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Why the SNP should run in England

Posted on September 06, 2011 by

As a Scot who’s made their life happily in England for the last 20 years, and also as someone on the liberal half of the political spectrum with friends and acquaintances of a predominantly similar persuasion, there’s a sentence I hear more frequently than any other with regard to politics: “I wish we could vote for the SNP too”.

But it’s not just the material things – the free tuition, the free prescriptions, the free care for the elderly (and the abundance of lovely natural resources) – that my much-beloved and cherished English pals envy.

Most of them DO envy those things, of course, not out of greed or a sense of entitlement but rather because they appreciate a government that prioritises the things its people actually want it to prioritise. Conduct a UK-wide survey asking voters whether, for example, they’d rather their taxes were spent on healthcare or on buying useless weapons of global destruction and sending our young men and women to get killed in their hundreds in foreign wars of dubious legality and vague purpose, and I suspect you’d get a pretty unequivocal answer. But incredibly, there is no electable party south of the border catering to those values.

(The Liberal Democrats pretended to stand for some of them, but abandoned their principles with startling and dismaying speed at the first sign of a ministerial car. Not for nothing was the most-tweeted post-election political joke “Why did Nick Clegg cross the road? Because he said he wouldn’t.”)

There is also considerable – and entirely legitimate – anger about the West Lothian Question. Only this weekend I had to explain the WLQ to an English woman (not an avid follower of politics) who didn’t know that Scottish MPs were allowed to vote on UK Parliament matters solely concerning England and Wales, and who was quite justifiably outraged to discover that the tuition fees imposed on English students alone were only made possible by the votes of Scottish Labour MPs, whose constituents were exempt from paying them.

This double democratic deficit has a simple solution, of course – the end of the Union. Scotland and England could dissolve their increasingly strained and unhappy marriage – in which the partners are held together more by force of law than any common interests or goals – and either become fully separate or participants in a federal New United Kingdom with largely token bonds of unity.

(For the sake of simplicity I’m considering the UK as basically those two nations. Some would argue that that was true anyway, citing Northern Ireland as a province and Wales a principality, but even bypassing that debate NI already has a very separate way of doing things, with its own distinct political parties and structures, and the Welsh can for the purposes of this argument be considered as a region of England, comprising mostly 80-minute/roadsign patriots who show very little appetite for even fairly trivial levels of devolution when it comes to the crunch at the ballot box.)

The English would be freed of the (real) West Lothian injustice and their (perceived) subsidy of the ungrateful Scots – leaving them, they would believe, the extra billions to make their own universities and prescriptions free and so on – whereas the Scots could elect governments more suited to their different political and social culture without having their wishes invariably trampled by the numerically-superior south.

The problem is that there is no way for English voters to express support for these ideas. All three mainstream parties are fanatically pro-Union (though mostly, if pressed on the issue, for largely nebulous reasons), and the likes of the English Democrats and England First are either nutter-fringe outfits, brainless racist thugs or both. Opinion polls consistently show that roughly as many (and sometimes more) English people support an end to the Union as Scots, yet there is nowhere they can put a cross in a box to say so without also backing dim-witted white-supremacist bigots.

Which is why the SNP should put up candidates for English elections.

It’s perhaps important to note at this point that I’m serious. I believe it’s something the Nats should actually do, rather than an abstract debating point. But obviously there would have to be some qualifications. Firstly, the SNP clearly can’t afford to contest every English seat in a General Election, and nor would there be any point in them doing so. But running in a handful of carefully-chosen by-elections offers huge potential benefits, and not just for the party itself.

Picture the scenario. A formerly strong Liberal Democrat seat, somewhere in the south of England, with the Tories in second place and low support for Labour. A Lib Dem vote that is very likely hugely disaffected and angry, and looking for somewhere to go. The chances are that they voted Lib Dem in the first place to keep the Tories out (so they’re not likely to defect in that direction), and that they did so either because Labour had little to no chance of success, or because of an equal antipathy to them.

Straight away there’s plenty of votes to play for, then. And while it might seem counter-intuitive for the SNP to stand in the south of England rather than the more left-wing north, that’s precisely why it would be a good idea. It took Scotland a generation to free itself of the reflexive instinct to turn Labour in times of austerity – even years after Labour had abandoned most of the principles that bred that instinct – and northern England would be starting from cold, making the job much harder.

According to Scottish Vote Compass, though, the policies of the 2010 Lib Dem manifesto are already far closer to the social-democratic SNP’s than those of the Tories or Labour. The party is also already familiar and comfortable with the idea of a federal structure – that being the way in which the Liberal Democrat Party itself is organised in terms of the UK – so switching to the SNP would in many senses be the easiest ideological leap for former LD voters to make.

But the SNP would also have another, slightly less palatable, advantage in a by-election in the south. They might well also attract the votes of disgruntled Daily Mail and Express and Telegraph readers who since 2007 have been fed a constant diet of mendacious anti-Scottish propaganda. The messageboards of those publications overflow with angry readers bitterly bemoaning the “subsidy junkie” Scots and urging them to just get on with it and leave. Given the opportunity of a two-for-one protest against both the whingeing Jocks and the mainstream parties at a time when disillusionment with Westminster politics has never been higher, is it such a stretch to imagine them, too, lending the SNP their vote, even if out of malice?

Disaffected Lib Dems allied awkwardly to the Little Englander brigade would be a formidable electoral presence. But even if we assume that actually winning the election would be a pipe-dream – and indeed even if the SNP candidate lost their deposit – the mere act of standing would bring the SNP media coverage that money couldn’t buy. The subject of the Union would be the hot topic of debate not merely in the wee provinces of the north, but across the national media.

It’s hard to imagine a political operator as savvy as Alex Salmond failing to grasp such a glorious opportunity, and his job would be made easier by the fact that the greater the scrutiny of the relationship between Scotland and England – whether political or economic – the better the outcome tends to be for the SNP. Scotland has the truth on its side when it comes to whether it pays its way in the UK or not, and the Nats also command the moral high ground on the West Lothian Question, with their MPs abstaining on England-only matters in the House Of Commons.

But it’s not only Scotland that would stand to benefit. Salmond’s much-acclaimed appearance on the BBC’s Question Time earlier this year showed that the SNP’s position on subjects like the NHS and PFI carries a lot of traction south of the border too. A more social-democratic agenda being raised and discussed at length could only be good news for those of us down here who currently have no voice in Westminster, if only to remind British people that such voices still exist, such principles are still viable, and that systemically-unequal neoliberal free-market capitalism isn’t the only game in town (as nations like those of Scandinavia ably demonstrate).

English voters are currently starved of meaningful democratic choices, being plagued by three parties that are in most important and practical senses indistinguishable from each other. (All support nuclear weapons and power, all want to persecute welfare recipients, all voted for tuition fees, all are a threat to civil liberties, etc.) The SNP has plenty of cash in its warchest to fight a by-election or two. It’s hard to see what either could have to lose.

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66 to “Why the SNP should run in England”

  1. Toque says:

    Great post.  As an Englisman who did used to vote for the SNP when I lived in Scotland, I regard it as a tragedy that we don't have an equivalent to the SNP in England.

    Of course, many of the faults of the unionist parties are a consequence of their unionism.  British nationalism is not a form of nationalism that puts its people first, it's a nationalism that's a hangover from the age of imperialism that raises the State (The Imperium) above all.

  2. Michele says:

    All English Nationalist parties, whatever they are called or whatever their aspirations will be dismissed by the great and godless as 'racists' – it is a quick and easy way of closing down debate, painting the aspirations of the English are invariably nasty, and ignoring the voice of the people.
    And I am afraid I would not vote for the SNP – I don't like their brand of socialism, and I am not confident in  the long term viability of an economy in which the wealth consumers, (state employment) considerably outnumber their wealth producers (private industry) – it is unsustainable in the long run.

  3. RevStu says:

    The idea that state employment is inherently and necessarily a “wealth consumer” is a baseless and irrational ideological fallacy which is much of the reason for our polarised and dysfunctional society. Indeed, if state businesses weren’t profit-generating there would be no clamour for them to be privatised and no takers when they were.

  4. Nitpicker says:

    Also, private industry would suffer if the population were all uneducated idiots. Either they could only employ uneducated idiots, or they'd move their business elsewhere.
    It also depends on what is meant by "considerably outnumber". In the numbers of people involved, or the value they provide/consume? State revenue is also provided by public activities, such as income tax of the publicly-employed.

