Roger Scruton English Nationalist and the vote for Scottish Independence

Roger Scruton is a right-wing English philosopher and English nationalist.

He was given air time recently on BBC Radio 4’s A Point of View to comment on Scottish Independence and whether or not the English should have ‘the right’ to decide on Scotland’s future. His view that they should has some support in England where there has been a fair amount of sneering and incredulity over Scotland’s ingratitude to the Union and desire by much of its population to get out of this political arrangement. Why should people in England have a vote on this? How much does your average English person know about Scotland? What they read in the Mail? What they see on their televisions? What they hear on the radio? 

scrutonVery little that comes across the airwaves or in the print media has much that is recognisable to your average Scot. Exasperation at lazy, sloppy journalism, tedious clichés and entrenched prejudices are the norm.

What does the average school child in England learn about Scotland? It’s safe to say practically nothing. Is Scotland ever mentioned in any subject they study? I doubt it. Not the last time I looked at the curriculum. Something called Britain is but that can be largely dismissed as entirely England making Scotland’s place and contribution to this Union all but invisible.  

As an English nationalist Roger Scruton’s position is clear from the outset and surely the reason the BBC gave him air time to let the world know what he thinks about the Scots and our desire for independence. His views were sandwiched between an episode of Any Questions which had as its sole representative of ‘Scottish’ politics a Unionist voice in the guise of the LibDem/Tory Minister for Scotland,  Alistair Carmichael, and a Radio 4 news reader who referred to Culloden (near Inverness where Bonnie Prince Charlie led his men to a brutal early death) as Culluden – the way a certain class of English personages pronounce it but which no-one living at Culloden does.

Do you ever question the impartiality and ‘national’ integrity of the BBC?  So back to Scruton.

Everyone can voice their opinion in the UK although only a very few have the privilege of having their views touted around by the big media outlets which are owned and/or run by the rich with their own agendas. We don’t all have equal access to sharing our thoughts on broadcast or printed media. People like Scruton do however so what is it he is saying?  In brief it is that if people in Scotland are entitled to a vote then so should English people.

I am reluctant to go back to the divorce analogy which created trouble for one MSP a long time ago but which now appears to be the shorthand of choice on the matter but if one partner decides he or she has had enough of a relationship which is causing them no end of grief then it cannot be right to have to consult whoever is causing their angst before phoning a taxi.

Scruton makes the interesting observation that the Czechs and Slovaks came to a political agreement over becoming independent nations. I agree with him that might have been the way forward – and may still be in the event of a no vote in September. After all the SNP’s majority in the Scottish government increased greatly over the past two elections so what was there to stop it going into negotiations with Westminster? The Labour, Liberal and Tory parties recite from the same hymn sheet that the SNP stands for nothing but independence so surely the SNP’s majority was its mandate to push ahead with independence.

Scruton is wrong about pre-Union Scotland and England being virtually identical just because we shared an island. Anyone who has lived in both countries for any length of time knows how different they are still, and were then, from each other in all manner of things from architecture to humour.

It is those who don’t open their eyes and ears who don’t notice the difference. To give Scruton credit he did later mention differences  such as architecture but put it down to something about the climate. Now I know there are people in England who imagine Scotland is somewhere attached to the north pole but really our weather is not too different from south of the border – only drier – in the east certainly. And so what has climate got to do with our architecture? Hang on while I adjust that ice block on the igloo.  Are our tenements the result of Scots gathering together to keep warm? Does he know about tenements? What can he be thinking of? Your guess is as good as mine.

He mentioned our shared religion. I don’t know what religion he was referring to – Protestantism? Probably but that’s where the similarity ends because the various Scottish protestant churches are very different from English ones.

A language he says we shared. Only at a superficial level. Even now when our dialects are losing the battle against some bastardised estuary English and Americanese we are separated by a fair amount of difference and more so in the 18th century that Scots spoke a language pretty far removed from that in the south.  Sadly Scruton shows he really doesn’t know too much about Scotland when he mentions Gaelic, sadly the Irish type, you know gaylic and not Scottish gaallic, and it’s clear he doesn’t realise the extent Galeic was spoken, not just in the Highlands.

