January 30, 2012

A PEOPLE WHO THINK THEMSELF A NATION ARE ONE:

Who most wants independence for Scotland? The English...: If the Union referendum were held south of the border, Alex Salmond would be more likely to get his way (Andrew Rawnsley, 1/28/12, The Observer)

It would be wrong, though, to conclude that the people of England want their own referendum in order to try to hold Scotland in the Union against its will. The opposite would be closer to the truth. Another recent poll, by YouGov for Prospect, indicated that only a small minority of English voters would be all that bothered by a break-up. Most were relaxed, and rather a lot positively embraced, the idea of a divorce. By 52% to 32%, English voters favoured either maximum devolution for Scotland or independence - a bigger margin of support for the SNP prospectus than there is in Scotland itself.

Research by the Institute for Public Policy Research suggests some reasons why. The number of people in England identifying themselves as English rather than British is rising and with it is a growing feeling that England gets a raw deal from the Union. There is English irritation about the financial deal that allocates more public spending per head to Scotland. In my experience, a sense of unfairness is felt most keenly in northern England where people look on with understandable annoyance at the superior political clout and more generous cash transfers enjoyed by the Scots.

As the debate about the Union grows more intense, an English resentment that has simmered for years could well come to a boiling point. The YouGov poll found the English feel that the Scots get a better deal from the Union by a whopping margin of 11 to 1.

Also influencing English attitudes towards the Union is the belief that England could get on very well without Scotland. On the rare occasions when any politician bothers to address the English on the Union, they usually contend that it enhances global influence. This is not an argument that the voters buy into. Less than a fifth of English voters think that Scottish independence would diminish the rest of Britain's clout in the world. Without Scotland, the UK would shrink fairly dramatically in geographic size, but not all that much in terms of population. There are roughly 5.5 million Scots, which is rather less than the population of London. The ranking on the economic world league table would not much change. England and Scotland already play their football and rugby in separate teams. The departure of Scotland might make it a bit harder to justify having a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, but that has been an anomaly for years now and yet we have somehow contrived to hold on to it. YouGov found that more than two-thirds of English respondents felt that the departure of Scotland would make no difference at all to the rest of Britain's international standing.



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Posted by at January 30, 2012 6:42 AM
  

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