Monday 26 December 2011

How to save the Union

I'm not saying that one should or shouldn't want to save the Union but simply explaining how it could be saved. And this is the only way.

Back in May I wrote this:

I have no doubt at all that most nationalists are motivated by questions of identity, not finance. Of course it helps their case if the economics look good but what they are working towards is for Scotland to be a normal country.

It really is rather unusual for somewhere to have its own national legal system, its own national Church, its own national sporting teams and representation, and almost all of the other attributes of nationality and yet not be independent. That's what motivates the SNP, not whether an independent Scotland would be richer or poorer.

It's a question of identity, and nothing else. Forget all about oil, not to mention Barnett and GERS.

Five years ago I had this to say:

Everything would be much clearer if the SNP were known as the Scottish Normalcy Party instead of the Scottish National Party. Almost all Scots, nationalist or otherwise, get extremely upset about what I call The Presumption of the English Norm. For example, there are apparently several countries in which one can look up "British Embassy" in the local phone book (and in the local language) and find no entry. It's under "English Embassy", even when the language in question has a word for "British". And given that the Bank of "England" hasn't been renamed makes me think that Gordon Brown could be an SNP agent. I don't believe that our southern friends have any idea how annoying this kind of thing is, but imagine how they would feel if the rest of the world used the word "French" to mean "English".

If you visit the country where the locals speak Japanese, the government is known as the Japanese government, and the country is called - wait for it - "Japan". The country where folk speak French is ruled by the French government and it's called "France". It's the same almost everywhere. So it follows that the country where people speak English is ruled by the English government and is called "England", does it not? Well, no, it doesn't. But most of the world, including most English people, talks as if that were so. Well then, why does this happen?

I think that it's all to do with the language of Britain - the UK actually - being called "English" rather than "British". This would be less of an issue if it weren't for the fact that English is also the language of the world's most powerful nation, of science, of business, of finance and also of the Internet. That linguistic domination continuously reminds the rest of the world of the concept "England", while millions of Scots keep shouting: "You mean Britain."

Some of us like myself put up with this while still being annoyed and just accept that the UK is a very unusual country - one that is a multinational state. (Confusingly, the US is a multi-state nation.) But for many Scots this issue is all consuming, and more than anything else in politics they want to live in a "normal" country. So what's normal?

Back when the SNP was founded "normal" meant independent, like Norway or Switzerland today. But most countries in Europe are now members of the EU - that's the new norm, however much we may dislike it. And that's why the SNP wants Scotland to join the EU. It doesn't matter to them if it all leads to a federal superstate - or worse, a non-federal superstate - as long as Scotland has the same status as everywhere else. While Scotland remains an invisible part of a country known to most of the world as "England", membership of the EU is seen as a better option by members of the SNP - the Scottish Normalcy Party.

All of that remains true and answers the perennial question about why Scotland might wish to leave the British union only to join a European one.

So, if the British establishment wishes to save the Union, and it does for they are far better informed than the English blogosphere, what needs to be done is clear. And nothing else will do the job.

There must be a joint announcement by David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg.

With immediate effect any public servant or MP who uses the term "England" when they mean "Britain" or the "United Kingdom" will be dismissed on the spot, without compensation, and with loss of all pension rights. This will obviously also apply to those employed by quangos, especially by the BBC. The Bank of England will be renamed the Bank of the United Kingdom.

Any foreign government getting it wrong will find that diplomatic recognition will be removed for one month for every offence. If M Sarkozy refers to the UK as "England", we will call France "Bretagne". Should President Obama get it wrong, we'll start to call the US "North Dakota". But if Ron Paul gets elected and makes a mistake we'll give him a second chance...

So, is all of this going to happen?

I don't think so, and that's why I expect to be a holder of a Scottish passport in the not too distant future.


Bill said...

Been indulging in a few too many snowballs over the festive season? Sorry to be blunt, but this seems like the classic 'Scottish cringe'. In your earlier post you mention " For example, there are apparently several countries in which one can look up "British Embassy" in the local phone book (and in the local language) and find no entry. It's under "English Embassy", even when the language in question has a word for "British"  
- I think if you are going to make sweeping statements like that you need to be able to name at least one such country. I have lived in something like 11 different countries, and visited many more on business and for leisure purposes and have not observed this in any local telephone directory. Obviously to comply with your worldview "Scotland Yard" will have immediately to be renamed "United Kingdom Yard", much less euphonious I think. And that well-know Spanish department store will obviously require to restyle itself "El Corte Reino Unido", or the Jenner's equivalent in Paris where I had my suits made as "Old United Kingdom".  
Let's hope a referendum, fairly worded and administered, is carried out sooner rather than later so that the view of most Scots (that they want to remain a constituent part of the UK) can be heard formally and the 'Scottish cringe' SNP brigade can at last be told where to get off.  
Cordially - and a Guid New Year to you and yours when it comes

Originally posted 26th December 2011

Chris Rowe said...

