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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13 Responses to “England by numbers and the warning to the left”

  1. Toque

    English national identity was ignored by Labour and things aren’t much better under the Tories. It’s hardly surprising that English identity is on the rise and is becoming politicised; nationalism requires a grievance in order to flourish and the English feel aggrieved, with some justification in my opinion.

    The Westminster parties can hardly complain about UKIP, the EDL and BNP appropriating English identity for anti-democratic purposes when they themselves will not normalise English national identity by creating civic English institutions. As things stand English identity will continue to become a badge for those who feel disenfranchised and hostile to Westminster and the EU.

    It’s a great shame because there is no reason why English identity has to be an ‘Alamo identity’, it has the potential to be more diverse, tolerant and liberal than either the Scottish or Welsh national identities which traditionally were more nationalistic.

  2. Iain Macmillan

    “One only has to look at Alex Salmond’s somewhat embarrassing waving of the saltire following Andy Murray’s victory at Wimbledon” Really? Embarrassing for who, exactly? Scotland’s First Minister shows his delight at a fellow Scot winning a major sporting event by waving the national flag of Scotland is embarrassing, is it? Not for me it’s not. Well done Alex Salmond I say. It never ceases to amaze me just how many of you supposed left wing types have got such imperialist attitudes when it comes to anything to do with Scotland regaining her rightful place in the world.

  3. Dean Marshall

    If only we were allowed to celebrate successes in major events by English athletes, but if we do so, we’re branded with various insults ending in “ist” or “phobe”. Bradley Wiggins put a damper on his Tour de France win by draping the imperialist ‘Union’ rag over his shoulders on the podium. Sadly, I can’t imagine Cameron making the same fuss over an English victory as he did for Andy Murray’s success, but Cameron hates us, regardless of what he said on St George’s Day. Is Cameron trying to pander to the Scots? Is there something important about to happen in Scotland? The silence was deafening when Justin Rose won the US Open recently. Says it all, really.

  4. Iain Macmillan

    This comment is meant to be a joke, isn’t it?

  5. Alice Forest

    Hello. Did you know that you’re ‘stridently anti independence’?


  6. John

    Is yours? If you don’t want to refute or debate the point raised better not to say anything. You made your point and he made his. Being snide undercuts your own argument

    I’ll admit I don’t think it embarrasing that Alex waved the Scottish flag at Murray’s victory but making sweeping statements about ‘you supposed left wing types’ does you no credit. I consider myself left-wing and would be perfectly happy for Scotland, England and Wales to all split if thats what they populace of each wish.

  7. John

    100 years ago the English were seen as polite, honourable, innovative and inventive. Now we’re seen as hostile, subborn and thuggish. It’s no wonder that Westminster chooses not to embrace this international identity awarded us. However they also have done nothing to change it beyond decrying the bad example of some athletes.

    Perhaps if they provided a better personal example things might change? No, thats crazy.

  8. John

    Never take your news from just one source; it’s always worth checking what the opposition are saying as well. For example


  9. LisaR

    Are you serious! Rules for English and the Scots can go to hell.the only reason English folk dont fly their flag is in shame of the EDL taking it over for racist reasons against Blacks/immigrants/gays even though this pathetic article says 60% English folk quite rightly call themselves English but damn Scots to hell for even felling Scottish and flying their 1000 year old flag! The biggest joke of all is right up till just before Wimbledon Andy was systemaically slagged off insulted and god knows what else by many English and yet supported through thick and thin by Scots for years,through good times and bad times….now he has won Wimbledon he is Brit and Scots can feck off! Go check your facts out mate about who contributes more to ecomony and what they get back./Scots are sick and tired of the lies told about us being scroungers!! If we were that bad then those bastards in UKGov wouldnt be fighting hard to keep us and doing all it could to stop our Independence. Roll on 2014, the way I am feeling about many English folk now…..I cannot wait for that Yes vote! We’ll damn well fly our flag because a bunch of thugs who hate immigrants and black and gays havent stolen our flag! Grow balls and take your flag back of the EDL and stop bitching about our flag! I am so sick and tired of this crap aimed time and time again at Scots by our so called neighbours!

  10. franwhi

    There is a Labour for Independence movement here in Scotland which perhaps you dont know about Ed. There has long been an aspiration for an independent Scotland in sections of the Scottish Labour movement though currently and for political expediency those voices are being quelled. I think constitutional movement is a good thing due to existing concentrations of power and its not only in Scotland there is a recognition of the democratic deficit and power gap. I dont understand how many on the left dont see this and champion new constitutional arrangements instead of trying to defend the status quo. The evolution and shaping of national identity and its very fluidity goes on changing and is always bigger than one political movement and people might argue that Scots identity, culture and aspirations shaped our political parties as much as the other way round but if Falkirk has taught us anything its that Labour in Scotland is not fit for purpose and offers little constructive to the constitutional debate being blinded by self interest and stuffed with appartchiks whose goal is personal power plain and simple. I hope this helps many of you who post in favour of the Union realise the Labour experience in Scotland is not one chracterised by a transparent , democratic spirit. In fact, Labour in Scotland may be understandably the least favoured party of a Scot who is a democrat and I fear this is becoming evident in the wider UK too. However, at least in Scotland we have a realistic, electable option on the Left and though I believe in solidarity I also have to vote with my conscience but Scottish Labour argue Ill be betraying others in the Midlands or the North East or other parts of the wider UK.
    What a con when they have signed up to the same austerity package as the Condems. Is the real reason more self serving relating to the likely loss of their own Westminster seats if the union solits.
    Incidentally, I dont see whats embarrassing about AS waving the Scottish flag on such a special day and surely he should have been sitting beside rather than behind Cameron anyway in a true union.

