I’ll admit I’ve only skim read the St Andrew’s Day speech by Wendy Alexander, the beleagered leader of Scottish Labour, but this sticks out like a sore thumb:
Most British citizens want to see the Union continue.
A bold assertion, without basis in fact. Is it something that most people are actively concerned about? Considering that most people live in England, and the issue is presented in a distorted fashion by print and broadcast media…
It’s not constitutional arrangements that get people worked up, it’s injustice. First Minister Salmond seems to understand this, the implication being that he’s playing up the injustice of Scotland having devolution and England having no devolution.
In today’s interview in the Telegraph, entitled ‘An English parliament would be a good step’, Salmond comes out for England, as much as he does Scotland.
If Mr Salmond has his way, Scotland will no longer be anyone’s fiefdom, but an independent country. The only problem is that he has to convince the Scots that this is what they want. “We have got a scheme, it’s called independence, it’s nice and clear but if people want another option on the referendum ballot paper, then I don’t have an objection. But it has to be a defined option, such as fiscal autonomy. It can’t just be, ‘A little bit more of what we have got’.”
If his fellow Scots don’t back the idea, his masterplan appears to be to push the English into telling the Scots that they have had enough of them. “If people in England want to have a referendum on Englishness they can ask their representatives. I think it is a good thing to have a developing sense of Englishness,” he says. “An English parliament would be a good step.”
But the leader of the SNP laughs at the suggestion that he is infuriating the English on purpose, by floating the idea of free prescriptions, free university education and free school meals for the Scots at the expense of those south of the border.
“I would put it more positively. My objective is to build the confidence of the Scottish people so they will accept the normal responsibilities of being an independent country. The idea that I would propose to freeze the council tax in Scotland to irritate people in England is ridiculous. I don’t get up in the morning wanting to annoy the English. I’m the biggest practising Anglophile in Scottish politics. I like the English.”
So why does he find it so hard to share a flag and national identity with them? “The idea of national independence is about a country standing on its own two feet, governing its own affairs, having the self respect that self determination brings. It’s not whether you like another country or not. I like Americans but I wouldn’t suggest that we should be governed by America.” [Emphasis added.]
That last question implies that British national identity is the same thing as English national identity. This is obviously untrue, one only has to look at the political expressions of English nationalism as compared to British nationalism. Do you regard Gary Bushell as being the same as Nick Griffin? I think not.
Getting back to a comparison between Alexander and Salmond, here’s more nonsense from poor Wendy:
The Union is something for all its constituent nations: the devolved nations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. – but for England too. It is not for me, as leader of Scottish Labour to suggest changes there but I do say to Scots that we should support and welcome greater local and regional decentralisation in England, allowing voices in different parts of England to be heard on their issues just as we have sought that for ourselves. Looking to the future the so called English question is properly for UK colleagues to consider. We must resist nationalists of whatever provenance fanning English resentment for partisan reasons.
So, the message is: we ain’t for an English parliament, we’re for regionalisation. Now, an English parliament is popular, according to the best polls we have. Regionalisation has been rejected by one part of England (namely, the North East) in a referendum, and there’s no palpable demand for regional assemblies – they only get a mention by politicians when someone brings up the English question. So, from the Scottish Labour Party, there’s no solidarity being offered to the English…
This news item caught my eye, as it’d be a good idea for unions south of the border to promote devolution for England in a similar fashion:
Trade union leaders have called for a campaign to increase the financial powers of the Scottish Parliament.
Unison’s Scottish Council discussed the issue in response to the Scottish Government’s “national conversation” on independence.
The public sector union wants powers in areas such as equal opportunities, energy and broadcasting to be devolved.
At the meeting in Glasgow, Unison delegates from across Scotland backed further devolution from Westminster.
Its leaders believe there is potential for some powers to be transferred on immigration and public sector pensions, as well as extending powers over public borrowing and tax-raising.
All of this makes me wonder, what chance is there of a “national conversation” in England? Or perhaps, an English Constitutional Commission?
Might the unions in England threaten Labour with the national question in the row over reforms to party funding?
And is the SNP’s decision to work with the Tories in local government part of the masterplan?
Let me make a prediction: the next leader of the Liberal Democrats in Westminster will jump on the English question. There, now prove me wrong Chris Clegg. Erm, I mean, Nick Huhne.