Wednesday 1 August 2007

The people's flag

My goodness, Gordon Brown's stirred up a real stushie with this one:
SCOTLAND will be exempt from Gordon Brown's plans to fly the Union flag from every public building, it was confirmed yesterday.

As part of a drive to increase the sense of Britishness and unity, the Prime Minister announced earlier this month that he wanted the Union flag flown all year round on government buildings and eventually on police stations and hospitals across the UK.

And the Scotsman's site has 767 comments so far!

The blogosphere's been responding:

Mr Eugenides

Not Proud of Britain

The Last Ditch

The Wardman Wire


Granite City

Understandably, English bloggers object to this example of asymmetrical Britain. Of course, Scots have been objecting to asymmetrical Britain for years. The common perception that England equals the UK is what drives Scottish Nationalism. Only now, with the coming of devolution and the awareness (although not the understanding) of the Barnet Formula and the West Lothian Question has England even thought about Scotland.

Here's what Thunderdragon has to say:

What this shows mostly, however, is that despite Gordon Brown's oft-made commitment to Britishness, he is still at heart a Scot - and will give things to Scotland that he won't to England.
Well, yes and no. I believe that Brown is "at heart" both Scottish and British. Probably like most Scots. But he'll support Scotland against England on the sports ground. Like most Scots. I don't believe for a moment that he actually enjoyed that Gazza goal.

But on the flag question I don't accept that he has chosen to "give things to Scotland that he won't to England". Brown has done what we expect - he's acted as a politician. Politicians can't be expected to behave "rationally" or "symmetrically". They are in the business of power.

I don't think that Brown's Britishness campaign has too much to do with Scotland. It's predominantly about trying to deal with the chaos caused by multi-culturalism - chaos largely created by Brown's own party. He hopes that flying the Union Jack in England will help Labour. Maybe it will. But he also knows that Scotland is different. The Saltire has been flown on public and private buildings here for as long as I remember. We have an SNP government at Holyrood and the Nats are strongly represented in local authorities. Imposing the Union Jack on Scotland would cause a huge row that Brown doesn't need. The position in England is not the same - widespread use of the St George's Cross is a recent development and there are no English nationalists in positions of power. One day that may change and then other politicians will respond. It's a mistake to expect politicians to act consistently except in the pursuit of their own ends.


David Farrer said...

Comments made on previous template:

Joshua Holmes
Any Irish politician who votes for the Freedom and Whisky plan should be stripped of his property and executed, and his family ought to be exiled.

5 August 2007, 18:43:14 GMT+01:00
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2 August 2007, 05:38:45 GMT+01:00
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Mind you, David, the most objectionable of the various lazy, stupid and ignorant insults by Englishmen occurred when they alluded to the English legal system as "British justice". Unpardonable.

1 August 2007, 20:05:38 GMT+01:00
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David Davis
It does not matter. 
It does not matter as long as we know in the "UK" that we the English, and you the Scots, will not ever leave each other in a truly moral or philosophical sense. You may decide on "independence" from the Union, and that may even be right. I do not know. It would sadden me, but that does not matter either.  
But as well as the above, we must not betray each other to any foreign power such as the "EU", or, say, Russia, or Uzbekistan, or France (watch it you Scots there on that one, you have "form"! I'm talking centuries ago...) Nor do I think that either party, if independent, would ever stoop so low as to do so now, after all these centuries of living and wrangling together on this small Island.  
Anyway, our most significant banks are Scottish, which is just a natural accountancy-thingy and therefore to be expected. 
So really, I think that what flag flies on Scottish public buildings does not matter. You and we ought to just do what most people locally want to do.

1 August 2007, 20:02:09 GMT+01:00
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David Farrer
I'd love to see GB out on his arse...  
We should adopt the Freedom and Whisky plan 
The fair resolution is indeed my worry as I wish to retain the Union (as per the F&W plan above). I'm still not convinced that Brown's antics are specifically "designed to singe the English lion". I suspect that he's scared stiff of the lion - he has no future in an independent Scotland.

1 August 2007, 19:15:18 GMT+01:00
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David Farrer said...

David Farrer
I agree: the Welsh don't have a very good deal. 
Good points, but I still don't think that GB is flying the flag in England (plus Wales and NI?) just to annoy the non-Scots. Brown would be unlikely to have any political role in an independent Scotland. 
The UK wasn't asymmetrical politically but arguably was in other ways. In more than 30 years of reading the Scotsman there's scarcely been a day without my reading a letter on this subject. Why is it the Bank of "England"? Why is the British Embassy referred to as "English" in many foreign phone directories? Why do I read articles almost every day in the US media along the lines of: "The governments of France, Germany and England..."? These things may seem petty but they are responsible for much of the support for the SNP. Imagine what it would be like if most foreigners referred to England as Scotland.

1 August 2007, 19:09:20 GMT+01:00
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James Higham
David, you know I ahve not one thing against the Scots I know - you, Dr Vee, RS, FR and so on, McNumpty but this is not right. 
You might have observed I am in the Witanagemot Club now but you'll also notice I head it "Four Parliaments". there must be fairness in this devolution and there is not. 
The West Lothian needs resolution. This is not your worry, as a Scot. But Brown's antics, designed to singe the English lion, is ill advised. 
For English and Scots to get along, there must be fairness.

1 August 2007, 18:07:58 GMT+01:00
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David Farrer said...

“There are no English Nationalists in positions of power” 
There is no English equivalent to the Scottish parliament or the Welsh Assembly that allows a voice for a separate nationalistic stance for England, remove both of these institutions or have an English Parliament and you would have a level playing field in the Nationalists stakes. The fact of the existence of the Scottish Parliament gives voice to the Scottish position separate and distinct to a British position.  
You are probably right about the reason but it is beyond a joke when one part of Britain is allowed to fly their own flag, whilst the rest of us must fly the British flag is it a union or is it not a union.

1 August 2007, 13:58:19 GMT+01:00
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Matt Wardman
I think I agree with you somewhat on this: 
>Brown has done what we expect - he's acted as a politician. Politicians can't be expected to behave "rationally" or "symmetrically". They are in the business of power. 
However, if he does not act symmetrically in the mediumterm he will - rightly - be out on his arse.

1 August 2007, 12:09:43 GMT+01:00
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I don't expect politicians to 'act consistently'. However, I do not expect them to pursue their own ends. I do expect them to do the best for the country, that is, the whole country which incidentally includes England.  
What were Scotland's years of objecting to an asymmetrical Britain about? There was nothing 'asymmetrical' about the United Kingdom, unless of course in those days the Scotch objected to democracy. 
Please, please, please Scotland vote for your independence and take your Westminster scots with you.

1 August 2007, 09:17:06 GMT+01:00
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It has a lot to do with Scotland, or more precisely with the after affects of devolution to Scotland. 
'Britishness' is rising amongst British-Asians but it is falling steeply as a primary identity in the white indigenous population - who now prefer English (as the Scots and Welsh prefer Scottish and Welsh). 
Britishness is in danger of becoming simply a legal term as people invest their cultural identities in other less multicultural, more exclusive, entities. Britain was a success because the English (mostly the English) were prepared to invest their Englishness almost entirely in the British project. If they are no longer prepared to do that then Britain is screwed, not to put too fine a point on it, and there are severe dangers for multiculturalism too.

1 August 2007, 09:04:50 GMT+01:00
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I've not seen any mention of Wales in all this. Presumably Gordon considers it part of England...

1 August 2007, 08:44:10 GMT+01:00