  5. Coyote says:

    Really interesting article. It's a fascinating idea, especially as a leftie southerner with no-one left to vote for, although I'm not sure I'd vote SNP as I'm pro-union for what you'd probably consider pretty nebulous reasons (I think nation states are pretty irrelevant geographical and historical hangovers and patriotism is just weird).

    I'm not sure that you're not giving voters too much credit in assuming that Daily Mail types would vote SNP to show their support for splitting up the Union. The cynical side of me can't help but feel that level of nuance is beyond the average voter, and that they wouldn't be able to bring themselve to vote for a party that they fundamentally disagreed with, whether the logic of their choice stands up to scrutiny or not.

  6. jon says:

    Most Scottish people of voting age living in England tend not to be registered, except possibly with methadone clinics / Big Issue offices etc.

  7. English Bugler says:

    Read the article and although I have always advocated closer and mutually beneficial links between all the independence/nationalist parties I do not advocate England becoming a colony of an imperalist Scotland.  Perish the thought.  Maybe that  is the real agenda here, not so much Scottish independence but moreover Scottish Imperialist aims and expansion and a takeover of England.  They already control parliament at  Westminster PLC & NatWest Bank, Sky TV with RBS and Scottish power having significant influence and interest in England,   even British Gas is called Scottish Gas in Scotland but NOT English Gas in England, this and many other leading companies so beware of the 'Scottish Objective' my English friends. I know it sounds incredulous but step back from your disbelief at what I suggest and contemplate the palpable possibilty. THOSE WHO TRUST IN THE DEVIL UNWITTINGLY SELLS THEIR SOUL. Oh and I hate ther flag its ghastly.   

  8. A lot of writing for nothing really.I believe that one of the main reasons for Scottish dissatisfaction of the union is the English have never known how to be British,that is it in a nutshell.English arrogance and ignorance go hand in hand.Sorry for the truth as I see it.Your Charles P.O'Brien.

  9. loiner says:

    I wouldn't vote for the SNP in England  but given the choice I'd definitely vote in favour of Scotland being given independance.  

  10. harry says:

    Don`t know where arrogant and ignorant English are MR P O`BRIEN you obviously don`t know many english people or you wouldn`t make a statement like that.Take those old anglophobic specs off and meet some real ordinary english people you will be surprised.

  11. RevStu says:

    Hello, strange people! Where have you all arrived from, then?

  12. English Bugler says:

    Yes I agree totally with you Charles.  I am English first and foremost and proud of it too.  That is my nationality NOT British as Britain is not a nation but a convenient fusion of royal houses which brought England & Scotland together in an uneasy and  fragile alliance.  I say let Scotland and Wales go independent please, lets leave this marriage of inconvenience and squabbles behind us and embark on a journey towards greater self determination & independence.  I am sincere when I express my affection for the everyday Scotsman & woman as well as the Irish & Welsh but distrust your politicians with the same vigour as I do ours south of Hadrians Wall.  I am not nor never will be anti-Scots/Welsh/Irish or anyone else but just wish the same rights and freedoms for England that others within this pseudo-United Kingdom enjoy.  The constant petty inter-British bickering about North Sea oil, The West Lothian Question, Thatcher, Poll Tax, Culloden, Bannockburn, Braveheart, Barnett Formula etc etc is tedious and tiresome but nonetheless needs to be addressed and the only way is through independence otherwise one side or the other will just persist in airing their grievances and resentments.  Go our own way with Godspeed, respect and friendship before these squabbles evolve into profound emnity & hatred which benefit no-one. Anglia Gloria Infinitum

  13. Hendre says:

    Typical Scottish anti-Wesh bigotry!

  14. RevStu says:

    I think you might have some trouble shaking the Welsh off, EB.

  15. RevStu says:

    "Typical Scottish anti-Wesh bigotry!"

    Not sure I see how. (Nor was I aware that Scottish people disliking the Welsh was a recognised phenomenon.) My comment was merely an observation of the Welsh electorate's extremely lukewarm enthusiasm for devolution, let alone independence.

    The referendum for the creation of the Welsh Assembly passed by the most microscopic margin (50.3% of the vote, with the country split almost exactly geographically down the middle – the side closest to England uniformly voting "No").

    When an extension to its weak powers was again put to the vote last year, a pathetic 35% of the electorate bothered to turn out and express an opinion. At the 2010 General Election just one in nine Welsh voters supported Plaid Cymru, and in the Assembly elections this year Plaid actually came third behind the Tories as the SNP won a landslide in Scotland.

