An English backlash? The IWA Podcast

Richard Wyn Jones and IWA Director Lee Waters in the latest IWA Podcast

Does the latest polling vindicate Neil Kinnock’s warning that devolution would result in an ‘English backlash’?

Whatever the outcome of next month’s independence referendum people in England want a hard line to be taken with the Scots, the latest major survey of English public opinion suggests.

The latest Future of England Survey found a hardening of attitudes regardless of the outcome in September’s referendum. The new research suggests that English voters oppose sharing the pound with an independent Scotland, want public spending there reduced in the event of a no vote and are broadly pessimistic about future relations between the two countries.

The findings of the Survey contradict some of the key proposals put forward by the pro-union parties to offer Scotland further powers if independence is rejected; the findings are also at odds with those of the Scottish Government regarding what should follow from a Yes vote.

By an overwhelming margin of more than five to one, English voters agree that, after a no vote, ‘Scottish MPs should be prevented from voting on laws that apply only in England’. Both Labour and the Liberal Democrats have explicitly ruled out implementing the proposal for ‘English votes for English laws’ set out by the UK government’s McKay commission last year.  “This is research that helps the nationalists. It allows them to claim that the English just aren’t that into us and if this notion is modestly contradicted by the fact the English would like the Union to be maintained it is given at least some support by the poll’s other findings” Alex Massie wrote in The Spectator.

Over half the respondents also believe that public spending in Scotland should be reduced to the UK average following a no vote, putting them at odds with the commitment of the three main pro-union parties to continue funding in Scotland via the Barnett formula.  “A clear inference from the research is that, whatever the result, relations between the English and the Scots could become increasingly hostile in the years to come” Martin Kettle write in the Guardian; “Politicians of most stripes on both sides of the border have an interest in pretending this is not so. But the message of the research is hard to deny”.

The authoritative survey of English opinion on constitutional issues was undertaken by researchers at Cardiff and Edinburgh Universities. The Survey consulted a representative sample of 3695 adults in England; it was undertaken in late April 2014 by the polling agency YouGov.

Prof Richard Wyn Jones of Cardiff’s University’s Welsh Governance Centre led the work and discusses the findings in the latest IWA Podcast with IWA Director Lee Waters

14 thoughts on “An English backlash? The IWA Podcast

  1. Scotland puts more into the UK than it gets out, in other words it’s constantly being ripped off by London. Wales otoh (and please correct me if I’m mistaken here) gets back more than it contributes. How is this “unfair to Wales”? Reading the comments on blogs and mainstream UK press articles, it’s clear there’s a widespread belief in England that Scotland is being subsidised, hence the enmity. I truly hope Scotland escapes from the UK and goes on to create a better and fairer society, but if that happens there’s a real chance that England’s anger will then be turned on Wales. After all, you really are ‘sponging off England’, or so they would see it.

    Although it’s a moot point, there is at least a plausible constitutional argument that Scotland is, and always has been, a separate national entity from England-and-Wales, and so has a right to reassert it’s sovereignty. But there is no such guarantee in the case of Wales. Your assembly is nothing more than a layer of local government, and so presumably could be abolished as easily as say Dyfed was abolished a while back. Or more probably have it’s budget cut but it’s ‘powers’ (in reality responsibilities) increased so that your AM’s get all the blame for the subsequent hardships. But as long as you continue to support Labour, a unionist party ultimately answerable to Westminster, I don’t see much alternative.

    Unlike Scotland you don’t seem to have an effective nationalist movement able to use the little devolution you’ve been given to leverage further autonomy. Druan o Gymru!

  2. To quote the old song – “We gotta get out of this place, if it’s the last thing we ever do” as rising UKIPism and general xenophobia is going to hurt the Celtic nations in the long run. So we need to empower ourselves ASAP.

  3. Alisdair,

    I think that part of creating “a better and fairer society” is that wealthier regions make monetary transfers to poorer regions, whether that’s within Scotland as an independent nation or within the UK as a union. In that context, I don’t think Scotland is being ripped off.

    If you accept that within a union wealthier regions should make transfers to poorer regions, the argument that Wales is being treated unfairly is that Wales receives less than it’s relative poverty might suggest, e.g. it gets less from the pot than it would if it were a similarly poor region of England. Scotland, on the other hand, gets much more.

    Most regions of England are also net recipients of public funds, with London being the main provider. Is London really an English city? It happens to be in England, but it’s the UK capital and Scots, Welsh, Irish and people of many other nations have and continue to contribute to its wealth.

