The English or the Scottish Question?

Lord Norton MSP_0918 copyOn Saturday, I spoke at the Royal Scots Club in Edinburgh to the Scottish and Northern England branch of the Hull University Alumni Association.  The talk was titled ‘The Scottish or the English Question? The future of the Union’.  I looked at what may happen consequent to the referendum in Scotland next September.  If there is a ‘yes’ vote, then this raises especially what may be termed a United Kingdom question and a Scottish question (how will assets and responsibilities be divided, what will be the future of the UK as such, how will Scotland cope within a fiscal and monetary union?).  My focus, however, was what happens in the event of a ‘no’ vote.  Given that the main parties appear agreed there will be a further transfer of powers to Scotland (‘devo max’), what will be the consequences in terms of English attitudes?  Survey data show a substantial dissatisfaction in England (not confined to the North) with what is perceived as favourable treatment for Scotland and a growing sense of Englishness.  The self-ascription as English is now pronounced, well outstripping (except in London) those who regard themselves as British.  There is also a dissatisfaction with how the country is governed, but no agreement on what the answer is to this: the status quo does not carry majority support, but neither does any one of the alternatives (regional government being the least preferred).  In the event of a no vote this sense of Englishness and dissatisfaction is likely to grow.  Ironically, a yes vote, with Scotland ceasing to be part of the UK, may possibly stem this or even see it receding.   With a no vote, there will be an interesting challenge to how we muddle through.  That, perhaps, is a very British response.

About Lord Norton

Professor of Government at Hull University, and Member of the House of Lords
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5 Responses to The English or the Scottish Question?

  1. tizres says:

    I am surprised that many of us living in England (how else should we define Englishness in this context?) are so bothered with what a minority in Scotland want that they suddenly discover a need to feel English. Schadenfreude is a closer emotion.

  2. Jonathan says:

    When people call for an English parliament, I wonder if they understand the difference between a devolved and a federal system. If you have an English parliament, you also need an England & Wales assembly, a Great Britain assembly, an England, Wales and NI assembly, etc.

    It’s merely a convention that the Westminster Parliament doesn’t pass certain laws where the devolved assemblies have jurisdiction. So I feel there should be a similar convention that MPs representing constituencies not affected by a particular piece of legislation shouldn’t vote on it. They don’t need to be prevented by law, it can just be a convention, which strikes me as a much more British solution to the problem. I understand that SNP MPs already take this approach. MPs from such “devolved” constituencies could still participate and contribute expertise to the debate, however. And why shouldn’t there be a mechanism whereby successful laws passed by the Scottish Parliament, for example, could be brought to Westminster and possibly rolled out across the UK? Rather than seeing the parts of the UK as in some sort of competition, why not work together and share the best lawmaking and expertise across the whole country?

  3. maude elwes says:

    From my point of view, Scotland has no alternative other than a no vote. And why I write this is, the Westminster government is unable to meet the requirements of a Scottish democracy as they vote quite differently from England. Conservative, Labour and Libdems have become one party in all but name. And Scotland is unhappy with this. Hence their lean toward the SNP.

    Lets look at the example of a referendum on Europe. Now being promised by all Westminster parties. According to the ‘polls’ the majority in England will vote to separate from Europe. Scotland on the other hand is akin to Ireland, very pro Europe. So, not only will they find themselves unable to democratically have a voice in the running of their country, they will find they are no longer European. In its true sense. They could not consider a change in currency to the Euro should that be felt in their best interests. And there is the difficulty of the Human Rights Act which this government is wanting to remove from us.

    Any Scot would have to ask himself if this is the future they see for their children and grandchildren. Run by a Tory government or possibly even a coalition of Tory and UKIP, they will be in the wilderness, having voted to remain a satellite of England.

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