    The idiotic obsession with the dead Welsh language (if it helps, I feel exactly the same about Gaelic) is a cover for the people's cowardice at running their own affairs. They make a big song and dance about being a distinct nation, but when given the chance to make that status meaningful they run away and hide behind England's skirts.

  16. Michael Patterson says:

    It's a pity that there isn't an English civic nationalist party that isn't infested with mouth-foaming racist bigots. If there was a party that stood for English interests out of a love for England rather than a dislike of "Johnny Foreigner" then it would have my absolute support.
    Alex Salmond is not my favourite politician and there are some elements of the SNP that are rabidly anti-English so I wouldn't feel comfortable voting for them if they were to stand in England. However, to the extent to which they raise consciousness of national identity in England, however unintentionally, is the extent to which I thank them.

  17. Raymond Jones says:

    well well, at long last, I suggested this several years ago because I liked Alex Salmond and  his bid for freedom I wrote from yahoo at the time,but one thing spoils it. Alex wants to stay in Europe which means we will be oppressed like we are now. so at the moment I shall stick with UKIP. But I shall continue to keep my eye on this Idea.

  18. RevStu says:

    “there are some elements of the SNP that are rabidly anti-English”

    Which elements would those be?

  19. Michael Patterson says:

    Those elements would be the SNP activists in the vicinity of the Perth Conference Hall at the SNP Conference in October 2010 who noticed the George Cross sticker covering the EU flag on my car number plate, ripped it off and then jostled and verbally abused me when I remonstrated with them RevStu.
    There are similar elements within Plaid Cymru as well. You aren't seriously suggesting that Scottish (and for that matter Welsh) nationalism is devoid of such idiots are you? I am, of course, assuming that they represent a small minority of their compatriots but tha doesn't make it go away or become acceptable in any way.

  20. RevStu says:

    "You aren't seriously suggesting that Scottish (and for that matter Welsh) nationalism is devoid of such idiots are you?"

    No, merely querying whether some twats in the street necessarily count as "elements of the SNP". I've had too many people meet some drunk Scottish dickhead one time and extrapolate that to the actual party. “Elements of nationalism”, sure. But saying “elements of the SNP” makes it sound like you’re talking about MSPs and ministers.

  21. Michael Patterson says:

    If they weren't elements of the SNP they were doing a pretty good impression: banner furling, badge wearing, leaflet distributing etc. They weren't drunk, as far as I am aware, and I wouldn't be so simplistic and prejudiced as to make the extrapolation to which you refer.

  22. RevStu says:

    I just want to make a distinction between supporters and the parliamentary party, is all. I have no doubt whatsoever that with a million voters there are a fair few dicks in there. It’s very harsh judging the party itself on them, though – any party anyone votes for will have plenty dickish supporters, and the SNP is highly inclusive, with English-born MSPs, Muslim MSPs and all sorts.

  23. Michael Patterson says:

    Yes I know. I work in Scotland with organisations which have connections with the Scottish Government. My reservations about the notional idea of voting for the SNP is partly based on the fact that there is insufficient challenge on the part of the SNP to anti English sentiment within some of its rank and file support, which is unacceptable. I was at a conference in Glasgow recently which dealt with a UK Government policy consultation from the DWP which affects Scotland as it is not part of the devolved powers of the Scottish Government. Speaker after speaker decried the notion of "yet another English decision" imposed on Scotland. It wasn't an "English decision", it was a UK Government decision. Unlike Scotland, England doesn't have a Government and it was irritating in the extreme to sit and listen to criticisms of the English. MPs in English constituencies (with very few exceptions) do not represent English interests, they represent UK interests, which are very often different. it's an obvious distinction that seems to be lost to some north of the border and the SNP needs to take a moral stand on things like that but it doesn't. I can't help but think that it's convenient for them not to do so because it suits their agenda, and the failure to take a moral stand on this allows some of their activists to get away with the sort of outrageous prejudice such as that I encountered in Perth.
    As for whether there are anti-English MSPs, I'll need to look into their words and deeds and come to my own conclusions when I have the time to do so.

  24. fred says:

    I want to know why English parties are considered racist when they have non English and non white candidates, do not discriminate against Scots or Welsh and tread with fear at the mention of racism
    Compare this with the way the English are treated north of the border, the fact that we have to pay university fees in Scotland etc, and the SNP carry out overt anti English racism and it becomes evident that the accusation is a political weapon rather than a reality.

