England by numbers and the warning to the left

Since the election of the SNP to power at Holyrood in 2007, questions of national identity have remained almost solely in the hands of Scotland.

Since the election of the SNP to power at Holyrood in 2007, questions of national identity have remained almost solely in the hands of Scotland.

One only has to look at Alex Salmond’s somewhat embarrassing waving of the saltire following Andy Murray’s victory at Wimbledon to realise how important issues of identity will be ahead of Scotland’s independence referendum in 2014.

It is against this background that the University of Edinburgh, Cardiff University and the Institute for Public Policy Research have published the annual Future of England Survey, giving an insight to what the English want.

Below is the report by numbers based on the survey which was conducted last year:

  • 60 per cent of respondents called themselves “English” compared with 58 per cent calling themselves “British”, a record low since the survey was first started in 1996.
  • Attitudes in England are hardening towards Scotland, with 52 per cent now believing that Scotland receives more than its fair share of public spending, up from 24 per cent in 2002.
  • 78 per cent felt that the Scottish Parliament should pay for the services it delivers out of taxes raised by the Scottish Government whilst 81 per cent said that Scottish MPs should not vote on English laws.
  • Asked whether the English or Scottish economy benefits most from being part of the UK, 49 per cent said Scotland whilst just 23 per cent of English respondents said that the English and Scottish economies benefit equally from membership of the union.
  • 62 per cent said that they did not trust the UK government to properly look after the long term interests of England.
  • Asked which constitutional issues require “urgent action or change at this time”, top of the list came the 59 per cent saying the UK’s relationship with the European Union whilst coming second, 42 per cent said how England is governed is in need of urgent attention now that Scotland has a parliament and Wales has an assembly.
  • 49 per cent of the English respondents to the survey were against Scottish independence compared to 30 per cent who were in favour.
  • Whilst just 34 per cent of respondents supported the idea of England becoming an independent country, this was never the less narrowly behind the 38 per cent opposing such a move. Asked however how they would respond if Scotland voted to go it alone, 39 per cent said they would then support England becoming independence compared to 33 per cent who would be against.
  • 33 per cent supported the idea that England should be governed with laws made solely by English MPs in the UK parliament with just 22 per cent believing that England should be governed as it is now with laws made by all MPs in the UK parliament.

Picking up on the report’s findings, Professor Vernon Bogdanor, research professor at the Institute of Contemporary History, King’s College London has argued that it provides a stark warning to the left.

Writing for the Guardian he observes:

“Ed Miliband may be currently enduring a headache over goings-on in Scotland. But, as a report launched today shows, even if the Labour leader resolves the issues exposed in Falkirk, his long-term problems will come from south of the border, and in particular how he deals with the question of Englishness.

“The left in Britain has traditionally seen English nationalism as “a dark and chauvinistic force best kept under wraps”, in the words of the IPPR thinktank’s study England and Its Two Unions. But Englishness is a political force on the rise, and it will not go away.”

He concludes:

“Labour is a unionist party – the only major party with substantial representation in Scotland, Wales and England. It will campaign hard against Scot independence. But it needs to campaign equally hard to ensure that the unionist slogan “Better together” works as well for England as it does for Scotland and Wales.”

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