The monarchy at the time of Union was shared but Scruton’s little list is more flannel than fact. One moment he’s telling us we were all identical and the next that we were quite distinct.

He concludes that any differences were too wee to matter compared with the overpowering connections of history and geography. I don’t think our ‘shared’ histories were of the happiest that they call for shared celebration and as for geography, so what? There are many places across the globe that share geography, it is how societies develop within geographic boundaries that matters.

He is correct to refer to the fortunes made by both Scots and English during the period of slavery (not actually mentioned) and the empire. Scots have always been innovative so their exploitation of circumstances during the years of gunboat diplomacy can be taken as an indication of how much Scotland gave to the Union and contributed to wealth creation in the UK.  Scruton failed to make reference to the years before the Union when Scottish trade was smothered by England who resented having competition on its doorstep.

In a curious passage he says that neither Scotland nor England could have survived the wars of the 20th century if we hadn’t been fighting on the same side.  There were more nations involved in these wars than us in the UK so where does that argument take anyone or does he imagine Scotland, or perhaps England, would have lined up with the Triple Alliance and later with the Nazis?  Which one would have gone to that side I wonder?

Scruton is quite cavalier with his throwaway comments such as the Union being ‘natural and unquestionable’ in the 19th century. It wasn’t.  Very soon after the Union was formed there were calls for its dissolution and throughout the centuries since then people have returned to the possibility of Scotland reasserting its independence.  When Scruton claims the Napoleonic wars ‘sealed the Union’ he is wrong. Scottish radicalism following the Napoleonic wars was both a continuum and progression of anti-Union actions which began in the immediate aftermath of 1707.

Untrammelled immigration is regarded as Scruton as the reason the English don’t have a sense of their own identity. I find this distasteful and at odds with the overwhelming view in Scotland that irrespective of where you come from, if you come here to stay you are one of us. We have our racists but there is not the clamour here to shun people from other cultures that there is, and growing, in England, with its support for right-wing Tories and Ukip.  It might be pointed out here that while English nationalism tends to be racist and right-wing Scottish nationalism is dominated by the left.

I don’t believe Scruton when he blames the uncertainty that the English have over who they are, on Blair and Brown. The confusion over what is English or British was there well before these two discredited politicians came to office.  And he’s wrong that it was the re-opening, or as he has it, the creation of the Scottish parliament, that gave Scots a  ‘new identity’.  Scots have always known who they were and that is why the parliament was reconvened in Edinburgh not the other way round.

The man really does not understand this subject at all.

His resentment is palpable when it comes to the issue of Westminster Scots having a say in what happens in English constituencies. Quite rightly. He may not be aware, and going by his the many errors in his piece I doubt he is, that SNP members do not vote on issues which are solely English. MPs from the other parties do.  His resentment extends to Scotland having its own parliament when England doesn’t have an equivalent. Of course Scotland is a separate country, in a Union remember? with England so providing the same limited power parliaments in Scotland as throughout England is not the same thing.  Devolution he describes as ‘gerrymandering’ by which Scotland still sends Labour MPs to Westminster, which according to Scruton, England would prefer not to have. And with a few exceptions I can well understand why.

Scruton and I part on his assertion of that mouldy old lie that Scotland is subsidised by England. This will be oil rich Scotland, or is the oil Britain? I’ll say this just once – Scotland generates 9.9% of the UK’s total tax and receives 9.3% UK total spending. You do the sums.

union 1707

Despite Scotland being a sad subsidy junkie Scruton surprisingly concludes that England might not be better served if Scotland goes her own way. Just because we are a dependant of England, yes you got that right, but before you get hot under the collar Scruton turns the abusive accusation on its head and tells us that England is dependent on  Scotland as well  because  while THEY subsidise us – THEY depend on us. Got it? No? I think it’s a game of keep them (us) onboard because you never know when we’ll be needed, as in oil revenue? He doesn’t say – perhaps Trident is closer to the truth.