  25. RevStu says:

    "I want to know why English parties are considered racist when they have non English and non white candidates, do not discriminate against Scots or Welsh and tread with fear at the mention of racism"

    Well, to have that question answered you're going to have to provide examples of it happening. Got any?

    "the SNP carry out overt anti English racism"

    No they don't. Kindly cite your evidence.

  26. HomeRuleforEngland says:

    "The problem is that there is no way for English voters to express support for these ideas".

    Well there is, but our  political system makes it very difficult. Don't vote for any of the main parties at the GE and vote for an English Nationlist party. Why vote for a foreign nationalist party when you could vote for one of our own?
    I know it's not  that easy. The SNP have got a head start and our corrupt establishment, media and electoral system make it very difficult for other parties.


  27. HomeRuleforEngland says:

    Ref your comment on Fred's comment. Got any evidence for this statement of yours RevStu?
    the likes of the English Democrats and England First are either nutter-fringe outfits, brainless racist thugs or both.

    I am not an English Democrat or member/supporter of any party by the way. I just wondered.

  28. RevStu says:

    Well, Fred spoke of parties which "do not discriminate against Scots or Welsh", so I figured that ruled out the English Democrats:

    PS I do not recommend Googling for “make jock strapped”, as I had to to find that image. Yikes.

  29. romanista says:

    seeing as lots of interesting new people (?) arrive here, this could bw another 50000+ post…
    How devolved would an independent scotland have to be to balance to highlands and the big two cities?

  30. Hendre says:

    The figures re support for devolution speak for themselves but you're not the first Scottish commentator to take a rather ethnocentric view of the differences between Welsh and Scottish nationhood.

  31. daneel says:

    Vote for Mebyon Kernow, that's what I say.

  32. RevStu says:

    "ethnocentric view of the differences between Welsh and Scottish nationhood"

    Not quite sure what you mean by that.

  33. RevStu says:

    "Speaker after speaker decried the notion of "yet another English decision" imposed on Scotland. It wasn't an "English decision", it was a UK Government decision."

    Sure, but the greivance is that by weight of its vastly greater numbers, England IS to all intents and purposes the UK when it comes to government decisions. The people of Scotland have consistently rejected the Tories for a generation (perhaps two generations), but the people of England keep imposing Tory governments on them anyway, by virtue of being easily able to override the votes of the far smaller number of Scots.

    It's not "the people of the UK" who vote Conservative in large numbers, it's the people of England. Your objection is of course technically correct, but a UK Government decision is a de facto English decision almost all of the time.

  34. Hendre says:

    Ethnocentric in the sense that the linguistic/cultural nature of Welsh identity is deemed as not quite matching up to the institutional/constitutional nature of Scottishness hence we are to be likened to a 'region of England'.
    I reckon any good Scottish patriot should take a trip to north Wales to view those Edwardian castles of conquest which bankrupted the English treasury. In those stones lay Scotland's ability to retain her sovereignty until the 18th century.

  35. daneel says:

    A UK government will never be accepted so long as the people of England continue to generally elect parties from the right/centre-right and Scotland and Wales elect parties from the Left. It just breeds resentment. Whichever way is goes, people (with good reason) feel they are having a different countries views opposed on them (usually England's views on Scotlands, due to the disparity in population).
    Like it or not, right now Britain and Britishness doesn't seem to mean a lot to many people any more. The feeling of us being one country or nation appears to be very much diminished.
    England is too big to have her own Parliament, it represents too much of the UK and would treat on Westminsters toe's too much. Just banning Scotland/Wales MPs from certain votes makes more sense but would probably lead to a feeling of exclusion and a two-stream series of MPs. Besides, an English decision does pretty much seem to be a UK decision in reality.
     I think that Blair's government recognized the disparity but the idea of regional assemblies was never going to really fly. English people don't really split themselves along county lines (except perhaps the Cornish and Yorkshiremen), and regions are nebulous things that mean nothing to people.
    Perhaps one idea would be to have full parliaments in all four countries/provinces/principalities/whatever of the UK, and some federal structure above that, akin to the US system of Representatives (which would be dominated by English MPs), and a Senate (where each part has the same voting power).  
    I do wonder how difficult it will be to truly remove Wales from England, they've been basically one state since the 13th century, IIRC. Scotland has always seemed to me to largely do its own thing anyway. Why not properly formalize it?
    What's the point of the UK any more? Culturally we don't feel very connected, and as England and Scotland would both be EU members, freedom to work and travel etc would be pretty unaffected. Plus then as new nations we could give up this idiotic idea of being a world power, reduce the disprortionately large size of our armed forces and spend money on useful things instead of missiles whose only purpose is not to be fired.

