Social Democracies of Scandinavia than the out of control Neo-liberal, right wing, authoritarianism of Westminster.

The growing division is political in its nature, a response to an insular, self seeking and self congratulatory Westminster Parliament and its incestuous and corrupt relationship with the City of London at the expense of the rest of the UK.

Have a search for ‘Newsnet Scotland’ you could learn much to your advantage.

Posted by MadJockMcMad | Report as abusive

In support of @MadJockMcMad, in his/her statements about Westminster’s favouritism toward London:
BBC: Transport spending ‘skewed towards London’ 35349
The perennial justification for this preferential treatment? “London generates more revenue per capita than …” Blah blah blah. Like the average Londoner is 550× more productive than the average person in the North East of England: yeah right!!! They should try spending on the rest of the UK, what we’re worth; and then see how we perform. London is overpopulated yet people are still moving their to take advantage of effective government subsidies. The real reason for this injustice is because our politicians don’t like sitting in traffic jams on their way to work along with the rest of us…

@bassbhoy: “If I may contribute to this debate while living in Canada…Scotland could be a dynamic and vibrant part of the UK economy if it had more control over its own resources.”

Perhaps you missed the point by living in Canada, but Scotland has its own parliament now which controls much of Scottish finances and law. There are already significant and noteworthy differences between Scottish and English spending policy. We are already working within a federal model, and as you suggest, it’s working. Local people really do know best, what they need to succeed…

My point is only that the members of a federation prosper most when they work in harmony and coordination with each other.

Westminster Conservatives should start consulting their partners more seriously in matters of foreign policy – otherwise they will face waves of discontent in the coming years, from the English as well as the Scots.

Posted by matthewslyman | Report as abusive

‘Scots, a sober, rational and highly educated people’

In all your comedic rant, Frankly2014 , this was truly the most ridiculous. Sober and rational? Have you ever actually been to Scotland?

Scotland went bankrupt in 2008 after RBS posted vast losses after its acquisition of Dutch bank ABN AMRO. This acquisition was due to an incompetent Scot by the name of Fred Goodwin wanted to compete with the City in London.
Scotland was then bailed out (again) by the 90% English taxpayer. The situation was ironically similar to the situation 300 years earlier when England bailed out bankrupt Scotland in 1707 in exchange for the Act of Union.

Scotland, is, and was, propped up by England. Over 40% of jobs are in or sub-contracted to the public sector (on behalf of all the UK). Independence would land Scotland with a foreign owned financial system (it now belongs to England after the bailouts), massive unemployment as the English government repatriated its public sector, and either London controlled sterling or a failing Euro. Either way, disaster would be guaranteed and England would need to come to the rescue, for the 3rd time in 3 centuries.

You and all the other hate obsessed Scots need to grow up and stop deluding yourselves with this childish, anglophobic nationalism.

Posted by James_L | Report as abusive