Actually, rather than referring to Britain as England, a more common but similar egregiousness is to refer to England as Britain.  Both Cameron and Brown have specialised in this, mainly for the purpose of hiding the effects of devolution (often from those in England rather than those in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland).  Cameron recently for example promised to protect "the beautiful British landscape" which  "is a national treasure".  There is only one problem with this: he only has the power to do so in England.

Originally posted 26th January 2011

TiiBrice said...

As Chris says, it is more likely to be the other way around. Our politicians refuse to say England, instead they say 'this country' or 'the country' deliberately trying to imply the whole UK is affected when they talk about £9,000 tuition fees or abolition of ema or the health service or education knowing full well that most of what the UK Government including it's 119 Celtic MPs has any control over nowadays is only England.  
Yet again this is an article which is suggesting how to keep the Scots happy so they won't want to leave this so called union, which they won't. When are the politicians and the media going to get it? The Scots won't be the ones who break up the union, it will be the long neglected, unrepresented and constantly discriminated against English.

Originally posted 27th December 2011

David Farrer said...

Hello Bill.  
No snowballs but Santa Sainsbury has delivered a few bottles of wine...  
The bit about the English Embassy was from a letter in the Scotsman a while back. But the use of the term "England" to mean the UK is widespread is it not? Only last week an Italian colleague was telling us over the Christmas lunch that her family always talk about her as the daughter who lives "in England", no matter how many times she corrects them and no matter how many times they visit her here in Edinburgh. I've come across this sort of thing so many times.  
There's no reason why Scotland Yard should be renamed as it has historical Scottish connections. In the same way it would be silly to call for the renaming of London Road in Glasgow or Edinburgh. The roads in question do indeed lead to London. El Corte Ingles is a private company and can call itself what it wants. I'll probably be drinking some English beer in an hour and have absolutely no objection to it being so described. That's what it is. The Bank of England is quite a different matter. Its current role is that of the Central Bank of the UK (not that there should be one of course) and it should be described properly.  
The point of my post was to suggest how the Union could be saved, not whether it should be saved. I really do believe that proper branding of British national institutions would need to be at the core of such a strategy.  
My own position on the Union is ambivalent. Coming from both an English and Scottish background I have considerable affection for the UK, every county of which I've visited. I strongly disapprove of the nanny statism of the Salmond government although it's good to see considerable Scottish criticism of that.  
Part of me would like to see us have a go at independence just to see what happens, but my own preference remains the one I laid out in 2003:  
But David Cameron and co haven't got the wit to carry it out, have they?  
Happy New Year when it comes. 

Originally posted 27th December 2011

Daggs said...

That mate is just about the most tartan view of the UK's perception i've ever seen.  
Had you been referring to around 1914, when the Hun would talk of Englanders, but of course should have said Britishers. Well i could have sympathised with you.  
However in the here and now you are as innacurate as it's possible to be.  
It's England that doesn't exist. As other respondants have said, politicians in Westminster all fail to use the word England. Despite often debating purely English issues.  
We have no parliament, no recognition, nothing. We're the nation the Brits forgot (deliberately)  
You mentioned Sainsbury's. Take a close look next time you're in there. You'll find Scottish produce displaying the Saltire. Welsh produce displaying the dragon and English produce disguised with a Union flag. Country life used to sell English butter with a Cross of St George on it. They changed it to a Union flag and called it British butter, because the Scots refused to buy it.  
You have Age Scotland, Wales has Age Cymru, There's Age N.Ireland we have Age UK. You have Keep Scotland tidy, we have Keep Britain tidy. The Scottish NHS the Welsh NHS the N.Ireland NHS and not forgetting the NHS. There's The Scottish Labour party, the Welsh Labour party and.........have you guessed it yet? The Labour party.  
I could go on.............and on and on and on and on. The list is endless.  
The fact is, you are highlighting a few foreigners who have failed to distinguish between the nations of the (dis)United Kingdom. But please don't go wandering off thinking the English don't know the diiffrence. We know only too well, it becomes clearer by the day.  
Scottish Independence.........bring it on.