And then we learn that is indeed what was in his mind when he talked about having to cling onto us in case we should prove useful in the future (we are reduced to being the proverbial bad penny but handy to be saved for a rainy day). Remember when Scotland’s shores and waters were taken up with military and naval bases not to mention generations of Scots men and boys who made up more than the country’s fair share of the thin red line? (In that case you were probably educated in Scotland.) It is the fear that one day England might be attacked by some johnny foreigner that puts doubt over Scottish independence into Scruton’s head. Nothing to do with liking us only that we have land and deep water which England might require for its defence. 

His point about England drawing away some of Scotland’s talent to where the jobs are in the south is well made as far as it goes but he doesn’t allow himself to see the impact of this on Scotland’s economy and Scottish society at large.

He concludes by saying, given a vote he would use it for English independence. Do you see what he’s done? He’s turned his resentment over Scots being able to vote themselves a better future to a positive vote for England which rather bizarrely he states would go some way to ‘strengthening the friendship between our countries.’ As he talks he draws out differences between Scotland and England and any undecided voters out there worried about rUK be reassured for according to Scruton a yes vote for independence can only enhance the relationship between the four countries of these islands.

I suspect Scruton cobbled his piece together without too much thought. He reached the same conclusion I did long ago that only a yes vote is one that will be positive for the UK, albeit from different positions. Despite years and years and years in educational establishments his contribution to the issue of Scottish independence reveals he has some sizeable gaps in his knowledge of this country and the ignorance gap he doesn’t mind plugging with silly petulance.  Scotland’s ban on fox hunting (not included in this talk) was seen by him as an attack on the English and their traditions.  It did not occur to him that might be another difference of outlook which divides our two nations – those differences he sometimes admits to and at other times denies.

Scruton is entitled to his view but given his lack of awareness and understanding of Scotland and her people and because he has chosen not to live here he has no entitlement to a vote. Pity – he would boost the yes side.  


Read the transcript of Scruton’s talk here:




2 Comments to “Roger Scruton English Nationalist and the vote for Scottish Independence”

  1. There are two reasons why English nationalism is more “right wing” in your terms, i.e. more concerned with immigration, than Scottish nationalism:

    1) The independence movement is not really a nationalist one. It’s a vaguely progressive, pro-globalist post-democratic movement opposed to British nationalism and ultimately to Scottish nationalism as well, as seen in the immediate submission to the European Union that is planned post “independence”. Hence the appeal to demos rather than ethnos.

    2) Immigration into your country has been a drop in the ocean compared to England. There are almost 10 times as many foreign-born individuals living JUST IN LONDON than the whole of Scotland. The overall figure is about 18 and half times as many. Even taking into differences in overall population, England has still taken in relatively almost twice the number of immigrants.

    It is perverse to suggest that Scotland as a country is somehow inherently more generous or welcoming to outsiders. England was the first country in the entire world to institute a right of sanctuary for refugees. Scotland is the country of the parsimonious Adam Smith, as well as such racist xenophobes as William Wallace and Robert the Bruce, who racistly fought to preserve their racist country and racist culture.

    I would like to wish you treacherous Scots the best of luck in your endeavours to GTFO of my nation. The only problem with bonny Scotland is that it is full of Scots. Hopefully we two nations can meet on the battlefield again, once England has its independence.


    • Thanks for reading the blog.

      Not sure how you define ‘foreign’ as in ‘foreign-born individuals living JUST IN LONDON’ as my cousin was born in India but lives in London – does that make him foreign – English mother, Scottish father.

      If you accept the figures and I suspect they should be taken with a large dose of salt they show England’s total for those born outside it comes to just under 10X Scottish figure – and as Scotland’s population is one-tenth of England’s then they are on a par.

      Whatever the figures are – so what? They are all people.

      As for the ‘racist xenophobes’ Bruce – was that when he was fighting on the English side or only when he came over to Scotland’s? Puzzler that one.

      Also I can’t quite grasp the logic of ‘you treacherous Scots’. Do you mean Scots are treacherous because some live in YOUR nation of Englandshire? Or do you think of YOUR nation as the United Kingdom? If so then that undermines your claim that it is YOURS and YOURS alone – although you are welcome to it.

      Hope your attitude is not typical of the English population with regards people in general because apart from being nasty and hostile it is unarguably racist.

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