On Scottish independence, Ed Miliband argues that being Scottish and British is something to be proud of.
Ed Miliband will today argue that the future of the United Kingdom is too important a subject to be discussed and decided only in Scotland.
Attacking what he will dub a “narrow view of nationalism” which, he will argue has seen the SNP make a false case that Scots can be Scottish or British but not both, the Labour leader will use a speech at the Royal Festival Hall in London this morning to say:
“A narrow view of identity would mean concern for the young unemployed in Scotland does not reach Newcastle or that we in England would care less for the pensioner in Edinburgh.
“What a deeply pessimistic vision. It’s a mistake wherever you find it. Having to say: Scottish or British, Welsh or British, English or British. I don’t accept any of that. It’s always a false choice.”
The speech comes at a crunch moment for the union. Following the launch of the Yes to Independence campaign in Edinburgh last month and with the shape of the campaign to keep Scotland within the UK now becoming clearer, polling persistently shows support for Scotland going it alone far higher south of the border.
In January, in its report entitled “The Dog that Finally Barked”, the Institute for Public Policy Research found that:
• 35% of English voters felt Scottish devolution has made the way Britain is governed worse; a figure that has doubled since 2007.
• 45% of voters in England believe that Scotland gets ‘more than its fair share of public spending’, a figure which has almost doubled since 2000. 40% meanwhile agreed that England gets ‘less than its fair share’ of public money.
• 52% of English respondents believed that Scotland’s economy benefits more than England’s from being in the UK, while less than one in four said England and Scotland’s economies benefit equally.
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In admitting that the Labour Party has been “too reluctant to talk about England in recent years” Miliband will tell the gathering:
“For too long people have believed that to express English identity is to undermine the Union. At the same time we have rightly helped express Scottish identity within the Union. This does not make sense. You can be proudly Scottish and British. And you can be proudly English and British, as I am.
“Now more than ever, as we make the case for the United Kingdom throughout the United Kingdom, we must talk about England. There may be a temptation on the part of others to conjure a view of Englishness which does not represent our nation, a mirror image of the worst aspects of Scottish nationalism: hostile to outsiders; anti-Scottish; England somehow cut off from the rest of Britain, cut off from the outside world; fearful what is beyond our borders; our best days behind us. I don’t think like that. I love the nation that we have.”
The Labour leader is expected to continue by using his own personal experience to argue that 21st century Britain is one in which people can be proud to have more than one identity, explaining:
“I am the son of a Jewish refugee. A Leeds supporter, from North London. A baseball fan. I am proud to lead the Labour Party. I am proud to represent the people of Doncaster North. I am proud to be English. And I am proud to be British too.
“To me, Britain is a country where it is always possible to have more than one identity. More than one place in mind when you talk of home.”
Miliband’s comments follow the government’s move earlier this year to commission a study of the “West Lothian Question” whilst Wales’ Labour first minister Carwyn Jones has previously declared that “the UK’s future is a matter for all of us, and it shouldn’t be led by constant reactions to events in Scotland.”
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