Let the slogan be: independence for England

The English could benefit from Scottish devolution too, argues Alex Salmond

Share
Related Topics
In a recent opinion poll for the Glasgow Herald, 78 per cent of those questioned saw themselves as Scottish first and British second. This week the Herald published the equivalent poll for England. Fifty one per cent saw themselves as British first.

I suspect that for many in England, the terms "British" and "English" are interchangeable, but in Scotland there is no such confusion. As a nation we have our own legal system, our own established church, our own banks, our own football team and our own administrative structures for health and education. The only appurtenance of statehood that we lack is our own parliament.

The eruption of the constitutional debate at Westminster in the early part of this year has simply brought home to England an issue that has been raging in Scotland for 28 years. Constitutional change was forced on to the Scottish political agenda in 1967 when Winnie Ewing won a celebrated by-election at Hamilton for the Scottish National Party. The SNP has kept the matter near to the boil since then.

Labour has had a commitment to some form of "home rule" for Scotland for over 100 years, but despite its presence in government on several occasions this century, it has failed to honour the pledge. In the 1970s the SNP had 11 MPs, but even that did not result in successful change - the now notorious 40 per cent rule devalued the positive outcome of a referendum and the "winter of discontent" swept a Tory government to power, headed by a prime minister who handbagged any talk of constitutional change and U-turned the Tories against it.

Yet the issue has not gone away. Forty-seven per cent of Scots now strongly or slightly favour an independent state. And the same poll that produced that result indicated that 25 per cent of English voters felt the same. It is surely time to examine one aspect of Scottish independence that has not been adequately considered - independence for England.

For independence for England would be the outcome of independence for Scotland. The dissolution of the United Kingdom would not leave England as the inheritor of the mantle of a somewhat lesser Britain. Two new states would be created, each of which would have the obligations of successors and each of which would occupy new seats in the European Union, at the United Nations and in other bodies throughout the world.

Economically, Scotland would be one of the richest nations in Europe. It would certainly have the largest energy reserves of any European state. But England would not be poor. It has considerable natural resources, a large and relatively highly educated population and increasingly strong export industries. It is also a world financial centre. England will be well able to stand on her own two feet.

In adopting that position England will also be able to look - for the first time in 300 years - at her own needs and her own wishes. The hangover of Empire has lasted for too long and the spiv, Europhobe culture of the modern Tory party is simply the latest and brashest expression of a type of imperial and imperious nationalism that is far less palatable than the moderate, inclusive left-of-centre variety espoused by the SNP. Without the need to posture before the world - and before Europe - England can consider anew the proper and most productive policies for a small but populous nation on the edge of Europe as we enter the 21st century.

Independence for England can be an invigorating blast of common sense, forcing upon the country a need to renew its national perspectives and develop its international alliances. One of these would undoubtedly be with Scotland, its closest neighbour and firm friend. The ties between the nations would be of family and shared experience, and the future relationship would be one marked by common interest and common concerns.

Perhaps England could do with such an ally. Scotland again could be the bridge to a better understanding of other European nations. Scotland as an independent cohabitee of these islands can render England infinitely better service than as a surly lodger.

Independence for England is a good slogan. It would be even better as a sensible policy within the British mainstream, for it can deliver a better England as well as a better Scotland.

The author is leader of the SNP and MP for Banff and Buchan.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an excellent, large partially ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Primary Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Ashdown Group: Lead Web Developer (ASP.NET, C#) - City of London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Lead Web Develo...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: Science versus religion in the three-parent baby debate

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
Kylie has helped to boost viewing figures for the talent show  

When an Aussie calls you a ‘bastard’, you know you’ve arrived

Howard Jacobson
Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee