Monday 31 March 2008

To see ourselves as others see us

One of the recurring "memes" I've noticed recently in the blogosphere goes something like this:
We can say "Scotland", but not "England".

We can say "Scottish", but not "English".

We can fly the Scottish flag, but not the English one.

Now, I have every sympathy with English folk who are angry at asymmetrical devolution. The current set-up is indeed a nonsense. The solution is a small-state symmetrical federalism as outlined here.

But I think that our English friends have missed something. It's perfectly true of course that Gordon Brown has his own reasons for avoiding use of the "E" word. English votes for English Laws, or an English Parliament may well lead to Mr Brown being reduced to selling copies of the Big Issue on Kirkcaldy High Street. Preferably outside Adam Smith's birthplace...

What folk down south don't seem to realise though is that the very avoidance of the "E" word - long before devolution - has been one of the main contributors to the growing desire for independence in Scotland.

For example:

Why is it The Football Association down there, but The Scottish Football Association up here?

Similarly, The Rugby Union, but The Scottish Rugby Union.

Or The National Trust, but The National Trust for Scotland

Or, The Law Society, but The Law Society of Scotland?

And so on and so on: in charities, government departments, sporting bodies, the professions and the trade unions. No Scottish prime minister or politician has ever stopped English institutions from so identifying themselves. They've simply chosen not to do so.

This presumption of the English norm, as I have dubbed it, is intensely annoying to Scots. Being English is seen to be such a natural state of affairs that it's the exceptions to Englishness that are defined, not Englishness itself.

The two countries seem to be talking past each other and those of us with a foot in both camps find it all too depressing.


David Farrer said...

Comments made on previous template:

Surreptitious Evil
There is, of course, the lovely counter-example (although it might be considered to exemplify one of the stereotypes of the North) - the fuss about who is the 'Institute of Chartered Accountants".

16 April 2008, 21:43:29 GMT+01:00
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The Welsh have an interesting word - prydeindod. It refers (when used by certain academics) to the ideology of promoting a specific "British" national identity over and above English, Welsh, Scots (or even Irish). Of course, this British identity is heavily derived from English identity (there are more of us), which makes it easy for us English to be told that we are really British. It also makes it look like there is such a thing as an "English norm" rather than a British state one. 
Following on from that we have been led to believe that the Welsh and Scots are British too and therefore just the same as us, which makes it rather confusing when you assert that you are not. There is an increased understanding of this now that the Scots are asserting themselves a bit more, but the Welsh are still affected by it - even the Scots don't pay much attention to them.

7 April 2008, 20:25:57 GMT+01:00
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Down in England we are very much aware of the ongoing process of extinguishing all trace of England by the Scottish/British government . 
We get "The NHS" endlessly . As it pertains to us it is in fact the English NHS . Your bit is the Scottish NHS. If you ever hear the British governemnt let slip a mention of the English NHS please let us all know .  
Ditto the Department of Health. This is technically the Department of Health for England though it never lets on.  
Ditto for just about every English institution . They've all had the word England/English carefully cleared away. Don't accuse us. Its not England's fault. Its the fault of the the British government heavily loaded as it is with Scots.

7 April 2008, 16:51:40 GMT+01:00
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Terry (England)
"This presumption of the English norm, as I have dubbed it, is intensely annoying to Scots. Being English is seen to be such a natural state of affairs that it's the exceptions to Englishness that are defined, not Englishness itself." 
Interesting. As an Englishman, I'm miffed for the same reason but from the opposite viewpoint. There is a BBC Scotland, but no BBC England. There are Scottish and Welsh Conservatives, Labour and Lib Dems, but no English versions. I hate that our "national" anthem is the UK one at sporting events.  
There are some interesting institutions where everyone else has a prefix, but we (Britain) don’t because the ones here were the first. Examples are The Stock Exchange, (now known as the London Stock Exchange), The Post Office (we are the only place not to name the country on stamps), The Bank, The Open etc… but all the others are really annoying, for both sides of the border. 
(David Davies, I’ve read your post three times and it still makes no sense.)  
Andrew, with regard to the Telegraph woman, it is amazing how national restrictions often only apply one way. You can see from this blog an example of Welsh health tourists putting a strain on the already under funded English NHS, but not vice versa…

7 April 2008, 13:18:56 GMT+01:00
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Andrew Duffin
There was a very amusing letter in the Torygraph the other day, from a(n English) woman who'd been issued with a "National" old folks' bus pass and was getting all huffy because she'd found it didn't work in Wales or Scotland. 
You'd need a heart of stone not to laugh.

