Monday 23 December 2019

"F off Scotland"

There was a football match between England and Scotland sometime in 2014. The England fans sang “F off Scotland”. Did they think they were helping the cause of UK unity or hindering it? Did they think at all? It’s an attitude that I come across more regularly now. I’m quite sure it’s a minority view. But it is becoming commonplace to meet English people who have become hostile to Scotland remaining a part of the UK or at best indifferent. The SNP have been very careful over the years to annoy the English. They have succeeded. But it strikes me as just a little unthinking for English people to fall for this trick.

It is perfectly natural to be hurt by how the SNP have been trying to break up our country. When a husband tells his wife he no longer loves her and wants a divorce it is natural for the wife to be angry and to tell him to “F off then”. But we are not in that situation. Scotland did not reject the UK in 2014. We reaffirmed our marriage vows. The SNP represent a minority of Scots. They have a lot of seats and they have a leader who is on television a lot. But they still lost the only vote that mattered in 2014 by a large margin.

There is justified resentment in England about devolution. It is obviously unjust that Scotland has devolution while England does not. English people can justly complain that their taxes subsidise Scotland and they only get insults in return. It’s worth remembering however, that unless you live in London or the South East your region is subsidised by the UK Government too. This is how successful countries are run. Germans didn’t complain about the cost of subsidising East Germany when they reunited. This is because they were all Germans, fellow countrymen who had a shared history and identity. So do we. Don’t help Scottish nationalists separate what is essentially the same.

Few English people are really English nationalists. There is no successful party that represents these views. But English people do lash out with momentary lapses into nationalism. It’s understandable that football fans should do so. But it is just as stupid and harmful when it comes from an MP. You might get a moment of satisfaction by metaphorically saying “F off Scotland”, but you damage our shared country by making it more likely that Scotland eventually will achieve independence. How do you suppose the average Scottish voter is likely to respond to being told by an English person that he is indifferent to the continuation of the UK or that he would really prefer it if Scotland just left? Would such a voter be more or less likely to support the UK?

The support of ordinary British citizens across the UK is absolutely crucial to maintaining the unity of our country. This was ably demonstrated in Canada a few years ago. On two occasions Quebec had a vote for independence. On the second occasion the separatists almost won. But Canadians from across Canada had come together to show support for Canadian unity. There were huge demonstrations of support for Quebec remaining an integral part of Canada. There is no doubt that this positive support influenced some people in Quebec. Given the closeness of the result, it may well have been decisive.

Canadians realised that their country would be diminished if it lost the huge chunk of territory that makes up Quebec and the people who live there. It is vital that everyone in the UK realises that we all would be diminished by Scottish independence. English nationalists may think we’d be all right. But would you?

What flag would you fly over the Houses of Parliament? It could hardly be the Union Flag. The Scottish Saltire is a part of that flag and would have to be removed. Would it be the Cross of St George then? What about Wales and Northern Ireland then?
Do English nationalists really want to go down the route of separating their country from Northern Ireland and Wales? Would you like to do this at the same time as separating from Scotland? This strikes me as all rather complex. You end up with a rather oddly shaped part of an island in the North Sea. Who would take such a place seriously?

If on the other hand England Wales and Northern Ireland stuck together what would this place be called? What would be its common identity? It couldn't be British, because North Britain would be gone. It couldn’t be called Great Britain as this includes Scotland. It couldn’t be called the United Kingdom. What would you call the place where you live “Little Britain” or the “Disunited Kingdom”? “F off Scotland” begins to look rather foolish doesn’t it?

The greatness of Britain has only been achieved since we have been united. Prior to that we fought amongst ourselves and this hindered our development. Our common identity as British people and the things that our country is most famous for have all been achieved as one United Kingdom. Would you really throw all this away for the momentary satisfaction of telling Nicola Sturgeon to “F off”?

People rightly across the UK support Gibraltar remaining British. It’s something we are all concerned about, because the people there want to remain British.  We fought for Northern Ireland’s right to stay British so long as that was what the majority wanted. Yet perversely some English people say they would look on with a complete lack of concern as our island was partitioned. This would not be the loss of a tiny rock at the bottom of the Iberian Peninsula.  Losing Scotland would mean losing one third of the UK’s territory and one tenth of its people. It would bring to an end three hundred years of history and do to us what no war has been able to do before now. Other countries fight to keep uninhabited islands, while some English people are happy to see our country break in two. It’s so much fun telling the Scots where to get off. But I’m sorry folks, it is childish, it is unpatriotic and it is downright not how British people behave. If this is the way you think, you should be ashamed of yourself. You are doing the SNP’s job for them. 

The folly is that we have potentially a great new future to look forward to. Brexit provides Britain with a new role. But it requires our unity. If we start fighting amongst ourselves, how will we have the energy to grasp that future? When the UK became united we ceased looking inward and instead looked outward. It is this and this alone that enabled a rather small island to become a great power. Brexit gives us the chance again, but only if we remain together. We can become a beacon of free trade that welcomes the world. But if we were to break up, that same world would shake its head at our folly. You couldn’t even keep your small island together. Who would take such a place seriously?

Above all else English people must not imitate Scottish nationalism. They must help us defeat it. We need you. In the coming years, the help of Pro UK Brits from all over the UK will be decisive in keeping the UK united. I can understand the temptation to say “F off” to the SNP. But this is what they want you to say. The unthinking may not understand this, but far too many intelligent English people don’t understand it either.