The People of England Have Spoken!

Forget that hackneyed line from G. K. Chesterton about the people of England never having spoken yet. As they mow their manicured lawns, our southern neighbours are finally beginning to find their collective voice. At least they’re starting to mutter quietly about us behind their high garden hedges. A new opinion poll in the Telegraph suggests that only a fifth of southern voters now “strongly oppose” Scotland becoming independent. A finding which prompted its associate editor Camilla Tominey to report (with only English readers in mind, obviously): “In a worrying development for the Prime Minister, it seems attitudes toward our Caledonian cousins are apathetic at best.” How else to interpret the further findings that 30% of English voters aren’t at all exercised about the future of the Union and a quarter are actually in favour of us seceding?

Jackie Doyle-Price didn’t need any newspaper survey to tell her that Brexiteers are becoming Scexiteers. The Tory member for Thurrock has been detecting signs of Scotophobia among her constituents in Essex like she used to encounter rampant Europhobia. “The kind of conversations I now have on the doorstep, that used to be fruity conversations about Brussels, are now fruity conversations about Scotland,” she told a parliamentary committee a few weeks back. Her message to the Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove was clear: “We could end up losing the Union by benign neglect just as happened with Brexit.” 

The Telegraph’s man at Holyrood has no doubts about what has led to this most distressing state of affairs. Alan Cochrane’s analysis of the poll findings pandered to the prejudices of his paper’s core subscriber base in the Home Counties:

The words ‘whingeing Jocks’ trip off English tongues much more readily nowadays than they used to. And when you think about it, how could it be otherwise? Successive nationalist governments in Edinburgh, and especially that headed by Nicola Sturgeon, always insist that they don’t deliberately seek to get up English noses in their perpetual search for slights – real or imagined – from London. But poisoning the well in relations between the two countries, however inadvertently, as they’d claim, is one of the most favourite shots in their locker.

Poisoning the well seems to be the purpose of this opinion poll

Poisoning the well seems to be a fair summary of what the Telegraph sought to achieve with its survey about the current state of Anglo-Scottish relations. It whipped a whole set of loaded questions out of its locker, including this one: 

To what extent do you support or oppose the UK Government giving Scotland more financial support to persuade it to stay part of the United Kingdom? 

Surprisingly, despite the way this was framed, only a third of respondents (34%) were opposed to killing separatism with kindness whilst a quarter (26%) were quite happy to splash the cash. Presumably the other 40% didn’t know or care about what the people with the clipboards were wittering on about. Given the state of the Treasury’s finances following the UK economy being induced several times into a semi-coma to defeat Covid, what’s another hundred billion here or there to any of us?

A mini bio probably needs insertion at this point. The Telegraph’s Scottish correspondent is a sort of journalistic ghillie, who has spent decades tugging his forelock and joining Tory grandees for a bit of game shooting on the odd occasions they deign to venture northwards to quell the restless natives. In a diary he kept during the 2014 referendum campaign, this arch Unionist recorded his disappointment when David Cameron told him he’d left his gun back in the Cotswolds. Call Me Dave judged it better not to be photographed like Harold Macmillan on the grouse moors. “It’s changed days if a lad from a council hoose like me can go deer stalking but the Old Etonian PM can’t!,” observed this embodiment of upward mobility. But he took some pride and consolation in the Tory leader weaving a few of his choice phrases into a prime ministerial speech he delivered on behalf of the No campaign.

Somehow I cannot imagine Boris Johnson – a star columnist with the Telegraph for many years – calling upon his word wizardry in the same way. But, if the PM ever feels a need for some complacent reassurance, Mr Cochrane can always supply it. His take on the aforementioned poll concluded:

Personally, I reckon that most English voters would prefer things to stay as they are. Of course there are irritations between such close neighbours, money being one of them, such as the favourable deal Scotland gets from the Barnett formula.

Because of the Coronavirus crisis, I have barely crossed the Border for over a year. Prior to the onset of the pandemic, I cannot remember a single conversation with anyone in an English pub about the mechanism used by the Treasury to adjust the amount of public expenditure allocated to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – and I’ve had to deal with a fair amount of gentle, Jock-baiting banter over the years. When Rory Bremner quipped that the Barnett Formula was Nicola Sturgeon’s favourite hair shampoo, it probably went over at least 90% of his audience’s heads.

Not many of the English still lament the loss of Empire

Here’s something else that needs set straight: contrary to the popular myth peddled by the liberal-left commentariat, next to no one in England still laments the loss of Britannia’s imperial possessions. What animates far more of them is their own personal possessions – particularly property. Nowhere in Western Europe has such an obsession with bricks and mortar. So it was no surprise when, a few years back, the Cambridge historian Robert Tombs adopted the language of an estate agent to paint an affectionate portrait of this blessed plot:

England is a rambling old property with ancient foundations, a large Victorian extension, a Sixties garage and some annoying leaks and drafts balancing its period charm.

What this pro-Brexit don forgot to mention in his high-brow sales brochure is that England also has an attic. It’s called Scotland. A large, rambling storage space with plenty of room for oil and water tanks to keep the posh living quarters below ticking over comfortably for its affluent residents. It can get a bit freezing at times, but the owners don’t need to climb up to it often. 

What if we Scots want to undertake a radical attic conversion? Would the English submit any stern planning objections? Having worked as a media academic among them for a number of years, becoming a bit of an Anglophile in the process, I reckon the vast majority could live with that  – so long as we keep the noise down. What R. B. Cunninghame Graham observed back in 1928, when he became a founder of the National Party of Scotland, is plainly even more true today:

The enemies of Scottish Nationalism are not the English, for they were ever a great and generous folk, quick to respond when justice calls. Our real enemies are among us, born without imagination.

Actually, along with the faint hearts and trough hogs at Holyrood, we do have another enemy now. An enemy whose awesome, chilling might the originators of our National movement could never possibly have anticipated – the Anglo-American Deep State. There is something this transatlantic superpower is definitely determined to keep stored up in England’s attic – Faslane. As the defence minister Ben Wallace confirmed last week, the Royal Navy’s fleet of Trident nuclear submarines on the Clyde – loaded with warheads designed and supplied by the US military-industrial complex – is absolutely central to the preservation of Britain’s geopolitical status and the maintenance of the ‘Special Relationship’.

The British Establishment cannot say, as Margaret Thatcher’s man in Belfast, Peter Brooke, said of Northern Ireland as far back as 1990, they have “no selfish, strategic interest” in stopping a Scottish secession. The UK would need to relinquish its permanent seat on the UN Security Council if it lost its nuclear weaponry and a third of its landmass.

However much southern resentment about the Barnett Formula may be stirred up by the likes of the Torygraph, our neo-imperial overlords in Whitehall and Washington won’t just sit back and watch Brexiteers become Scexiteers. If pressure continues to build up to break up Britain, be in no doubt they will do everything in their power to torpedo any attempt to decommission a major element of NATO’s nuclear armoury. The Secret People we need to worry about aren’t those fine, laid-back English folk about whom G. K. Chesterton wrote in his poem of that title.

17 thoughts on “The People of England Have Spoken!

  1. As well as his now almost universally forgotten writing, Chesterton was famous for being absent-minded. Changing trains at York station, he sent a telegram to his wife: “Am at York. Where should I be?”

    More power to your elbow, Grouse Beater.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Like you Rob I spent many years in England as an academic and a politician and I’m afraid there has been an increase in Scotophobia in England in recent years particularly amongst Tory voters. Indeed there is a strain of thought in the Tory party that abandoning Scotland to the Nats would be a good thing and not even my old friend Alan Cochrane can reassure Telegraph readers that Scotland is worth fighting for.
    However you are right that Faslane is a sticking point and our friends in British intelligence are actively working to prevent the rift. However they shouldn’t worry too much as the minister for the constitution is Angus Robertson a man who is very close to the British establishment who can forget his slogan “ Who dares wins “ ( the motto of the SAS!) when he led the campaign to get the SNP to join NATO in 2013. His foreign policy advisor is rumoured to be my old ambassador to the EU Lord John Kerr who currently chairs the Bildeberg Group!
    Still there are signs of dissidence in the SNP ,Douglas Chapman the treasurer has just resigned since Murrell won’t show him the books or where the missing £600,000 has gone the police are apparently investigating but don’t expect any prosecutions soon after all the Crown agent is a former MI5 operative!

    Liked by 5 people

  3. Interesting article. I dinnae doubt what your write.

    Why not move them to England? They build them in Barrow and service them in Devonport. Maybe the MOD could commission their engineers to rig up a base for them in England? I am hoping it isn’t a killer for us anyway.

    There is information about Angus Robertson that the Independence supporting public need when they come to vote on the new leader of their party. If we want Independence we need to use the SNP. If we do not use the SNP you would think it likely that the British state would use it against us. The punters need to know Robertson’s story in full.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Aye, add to that 60% of its sea area. Your talking to the converted if you are trying to warn us of efforts they will make openly and in the dark to keep us chained. Its the end game for us

        Liked by 1 person

    1. “ The punters need to know Robertson’s story in full.”
      ———
      For that you will need a narrator unafraid to risk the fate of dear Craig Murray.

