Back to the whole Europe / nationalism thing

There is a post on The England Project about the earlier post on Lose the Delusion. I kind of agree with half of it and disagree with the other half.

Firstly, John writes:

Firstly the presumption that the the loudest and most vociferous opponents of the EU are most usually to be found in England. If we accept that this is indeed the case all we can say is that it is a legitimate observation of British bloggers and the English in general. What we cannot yet say is why this might be the case. For instance, there are tens of millions more people living in England than in each of the remaining parts of Britain and this significantly larger population may be the reason. I am guessing that there are more English blogs than there are blogs of Scottish or Welsh persuasion. I don’t see any evidence that the English (ignoring the excesses of some football fans who I do not think are representative) are more nationalistic (and hence more anti-EU) than the Scots or the Welsh at this time (indeed in the case of the Scots I think exactly the opposite might be true), so doubt this could be the cause if indeed the original presumption is correct, which it might not be.

It’s not about looking at what bloggers are saying. It’s about what all people think. Clearly, many Scots and Welsh people are highly nationalistic. I’m not one of them, but it is there. The SNP are Scotland’s second largest party, so it’s difficult to claim otherwise. But Scots are not “hence more anti-EU.” This is once again confusing Scottish nationalism with Euroscepticism. Scottish nationalism is very different to British / English nationalism.

Well, they are, of course, the same in the sense that both (or all three) movements are wanting out of a union which they feel does not represent them. But the Scottish National Party are pro EU, so it is simply inaccurate to say that Scottish nationalists are against the EU.

There are anti-EU Scots though. One of the forms that takes is in the Scottish Green Party. I don’t think, proportionally, the Scottish Greens are much bigger than the England and Wales Greens, so they cancel each other out. The other major form it takes (assuming we ignore the Scottish Conservatives who are far less popular than their English equivalents anyway) is in the Scottish Socialist Party – the 6th largest party in Scotland. The SSP are significant in their own way, but they are hardly representative of all Scots or even all nationalist Scots.

I think it is very fair to say that English people are far more likely to be anti-EU than Scottish or Welsh people. For instance, what percentage of UKIP’s MEPs were elected in England? 100%.

(Edit: John has pointed out in the comments that it wasn’t his intention to describe all Scottish nationalists as anti-EU.)

John’s next paragraph is slightly more convincing. It refers to the strange taboo there seems to be regarding English nationalism. For some, this may be because there is a perception that English nationalist parties are more likely to be, say, anti-immigration, which I think is partially true. But I think it is unfair that English nationalists who do not necessarily share such views get so much stick for their political viewpoints, while Scottish and Welsh nationalists are considered to be part of the political mainstream.

John says:

I am talking about unbalanced devolution, regionalisation, lack of proper political representation…

And it is true. There is a gross imbalance, and I do feel that Scotland is now over-represented. It is unfair, undemocratic, and it simply looks ridiculous. You could, of course, take away the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly, but that won’t be happening. So the answer is to give devolution to the whole of the UK. Whether it is at a regional level or a national level is neither here nor there to me. So long as every area of the UK had the same sorts of powers distributed the same sorts of ways – and we can get rid of the West Lothian Question once and for all – that would be fine.

But there are points in John’s post when it seems like he’s got more of a chip on his shoulder rather than a serious ideological objection. He admits that it is “petty”, but I think to complain about there being a BBC Scotland but no BBC England is a bit odd. England does not get less representative media coverage. Infact, I’d argue it gets far more. England has ten BBC regions. England also has forty local radio stations! The closest thing Scotland gets to a local BBC radio station is BBC Radio Nan Gaidheal, which is nothing more than normal BBC Radio Scotland with an occasional Gaelic radio programme slipped in.

Am I complaining? No, because I don’t think the BBC could provide anything useful on a local level which isn’t already supplied by commerical rivals. And so we come full circle. Would a BBC England be any use? Localisation, as far as I can tell, is mainly only useful because it can give minority groups of the population a voice. In what way would a BBC England do this? What could it provide that UK-wide BBC doesn’t? The English, with England containing over 80% of the UK’s population, are not in any way a minority group.

I can understand why it may seem unfair on the surface. It is easy to look and say, “oh look Scotland and Wales have their own BBC radio stations,” but you have to understand that they serve the same purpose as England’s own local radio stations. Scotland contains about 5 million people; any BBC Radio England would have to cater for well over ten times that amount. I cannot see how that would be of any more use than the existing UK-wide stations such as Radio 4 and Radio Five Live.

The final point I’d like to make about John’s post is regarding this comment.

I do not think it particularly meaningful to compare a person’s affinity to an old and well established union and that persons affinity to a new and larger current process of union. One might as well rubbish ones affinity to England, a union in itself. How far back do we want to go?

If I understand correctly, he is implying that it is more legitimate to support the UK than it is to support the EU because the UK has been around for longer. It is an odd argument. There would have been a time, only 250-or-so years ago, when the UK was a new thing. So how long do we need to wait until it’s legitimate to support the EU? Sixty years? A hundred years? Not that long to go then… And is the European Union really a larger process (in terms of the importance of the process) than the United Kingdom? Try asking a Scot which they think has a bigger influence over their lives: Westminster or Brussels?

7 comments

  1. Small point about those petty issues. These have been brought to my attention by others and were not really on my radar until they were put there by others who do take issue with them. I just wanted to highlight them as examples of what make some people sit up and take notice. These issues do chafe some but I personally do not yet have a “chip on my shoulder” about them.

    Also, it was a mistake if my post described Scottish nationalists as inherently anti-eu. It was not my intention to do so and is just a result of my poor writing and a rushed out post.

  2. Hello,

    I’ve just been checking my stats and stuff, and I noticed that you link to me, sorry it took me so long….I’m lazy that way.

    I have never even thought of adding an rss feed, I don’t even know what one is !

    I’ll be back.

  3. […] I’ve spotted two posts on this today. The comments at Freedom and Whisky are filled with people wanting a BBC England. I always found that request a bit puzzling, as I have mentioned before on this blog. See, for instance, this post (you need to scroll a bit until I start talking about BBC England). […]