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QUHAT ABOOT THE INGLIS?
(WHAT ABOUT THE ENGLISH?)
THE TREATY of Union in 1707 united the Scottish and English parliaments. This treaty proclaimed that ‘the Two Kingdoms of England and Scotland shall… forever be United into One Kingdom by the name of GREAT BRITAIN.’ For well over a century, however, Scots patriots have been calling for the return of Scottish home rule in some form.
This dream became a reality on May 6th 1999, when the people of Scotland voted to re-establish a Scottish parliament. On the same day, by a much narrower margin, Welsh voters agreed to establish a devolved Assembly to administer the Principality’s affairs. Now devolution has even returned to Northern Ireland, with the establishment of a precarious multi-party Executive in which ‘former’ terrorists sit as colleagues alongside their erstwhile targets. In Scotland and Wales, Westminster retains the final say. Ulster, however, is semi-detached from the rest of the United Kingdom by the presence of cross-border bodies with executive powers (CroBiEPs). Sovereignty there is effectively shared with the government of the Irish Republic.
In the face of such dramatic change in the political structure of the United Kingdom we are entitled to ask, 'what about the English? It seems to me that the English often conflate ‘English’ and ‘British’. This has always annoyed Scots, Welsh and Ulsterfolk who don’t want to be thought of as some quaint, colourful appendage of a Greater England. When Margaret Thatcher took power, though, she alienated most Scots from all things British. Today it seems that - except for Ulster unionists and Afro-Caribbean immigrants and their descendants - no-one really calls themselves ‘British’ anymore. A sign of this new legacy was when Scots fans booed ‘God Save the Queen’ during a recent football match against England at Wembley. As Scotland’s new institutions develop it is likely that Scotland and England will grow further apart. This is more likely to happen if NuLab control freaks like Tony Blair attempt to impose their will on the Scottish parliament.
So, what about the English? I fear that there is a grave danger of resentment building up in England over the so-called ‘West Lothian question’. This deals with the fact that the MP for West Lothian in Scotland can vote for a policy that affects the lives of people in England while a member for an English constituency has no right to vote on any internal Scottish matter.
As an Ulsterman, I have no personal axe to grind on the matter but it does seem to me that England has been short-changed here. The balance could be adjusted by reducing the number of Scottish, Welsh and Ulster MPs entitled to sit in the ‘imperial’ parliament or by banning them from discussing or voting on ‘England only’ matters. It would be a start, I suppose, but it still sells England short.
The only answer is to seek a ‘velvet divorce’ for England. There are already encouraging signs that English national consciousness is re-emerging. The Cross of St George flag is becoming more common. The old British imperialist epithet, ‘Little Englander’ is now almost a badge of honour for critics of European integration and Britain’s new role as a military crusader for the ‘New World Order’. Tony Blair feels compelled to impose the will of the ‘international community’ on villains and monsters wherever they may be found in the world. He wants to make the United Kingdom into a ‘bridge’ between Europe and America, or is that an airstrip? Airstrip One!
If England is to have a different future it ought to have its own government restored. Let Wales, Scotland and Ulster make their own way in the world. Independence for England! Now that’s a good slogan.
A THIRD WAY FOR ULSTER
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