Poll reveals growing rejection of ‘Britishness’ in England

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By a Newsnet reporter

A YouGov poll carried out last month has found British identity is fading in England as the number of people in England who would now choose describe themselves as English rather than British has risen to 63%, as opposed to 41% in 2008.

The YouGov poll also discovered that only 20% of the UK population chose a British identity to any other, down from 42% three years ago.

The figures indicate that English nationalism is growing while Scottish nationalism has become the established political government in Scotland.

The YouGov poll involved 1,700 adults around Britain, 2 per cent said they were “mainly” European, 19% said British, 1% said Irish, 5% Welsh, 8% Scottish and 63% said English. In 2008, asked which best described how people felt about themselves, 42% said British, 1% said Irish, 4% Welsh, 8% Scottish and 41% said English.

It’s being claimed by some that the increase in ‘Englishness’ has been fuelled partly by resentment about perceived Scottish “freebies”, involving university tuition fees, soon to rise to £9,000 a year in England.

Campaigners for a separate English Parliament say this is yet further evidence there is currently a major sea change in national identity surfacing across England and calls for an English “parliament” are growing ever louder.

Labour MP Frank Field has now tabled a parliamentary motion calling for the pros and cons of a devolved English chamber to be examined.

Mr Field said: “I was against devolution but once it went through, it seems to me the issue is unfinished. And the people being under-represented are the English, simply because they are the biggest group. I would have thought the next stage is for an English parliament, with a Federal parliament for the UK which undertakes collective action.”

UKIP has become the first party to officially voice its support for the creation of an English parliament.

Paul Nuttall MEP, deputy leader of UKIP, said: “We believe the current situation is unfair to the English. There is a clear democratic deficit. If we continue down this road the Union will splinter and we believe that to preserve the Union we need to move to a federal system. The English want equality and we believe that comes in the guise of a parliament.”

Eddie Bone of the Campaign for an English Parliament said: “People may not understand the Barnett Formula (which provides the block funding grant to Scotland), but they understand the issue of prescription charges, elderly care, NHS cuts and particularly tuition fees. There is a real feeling among young people in England now that they are being treated very badly.”

Mr Bone added: “What is coming out is that more and more people identify themselves as English and that they are subsidising the rest of the UK.”

The SNP said that the figures showed a clear desire for a new and “equal relationship” between Scotland and England, with both nations standing on their own.

SNP Ministers point to the economic facts which show Scotland generates more tax revenues per capita than it receives back via the block grant share – making a total nonsense of the Westminster promulgated “subsidy myth”.

Angus Robertson, the SNP’s referendum campaign director, said: “We share with the likes of Frank Field the desire for a new relationship of equality between the different nations, and believe that with independence we will build a stronger friendship with all parts of the UK.”

Professor of politics at Strathclyde University John Curtice, said that this kind of weakening of “Britishness” in England could have a direct and profound effect on the future of the Union.

Professor Curtice said: “Adherence to a common sense of ‘Britishness’ is often thought to be a vital part of the emotional glue that helps keep the Union together. That glue has long since lost much of its strength in Scotland. If it has now been eroded in England too, the long term prospects for the Union would seem rather bleak indeed.”