  36. RevStu says:

    "Ethnocentric in the sense that the linguistic/cultural nature of Welsh identity is deemed as not quite matching up to the institutional/constitutional nature of Scottishness"

    The idea that Welshness is linguistic while Scottishness is institutional seems rather spurious to me. Particularly given that despite the huge prominence afforded to the Welsh language (ironically, by institutions and constitution), 80% of Welsh people still have no interest in it.

  37. Hendre says:

    Following military conquest all separate polity was ripped out of Wales to all intent and purposes. (The principality stuff is a load of garbage.) Welshness survived as a linguistic/cultural identity up until the end of the 19th century at which point we see the beginnings of institutional/constitutional Wales. The Welsh language isn't afforded huge prominence; it's afforded equality as the language proper of Wales.

  38. Anonymous X says:

    A UK government will never be accepted so long as the people of England continue to generally elect parties from the right/centre-right and Scotland and Wales elect parties from the Left.
    Err, basically every democratic nation ever has regional differences in voting patterns along left and right lines. The UK is absolutely not unique at all in that respect.

  39. RevStu says:

    "The Welsh language isn't afforded huge prominence; it's afforded equality as the language proper of Wales."

    Being treated as the "proper" language (and surely that's something even more than "equal") when four out of five citizens of the land don't speak it seems wildly disproportionate prominence to me. So far as I'm concerned the "proper language" of both Scotland and Wales is English, because it's the primary language used.

  40. RevStu says:

    "Err, basically every democratic nation ever has regional differences in voting patterns along left and right lines"

    If you really want to piss Scottish people off and drive them towards independence, call Scotland a "region". Not only do people take offence at it, it's simply technically incorrect. The UK is a state, England and Scotland are nations, and remained so even after the Act Of Union. Northumberland is not, and judging by the outcome of the only referendum on English regional assemblies, doesn’t want to be either.

  41. Hendre says:

    So far as I'm concerned the "proper law" of Great Britain is English law, because that's the primary law used.
    How would you feel about that statement?

  42. RevStu says:

    I would feel that it wasn't really relevant to what I said, because I said "Scotland and Wales", not "Great Britain". There is no such thing as "British law", so Great Britain isn't a valid entity in the context of law.

  43. Anonymous X says:

    Sorry Stu, wasn't calling Scotland a region or intended to call it thus. I was using the term "regional differences" as a clumsy catch-all term for geographical variations in voting behaviour inside nations, intended to refer to no particular nation as such.

  44. Hendre says:

    But Scots law is an important signifier of Scottish nationhood? You are dismissive of what has been an extremely important (arguably the prime) signifier of Welsh nationhood. That's what I meant by ethnocentric. 

  45. RevStu says:

    Everyone in Scotland abides by Scots law (well, except criminals, but you know what I mean). The huge majority of Welsh people evidently do not consider the Welsh language to be a signifier of their nationhood, or they'd speak it. Everyone in Scotland and Wales (except recent immigrants), including the people who speak Welsh and Gaelic, speaks English.


    Mebyon Kernow fills that role in Cornwall. If only we could get a little more air time in the media and a lot more recognition from our ‘friends’ around the Isles!
    As for England there is a real lack of a left-wing English party. English nationalism is quite depressing to observe.
    The grass roots English regionalists found in Wessex, Mercia and Northumbria have some interesting things to say but seem to garner little support at the moment.
    Wessex Regionalists blog here:
    Its worth noting the federation of democratic nationalists and regionalists that exists in France -Regions et Peuples Solidaire- that regoups parties from Alsace, Occitania, Catalonia, Brittany, Savoie, Basque Country and Corsica. This puts the autonomists in a much stronger position when negotiating with the Greens or Socialists and allows them to cover most of France.
    I believe a similar federation of autonomists is in the offing in Italy.

