Fascinating piece by Peter Jones in the Scotsman in which he highlights how Tory newspapers sowed a senior discontent not simply with the Scots, but with the United Kingdom:
…the advent of devolution is one of the factors which appears to have contributed to this rising discontent. The fact that it has appeared some 13 years after devolution first occurred is most likely due to recession. The media in England regularly feed their audiences with a diet of stories about the better deal that Scots appear to be getting with devolution – free care for the elderly, no university tuition fees, free prescriptions, etc.
That didn’t seem to matter so much when the economy was happily chuntering forward and public spending was rising. But now that the economy has slumped and looks to be stuck in a bit of a rut, while public spending is being cut and services withdrawn, there is bound to be some southern resentment that the Scots still seem to be getting plenty of fat.
But he also highlights some wilful ignorance of Englands own profound distrust of London (if you’re reading this from outside Dublin, you may have a native understanding of that feeling):
But there are other factors upsetting the English. One is the EU. No less than 27 per cent of English voters think that the EU has most influence over the way England is run, and only 1 per cent think it should have any influence. Comparing this finding with other survey work undertaken in Europe, the IPPR finds that the English appear to be alone in Europe in their degree of hostility to the EU.
A second factor is distrust of London. I spent ten years covering Scotland and the north of England for the Economist. One thing that surprised me was the similarity of belief in both Scotland and northern England that the UK government was dominated by its concern for the voters of London and south-east England. There was a shared dislike of perceived south-eastern arrogance which you could find in Northumbria and Cornwall.
Not surprisingly, when you dig down through the IPPR report, you find that around four-fifths of English voters reckon that some parts of England are looked after better than others, with London and the south-east being seen as the main beneficiaries. And when you consider what might be the political answer that would deal with that problem, it is not at all clear why it would be an English parliament or even voting on English-only matters at Westminster being confined to English MPs.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty