Below are extracts from a talk by the philosopher Roger Scruton on the position of England within the UK since devolution . They were made one BBC Radio 4 (21 Feb 14) in their Point of View series.
I have omitted the parts of Scruton’s talk which concern the historical and economic background because they are superficial , frequently wrong and often embarrassingly sentimental – the final quote I offer gives a good idea of what has been omitted.
Where Scruton is on solid ground is his description of the situation England finds itself in now. That is what the quotes I offer deal with. It is also very useful to have someone like Scruton with something of a media profile speaking out on the subject of England’s current disadvantaged position.
Roger Scruton: United We Fall: Point of View http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/pov extracts
In all the complex changes leading to the Scottish bid for independence the English have never been consulted. The process has been conducted as though we had no right to an opinion in the matter. It was all about Scotland and how to respond to Scottish nationalism
“As an Englishman I naturally ask why my interests in the matter have never been taken into account. When the Czechs and Slovaks achieved their amicable divorce it was by mutual agreement between elected politicians. What is so different about Scotland that it decides everything for itself?”
The English tend to blame the migration which threatens to overwhelm them on a succession of Labour Governments. By allowing mass immigration into England and refusing to confront the European Union’s commitment to free movement of peoples the Governments of Blair and Brown seriously undermined the English sense of identity . At the same time through the creation of the Scottish parliament gave a new identity to the Scots.
The effect of the Scottish Parliament, however, was not only to ensure the Scots governed themselves, but also to make it more likely that they would continue to govern the English. The Labour Party did not want to lose those Scottish MPs since it was thanks to them and the Scottish vote that the Labour Party had achieved such a large majority at Westminster. Scots were disproportionately represented in the cabinets of both Blair and Brown. Tony Blair owed his position in the Labour hierarchy in part to the networks which had grown in that country.
Elections to the Scottish Parliament show that the Scots have shifted their allegiance from the Labour Party to the SNP, but they still want the English to be governed by the Labour Party. Hence, they vote to place Labour politicians, whom they don’t particularly want at home, in Westminster . As a result of this the English, who have voted Conservative more often than Labour in all post-war Elections, have to accept a block vote of Labour Members of Parliaments sent to Westminster by the Scots. The process that brought this about was one in which the Scots themselves were given the final say in a referendum from which the English were excluded. In other words the process of devolution has an air of gerrymandering, the effect of which has been to secure a Labour bias in the Westminster Parliament while allowing the Scots to govern themselves in whatever way they choose.
And the process continues. In response to Alec Salmond’s bid for Independence the people of Scotland have been granted another referendum but again the people of England have been deprived of a say. Why is this, are we part of the union or not? Or are the politicians afraid that we would vote the wrong way? And what is the wrong way? What way should we English vote given that present arrangement gives two votes to the Scots for every vote given to the English? Should we not vote for our independence given that we risk being governed from a country that already regulates its own affairs and has no clear commitment to ours?
Suppose then we English were finally allowed a say in the matter? Which way would I vote? I have no doubt about it. I would vote for English independence as a step towards strengthening the friendship between our two countries. It was thanks to independence that Americans were able at last to confess to their attachment to the Old Country and to come to our aid in two world wars. Independence is what real friendship requires and the same is true for those like the Scots and the English who live side by side.
Full text of Scruton’s talk at