Brown's 'festival of Britishness' idea runs into a storm of criticism

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English politicians accused the Chancellor of a "transparent" attempt to overcome his electoral handicap of being a Scottish MP, after his passionate appeal for Britons to "embrace the Union flag".

And the reaction in Scotland was hardly more positive, as nationalists seized on the proposals and accused Mr Brown of denying his own roots.

Mr Brown's first major speech of 2006 was intended to set out how the country could celebrate a confident, new patriotism in an age of diverse backgrounds and cultures.

One proposal was for a "unifying, commemorative, dignified ... expression of British ideas" to take place on Remembrance Sunday.

While the idea was welcomed in most quarters, including by Muslim leaders and some Tories, Alex Salmond, leader of the SNP, delivered an acid reminder that not all Britons wished to celebrate their shared identity.

He said a "British Day" would turn into a "flag-waving jamboree" and that the concept of Britishness "went bust long ago".

Sir John Major said the motives were"transparent". "He seems not to mention that many of the actions of the present Government have ruptured Britishness by their own legislation."