  47. Hendre says:

    You don't have to speak Welsh to regard it as a signifier of nationhood. At the turn of the 20th century 50% of the population spoke Welsh. It has since come under severe pressure as a result of immigration, mass media and, not least, cultural bullying.
    "Everyone in Scotland and Wales (except recent immigrants), including the people who speak Welsh and Gaelic, speaks English."
    Now you sound like a Daily Mail reader!

  48. RevStu says:

    The Welsh language is VASTLY more protected, promoted and encouraged in law than Gaelic is in Scotland, yet the people still show no interest. I'm not sure the 20% get to claim to be more indicative of "true" Welshness than the 80%. My suspicion is that it declined because it's dead and pointless and most people have far better uses for their time, not because of "cultural bullying".

    I do know all the words to "Hymns And Arias", if it helps any.

  49. Hendre says:

    Your liberalism doesn’t stretch to trying to understand the pressures faced by linguistic minorities? Why would any people regard their language as pointless (or worse), unless of course they are continuously being told by others that it is?
    “I'm not sure the 20% get to claim to be more indicative of "true" Welshness than the 80%.”
    Now you’re venturing into language politics proper!  Tin hats recommended.

  50. RevStu says:

    "Why would any people regard their language as pointless"

    Because it is? If you live in Wales and want to communicate with anyone else in Wales, English will do the job 100% of the time. So there's absolutely no need to spend hundreds of hours learning another language. I can't think of a much better definition of "pointless", personally.

    "Your liberalism doesn’t stretch to trying to understand the pressures faced by linguistic minorities?"

    What "pressures" would those be? We're not talking about Somali refugees struggling to make themselves understood down the Immigration Bureau here, are we? We're talking about people pointlessly trying to keep a useless dead language alive. If you want to do that for fun and laffs, grand, but do it in your own time rather than doubling the cost of every last piece of state administrative infrastructure in order to force it on people who don't give a shit.

  51. Hendre says:

    I could counter that this is a small island and Scots law is 'pointless' and a waste of time.

  52. RevStu says:

    You could, but it would be a really rubbish counter, because (even aside from the fact that proving something else pointless wouldn’t make Welsh any less so) Scots law actively applies to every person in Scotland every single day, and is used instead of English law, rather than existing alongside it and pointlessly duplicating its functions. It therefore requires no extra administration or cost, and excludes no-one. Or in other words, is exactly unlike the Welsh language in pretty much every practical way.

    If people were tried and convicted under Scots law, but then had to be re-tried and re-convicted under English law before they could be sent to jail, you’d have a point. But they aren’t.

  53. Hendre says:

    I wasn't being literal, as I think you know. The Welsh language is our signifier of cultural difference in the same way as Scots law has been a manifestation of Scottish difference down the centuries. You think our difference is rubbish, well, so be it.
    I notice you've opened up a second front over on Betternation. See you there.

  54. RevStu says:

    "You think our difference is rubbish, well, so be it."

    That does seem to be what we've spent the last 20 posts establishing, yes.


  55. DS says:

    A a Scot living in Wales I can categorically inform you that Welsh is not a dead language. My own son speaks it. He's only six so he and the language will probably outlive you RevStu.
    In fact according to Census figures the language is growing both in absolute numbers of speakers and in the proportion of the Welsh population.

  56. RevStu says:

    I didn’t say nobody was speaking it, I said the language was dead, which it certainly is. People still speak Aramaic and Latin, but they’re as dead as The Innocent Derek Bentley. I hope your son doesn’t grow up to wish he’d spent his time learning something useful.

  57. EM says:

    Stu,I think you're being rather mischievous here. Welsh, though a minority language, is categorically not dead, and cannot be said to be so when it is the native tongue of hundreds of thousands of people.
    I do see where you're coming from when you suggest that Welsh is practically pointless, since all first-language Welsh speakers grow up to be bilingual and can therefore make themselves understood in shops and at work. However, I would suggest that such a view negates the cultural importance of a language. Many people identify themselves through the Welsh language, and it necessarily informs their view of the world. The fact that it's easier to speak English when you're in Cardiff or Newport doesn't negate this fact.
    Hence, 'Welshness' becomes more of a cultural signifier, even if, for many people, it's apparently not so much of a political one.