3 April 2008, 12:32:45 GMT+01:00
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David Farrer said...

Comments made on previous template:

David Davis
David, the English are annoyed at being pupt in the position of absolutely having to think, for the first time, about haveing to apply "English" to stuff.  
We, with great help from the Scots (recognised by, say, the hundreds of places on the globe called "Mackenzie" for instance, or Dunedin) taught the World How To Live, and How To Spot And Neutralise Tyranny. 
We are aggrieved that (our) Enemy Class feels it necessary to subliminally but insistently peddle the line that we are somehow to be ashamed, and ashamed moreover of wanting to say who we are. 
Gordon Brown as you know, does not get, either, how the British,and in especial the English, go about being british. He thinks we have "days" for stuff, llike Veterans" (what are those?) and "the armed forces" (we have none, the lorry and the plane are under repair somewhere and the "ship" has probably been sold without tellng us.), and that we ought to fly "flags". 
Being British and particularly, English, means NOT having stuff like places like Prussia etc invented! The natural state is to have no "passport" (a very curious notion if ever there was one) no ID card, and to tell the state who WE are, not it to tell us. And only if we felt like it.

31 March 2008, 20:53:48 GMT+01:00
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David Farrer said...

Ken Adams
I think you are stretching the credibility of your argument beyond breaking point- Pre-devolution we were one country with one parliament, not withstanding Scottish ambivalence to the concept of Britain as a nation state in which we were all constituent parts.  
In any event is was never the “English” National Trust just the “National Trust” which initially included but Scotland since 1931 Scotland decided it wanted a separate body to separately promote Scottish natural and cultural heritage, please note this was a division introduced by the Scots, there never was an English National Trust.  
So pre-devolution Scotland already had its own National Trust distinct from the rest of the Country. 
Rugby: The name of the game came from the English public school Rugby, when the rules were formulated in 1871 the rules were for the game irrespective of where it was played and Scotland was part of that process because the game was already being played in Scotland. Scottish members of the new Union challenged the English members to a match and the first international match between Scotland and England was played at Raeburn Place, Edinburgh on 27 March 1871 The first match. The Scottish Rugby Union was set up in 1895 Irish Rugby Union was formed in 1879 and the Welsh Rugby Union in 1880. 
So pre-devolution Scotland already had its own Rugby Union distinct from the rest of the country.  
The Law society was founded 1825, although the organisation became known colloquially as the Law Society its first formal title was 'The Society of Attorneys, Solicitors, Proctors and others not being Barristers, practising in the Courts of Law and Equity of the United Kingdom'.  
The Scottish law society was established by the Legal Aid & Solicitors (Scotland) Act in 1949. 
So Pre-devolution Scotland already had its own Law society distinct from the rest of the country. 

David Farrer said...

don`t know about you but I am beginning to see a theme arising here. The only mention of England is in relationship to Rugby and that is only because the other members of our union decided on a separate unions, perhaps so that we could play the game between ourselves within the United Kingdom. 
But all three of the examples you mention were initially conceived as inclusive United Kingdom institutions rather than English intuitions, from which Scotland was omitted. Each of the subsequent separations were at the behest of Scotland. 
There is and never was a presumption of an English norm, as you put it, there might have been a presumption of a United Kingdom norm, but that is as separate from an English norm as is a Scottish norm. Whoever norm might be? You have therefore confused England with the United Kingdom by referring to the English norm when really meaning a United Kingdom norm, leaves no place for England.  
In every case it has been Scotland that has chosen to go its own way and when it has it has separated from the United Kingdom never England, Wales or from Northern Ireland. It is the Scottish nationalist feelings that have challenged the concept of the United Kingdom, which is strange considering that in the first place England was taken over by the Scottish King and the two nations were original joined under the Scottish Crown.  
Whatever all this is piffle in any case, if the Scots want independence from the rest of the union then somehow we will have to try to accommodate their wishes. But it will be the rest of the Union who will be doing the accommodating not England.  
I do not know where you have seen the recurring "memes" But they seem to me to be misrepresenting what I have read. It is important in any devolution to try to maintain an equality between the actors, something which you and certainly Scottish Nationalist party at Westminster acknowledge.  
The asymmetrical devolution that has been created was created by a Scottish Prime Minister with a mainly Scottish executive. England does not feature in the devolution process as a nation, only as 9 separate regions. When the Present Scottish Prime Minister talks of the Nations and the regions of the United Kingdom, the Nations are Scotland and Wales and the regions are England, for some reason Northern Ireland is omitted. There is no England as a separate nation distinct from the United Kingdom in the minds of the Scottish administration in Westminster, and that is where you are making your mistake because you cannot continue to refer to England when you are in fact referring to the United Kingdom.

31 March 2008, 20:20:58 GMT+01:00
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Bill (Scotland)
Hi David 
I see what you are driving at, but don't entirely follow your reasoning. Big countries don't feel the need to stress the name of their country all the time - they just are. For example, I don't think most Americans commonly refer to their currency as the 'U.S. Dollar', they just talk about the 'Dollar'. The same goes for all the bodies like the National Trust or the Law Society in England. 
I note, interestingly enough, that one of the institutions you did not mention in your list is the 'Bank of England', the central bank of the UK

31 March 2008, 19:15:39 GMT+01:00