Originally posted 27th December 2011

Guest. said...

Are the SNP good for Scotland?  64 Scottish pound question.

Originally posted 27th December 2011

Simon Jster said...

'we will call France "Bretagne" '  
Brittany is a relatively small part of France. How about "The Holy Roman Empire"? - historically, reasonably accurate, but I suspect that the association with Germany would stick in the French craw.  
'Only last week an Italian colleague was telling us over the Christmas lunch that her family always talk about her as the daughter who lives "in England" '  
Which part of Italy? Northern and Southern Italy are notorious for loathing each other far more vehemently than Northern and Southern Britain.

Originally posted 27th ecember 2011

Davd Farrer said...

My Italian colleague is from Bologna.

Originally posted 27th December 2011

Davd Farrer said...

Hello Daggs,  
As far as the rest of the world is concerned England is the name of the UK. We’re not talking about a “few” foreigners.  
You are correct to say that politicians in Westminster (generally) fail to use the word England. Other than the Scottish and Welsh nationalists of course. The BBC usually gets it wrong as well.  
As far as private companies like Sainsbury’s are concerned they should be allowed to brand their products as they wish (subject to accuracy). If they piss off English customers in the way you’ve described they’ll suffer in the marketplace and rightly so. I don’t know for sure but I’d be amazed if many Scots refused to buy Country Life butter because it is English. There are plenty of obviously English products on sale here without any problems that I can see.  
My own accent is usually deemed to be English, although I was born in Scotland and live here. That’s because in between I spent most of my life in England (which I like). I’ve never detected any anti-Englishness directed to myself but that’s probably because I never fail to get the terminology of England and Scotland correct.

Originally posted 27th December 2011

Home Rule for England said...

This will continue until the British Government, media and others recogise that England is a nation. David Cameron talks about the NHS in this country or this country's education when he means the English NHS and English education. Gordon Brown referred to Magna Carta as British!!!  The BBC has history programmes which give an account of the English monarchy from William I through Henry VIII and on but make no mention of Scottish Kings of the same period. How can a history off Britain exclude Scottish history and treat English history as though it is British history? How can foreigners be expected to get it right when the British PM and the BBC are apparently confused?  
It will never change. There are two many vested interests in retaining the Union. I say vote for independence. Let England Scotland Wales and N.Ireland be independent!

Originally posted 27th December 2011

Home Rule for England said...

As an English nationalist I believe England should declare independece and leave the UK. Scotland Wales and N.Ireland must do as they wish, but their future should not involve England

Originally posted 28th December 2011

Davd Farrer said...

Home Rule,

I agree with your observations on the confusions.

I do wonder about Northern Ireland. Its cultural, historic, religious and geographic connections are with Scotland rather than with England. But the idea sometimes mooted that NI may become part of an independent Scotland is of course ridiculous. Should Scotland become independent, would a "Rest of the UK" dominated by England want to continue with the NI union? Probably not. And would NI want to be in such a union? Logically it should then join the South but I fully understand the difficulties involved. And then there's Wales. The best hope for all of us is to realise that a small state (of whatever nationality) is the way to go. Quite a few of us up here are advocating just that for Scotland.

Originally posted 27th December 2011

Barry (The Elder) said...

The Bank of England to become the Bank of the UK!! ok fair doo's. We shall now rename the Royal Bank of Scotland.. The Royal Bank of England, being as the English taxpayer holds 54% of shares

Originally posted 27th December 2011

Davd Farrer said...


RBS is still a PLC and its name needn't reflect the nationality of its shareholders. The Bank of England is quite different, being a Central Bank owned by taxpayers.

For the record, I wouldn't have bailed out the shareholders or bondholders of RBS, HBoS, Northern Rock, or any other private company were I to have been a British or indeed a Scottish Chancellor. I wouldn't even have bailed out the depositors (of which I am one). However it's worth noting that the internationally accepted principle is that each government bails out the banking operations in its own territory, not those of companies having brass plates there. So back in 2008 an independent Scotland would have been expected to have bailed out the Scottish operations of RBS and HBoS (should that have been necessary) but not RBS and HBoS operations in the City of London.

Originally posted 27th December 2011

Richard Thomson said...

L'inglese dell'anno é….uno scozzese. The Times, il quotidiano dell'establishment inglese, ha scelto il premier scozzese Alex Salmond come uomo dell'anno 2011.

QED, I think...

Originally posted 28th December 2011