  11. Chrisso

    Thanks for drawing attention to the IPPR publication. But the LFF take is a disingenuous item and selective in its use of statistics. Just one example –

    “Below is the report by numbers based on the survey which was conducted last year: 60% of respondents called themselves English compared with 58% calling themselves British, a record low since the survey was first started in 1996.”

    It’s true to say that just 58% calling themselves British was a new low but just read the report for the real explanatory information:

    “at the first stage – although the difference between these two groups reduced [note: REDUCED English identity as opposed to British identity] from 6% in 2011 to 2%, the level of British identity recorded was the lowest in any survey reported.” It’s true that the 2% gap between considering yourself English and/or British in a first stage ‘forced choice’ is the lowest gap in synchronicity since 2006 when they were almost identical. By contrast the BIGGEST gap was actually in 2010 (50% English, 69% British) closely preceded by a large 1997 gap.

    Is it the low proportion calling themselves British that is at issue? Why, then let’s look at Stage 2 of the survey:

    “At the second, ‘forced choice’ stage, MORE respondents chose to describe themselves as British (49%) than English (41%). This is the reverse of what we found in 2011, when 42% chose British and 49% English, suggesting a modest STRENGTHENING of British national identity from 2011 to 2012” and “our 2012 data shows some weakening at the exclusively English end of the spectrum, and modest growth in the plural ‘equally English and British’ category.”

    The level of ‘forced’ English identity [Stage 2] is consistently low, bumping along at around 40% over the years. Similarly the level of ‘forced’ British identity has bumped along since 1999 at around 45%. The table actually shows that the main displacement from ‘British’ towards ‘English’ as an identity took place between 1992 and 1999, the time of the quintessentially English govt of John Major. Tories in Scotland became an endangered species after 1992 with a decline from 25% of the vote to a level that returned only 1 MP since then … Accentuating Englishness does you no favours when there are other countries in the Union.

    Englishness is stronger among the older sections of the population than it is with 18–24-year-olds, and stronger among the less affluent social classes. Men also prioritise their English identity more than women. But the IPPR report and the slant given to it by LFF in deeming ‘Englishness to be on the rise’ is hardly definitive. It would be of more interest to me to know of an analysis as to why antagonistically anglocentric views of other countries and unions (Scotland and the EU) hold such sway within England and are lapped up by Cameron, Farage, the EDL etc.

  12. Chrisso

    Indeed. But ‘Wings Over Scotland’ adds that
    “the No campaign chairman, Alistair Darling, has made abundantly clear the conditions of any future enhanced devolution settlement for Scotland in the aftermath of a No vote in 2014: ‘If you are going to stand on any platform of constitutional change you are duty bound to put it in a UK manifesto. It is not about a veto it is about having a mandate for it.” Darling’s position couldn’t be less ambiguous – if Scotland rejects independence, any additional powers for the Scottish Parliament will be subject to the approval of the voters of the rest of the UK (chiefly England, which supplies around 90% of them).”

    So it’s not just LFF (and New Statesman, Labour List, etc) that is stridently anti-Scottish independence. It’s Alistair Darling and Labour. And if additional powers are actually refused by an England Labour govt to Scotland in the event of a No vote, you can be sure Labour MPs will disappear from Scotland as quickly as the Tory ones did.

  13. Chrisso

    “78% felt that the Scottish Parliament should pay for the services it delivers out of taxes raised by the Scottish Government whilst 81% said that Scottish MPs should not vote on English laws.”

    This I like. Although it confirms widespread ignorance about where the money the Scottish Parliament actually spends comes from, and how much of that it actually is (the money does indeed come from Westminster, but it is far LESS than the amount of money Scottish taxpayers pay to Westminster). It also shows a very widespread dislike (78%) of “them” (Scots) actually having a say in how their taxes are spent, whilst “we” (English) don’t. So full fiscal powers being granted to Scotland seems to be supported by 4 in every five English respondents.

    As for the voting on English laws: non-unionist Scottish parties at Westminster (OK, the SNP) have long-since decided NOT to vote on anything that does not have a bearing on Scotland. This fact is not much reported.

    So what is the LFF solution? It strikes me that any publication that professes to support socialism, should do nothing but SUPPORT the Scottish move towards Independence. A strong Independent Scotland following more “socialised” policies, as is the wish of the Scottish electorate, would be nothing but a beacon of light for the English electorate. Showing a distinct contrast. And just what is possible. And that, to get it, there’s certainly no need for a lurch to the right. With the British Union potentially falling apart, the Left in England should be ready to grasp their best chance of influencing the direction of the rump-UK – before the existing Westminster machine swings into “arse-saving” mode. Social Democracy in more than one country anyone?

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