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  4. Given the horrendous cost of Trident and its growing strategic obsolescence, I doubt the UK government would shed many tears about scrapping it – provided they had someone else to blame, that is, And the US has long considered Britain’s deterrent to be strategically irrelevant (but a nice money spinner). That said, the nuclear lobby on both sides of the Atlantic has no wish to see its power and influence diminished – the question is whether its influence is diminished in an era of hybrid warfare….
    So we can expect a great deal of hot air on this front, and for Scotland to be put firmly on the naughty step. But I guess there will be quiet sighs of relief inside the MoD if the useless things are forced to be scrapped.

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  5. English nationalism is on the rise. England will continue to vote tory. The SNP leadership have no reason whatsoever to continue with their long-grass procrastination. Scotland needs a revolution – now – and to hell with political parties.

    Get marching again. Get out the pro-indy flags, posters, badges etc and stuff them down politicians’ throats. SNP’s especially.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I remember the Scexit arguments I had with English Brexiteers prior to the vote. They were in no doubt that the Jocks were hingers on and getting rid of us was an obvious cororally. The GERS reports are gleefully lapped up. Accordingly their belief is that poorer regions of England are financially disadvantaged because of the Barnett formula’s favouritism to Scotland.

    They seem however to be as blind to the strategic benefits of the union to England as they were to those of the EU single market. I know of several large London based companies who swallowed up Scottish subsidiaries who are now engaged in modelling Scottish independence as an impending risk scenario. It takes someone from this end to keep a straight face and point out that it’s not really very likely that the UK government is going to do “that democratic thing”. They take on board the puff pieces in the English media that make the same case while at the same time they write about the dangers of the despotic Johnson government.

    If English nationalism is truly on the rise and not satiated by Brexit then this could be a positive for Scottish independence if pressure is brought to bear.

    Trident is a big elephant in the room. Sturgeon’s SNP are pro NATO Russiaphobes and would happily cut a deal to keep nuclear weapons in exchange for more independence. A sovereign parliament would need to sign such a deal. A truly independent Scotland couldn’t guarantee such a deal as the very nature of such fundamental change is a major realignment of the political scene. The formation of the first post independence government under a new PR system might not bring about consensus for keeping Trident. It might go to a referendum. A very risky scenario both for Sturgeon and the UK government who both have ambitions to be at the top tables.

    As you made the case in an earlier blog an accommodation within a new UK structure seems a more likely scenario for the foreseeable.

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  7. No state willing supports disintegration. The average mr and mrs English is quite unaware of the loss of face that the ending of the supranational state the United Kingdom would signify, their leaders do however and one might venture to assume will do everything in their considerable power to forestall such an ignominious end.
    Looked at from the perspective of decolonization all the signs are present, the hubris, the exploitation of division, the inevitable local enablers and stooges, the fear mongering, the threats, the carrot and stick, the cultural puffery.
    In this matter the Scots are nothing exceptional. Call it a process, albeit belatedly, of a people coming of age. Scotland’s «head in the clouds» leaders might well take note and read a little history.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, we need to understand that independence is decolonization, and we need to comprehend that pretty soon.

      As Albert Memmi wrote:
      “Assimilation being abandoned, the colonized’s liberation must be carried out through a recovery of self and of autonomous dignity. Attempts at imitating the colonizer required self-denial; the colonizer’s rejection is the indispensable prelude to self-discovery. After having been rejected for so long by the colonizer, the day has come when it is the colonized who must refuse the colonizer.”

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      1. Decolonization starts in the head. Decolonization is existential decluttering, a psycho-cultural program which the conventional bread and butter politicking of the SNP type is under-powered to handle.
        Nation building like any form of planning requires a schematic, a rationale something all too easily misplaced during the raw mechanics of process.
        Loss of the schematic is why many liberation movements turn bitter. The Middle East offers an ongoing exemplar of such.
        Is Scotland destined to follow suit?

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  8. But, given the accuracy of the most recent examples, who believes in poll results anyway? May was on course for a majority and ended up having to buy the DUP in order to govern. Labour was teetering on the brink of returning to government under Corbyn, only for BoJo to win an 80-seat majority.
    I think a wet finger in the air is as likely to be informative as is the average poll. Especially one commissioned by the ever-declining Telegraph.

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  9. This is a good sign, I think. The South East of England, where the money is, still wants to hold onto Scotland. And, of course, when has Johnson, apart from Brexit, ever given a monkey’s what the people think? Westminster will never never willingly give up a third of the UK’s land mass and all the assets that go with it regardless of what the people say.

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