  58. Tom K. says:

    I suspect that, if a survey was conducted, more people who self-identify as Welsh would find the Welsh language pointless than people who self-identify as Scot would identify Scot's law as pointless.
    It is a living language that is getting more popular over time.  However, the immense effort being put into this makes the gains insignificant.  Why the hell do you need, for example, road marking in both languages when there are virtually 0 Welsh monoglots, and Welsh speakers make up just over 1/5 of the country?  I understand the concept that it is part of Welsh pride, but clearly it's the kind of pride where you don't really want to actually be involved in doing it: so you could be equally proud of it if it was entirely historical.

  59. Tom K. says:

    In colloquial Welsh, possessive pronouns … are commonly reinforced by the use of the corresponding personal pronoun after the noun or verbal noun: ei d? e "his house" (literally "his house of him").

    To be honest, that is pretty awesome.  Awesome enough to post on Stu's blog of Stu.

  60. RevStu says:

    "It is a living language that is getting more popular over time.  However, the immense effort being put into this makes the gains insignificant. "

    This is the thing. Quite apart from the rights and wrongs of pissing money up the wall in times like these, and quite apart from the damage being done to the prospects of kids by wasting their time learning an utterly pointless language rather than something useful, a language which needs countless millions of pounds of aggressive state spending on it to keep it going is clearly not "alive" in any true sense.

    As a professional communicator, it shames me that I can barely find the words to express my contempt for anyone who places barriers in the way of communication. I feel just as strongly about the idiotic steps being made to revive Gaelic and "Scots" in Scotland at state expense, it's just that it's so much worse in Wales so I tend to pick on them.

    We have enough fucking ways to misunderstand and misinterpret each other as it is. We already have a language in the UK that every single citizen speaks. We not only don't need another one, it's a source of division and distrust and even hatred. We might as well give the BNP a public grant.

  61. Tom K. says:

    Bold suggestion: instead of learning Welsh, schoolchildren in Wales learn Latin.

    It's a far more useful language and will amusingly allow them to compete with kids from private schools in a way that will probably get the Daily Mail scared about house prices.

  62. lothian says:

    Michael Patterson claims that there are rabid anti-English elements withing the SNP. A polular myth south of the border, but complete and utter rubbish. I simply do not beleive he was set upon by SNP badge wearing leafletters. Nonsense.
    If this 'incident' had been reported to the police it would have been front page news in Scotland. It was not, of course. Because it didnt happen.
    The SNP have many English members, among them English MSPs and councillors. If he'd made that statement in 1971 or something, there may have been an element of truth in the claim. But since then, the rogue element has been well and truly weeded out. It saddens me that people feel they need to make up tales to further their point.

  63. Hendre, 7 September 2011 at 1:04pm writes –
    'So far as I'm concerned the "proper law" of Great Britain is English law, because that's the primary law used.'
    The following extracts from the 'Kilbrandon Report'
    '74. …By the time of the Union a well-defined and independentsystem of Scottish law had been established. This was recognised in the Union settlement, which provided for the preservation of the separate code of Scots law and the Scottish judiciary and legal system. Under Article XIX the two highest Scottish courts – the Court of Session and the High Court of Justiciary – were to continue, and were not to be subject to the jurisdiction of the English courts. These bodies have remained respectively the supreme civil and criminal courts in Scotland, while beneath them there is a completely separate Scottish system of jurisdiction and law courts, with a justiciary, advocates and solicitors, none of whom are interchangeable with their English counterparts…
    76. …Nevertheless the two systems remain separate, and – a unique constitutional phenomenon within a unitary state – stand to this day in the same juridical relationship to one another as they do individually to the system of any foreign country.'
    That was written nearly 40 years ago – and its still true today.
    What do you mean by 'because that's the primary law used'? – not in Scotland it isn't. Scots law is Civil Law whereas English law is Common Law

  64. a supporter says:

    C’mon Rev Stu and some others. I am Scottish and to suggest Welsh is a dead language is absolute nonsense.

    Recent surveys on the language show that:
    1. Welsh is spoken throughout Wales, even in English border towns.
    2. There are: 740,000 Welsh speakers(2004–2014)in Wales, ie 25% of 3m population of whom 16% consider themselves fluent in.(2004–2006)

    It is no more dead than many languages in Europe which are still used at the household level. You’ll be arguing next that Lallans, the local dialect of Glasgow and Edinburgh which nigh on 3m Scots use is dead just because we can all speak Lallans and English.

  65. jockmcx says:


  66. jockmcx says:


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