  4. If there are distinct views, politically and constitutionally that can be identified in the English in England is there also a similar situation regarding the English in Wales.
    With approaching a third of the population of Wales identifying themselves as English how are politics here being affected. Is any research being directed towards this matter?

  5. @ CapM

    I think the figure is 20.7%, according to the 2011 census, which interestingly is a slightly higher proportion of the population than Welsh speakers (19%). I don’t know where your figure of a third comes from.

    The short answer to your question is that the English do not appear to behave as an ethnic minority in Wales. Therefore their Englishness does not appear to be a factor in voting patterns, though it would be interesting to know what percentage of English people vote in National Assembly elections.

  6. @RhBJ
    The number identifying themselves and their offspring as not having any welsh identity in the census is 909,961 that includes English only 343752, English and British only 47044 and British only 519165.

    You’re right it isn’t a third but given the trend it’s increasing and as you pointed out it is larger than the number of Welsh speakers. A group whose political etc views are already regularly investigated in polls.

    “The short answer … is that the English do not appear to behave as an ethnic minority in Wales”
    “…Englishness does not appear to be a factor in voting patterns”

    But doesn’t this article show that making such assumptions in the absence of data is a folly.

  7. As an English man I’ve gone fairly much indifference when younger to actually an actual realisation of utter contempt and borderline hatred many of our Celtic “Countrymen” hold for us.
    The fact the average native working class English person like myself has oppressed nor no one. Nor did did any of our ancestors we had the same rulers oppressing us as you.
    Truth and accurate blind history is lost in the hyperbole of our nieghbours fairy tales and half truths and rampant racist Anglophobia is the accepted norm and encouraged in their children like the KKK.
    We have had a Celtic mafia deliberatly and with malice a forethought bring in over a million people we did not need nor have space for into England alone.
    I wonder how loud or “brothers” in Scotland and Wales would scream if this was dumped on them! Or how loud they would scream if they had a politician like Prescott serving in an English seat saying “There is no such thing as the Welsh/Scots” then holding you in complete and utter contempt!
    I want a English parliament and only English serving in it.So do millions of others if we were allowed a voice or even dare I say it a referendum for England. why do you think we are never asked and the Tories say “English nationalism is the biggest threat to the union” no Wales or Scotland mentioned?
    We want good relations with out neighbours but many of us want out of the union and you to go your own way sink or swim and NO coming back.
    I personally deal in Quid pro quo when dealing with Scots and Welsh and if you hate us for no reason I’d actually give you real reason.

  8. There are four Countries in the UK, except England does not have equality in the Union in the form of her own full Parliament, there is a legal and democractic reason that only English MPs vote on English matters as Welsh and Scots etc do on theirs. This is where the resentment and increasing hatred is coming from. Under UKIP England will get her own National Assembly, this will create equality and balance in the UK, if it survives after the Scottish vote. Most English want rid of the Scots and not as the propaganda BBC etc, let you think otherwise.

  9. @ CapM

    Not having any Welsh identity does not of course equate to being English. Nor does being British only equate to being English. Taking the remaining figures then, we are left with 390,796 which by my reckoning is 12.75%. My figure of 20.7% is drawn from those who live in Wales but were English born. Again this does not equate with being English. I myself was born in London but have never considered myself anything other than Welsh since the age of 4.

    It would be appropriate to research the issue of English citizens living in Wales if there was something to research. I would repeat that I don’t see any evidence of English people behaving as an ethnic group. Being English, they are also British citizens and that does for living in Wales as much as it would for living in England. That does not mean that things may not change. The most significant change that has occurred in the last 15 years that might affect this has been the establishment of a democratic legislature for the people of Wales, whatever their cultural background. It might be that their self-perception may change in relation to this political fact but as yet, I see no evidence of it.

  10. Siôn Jones :
    You make a good point, but by the same token you’ve just removed any motivation for extra Welsh powers, in effect you’ve argued that Wales should be a region of England. London is certainly a different kind of entity now from most of the rest of the UK, culturally, socially and economically. Unfortunately the concentration of power in London leads to policies and strategies that favour London (e.g. infrastructure investment) creating a vicious circle.

    An independent Scotland might well be able to send aid to Wales because it would not be forced to spend money on for example :
    ** Nukes
    ** Foreign military adventures
    ** London infrastructure projects (we’d rather build a high speed rail link down to the North of England)
    ** The House of Lords
    ** MP’s fiddled expenses …
    Need I go on?

  11. The national identity issue is really tricky. Until a few years ago I would have said ‘British’ simply because that was the only legal identity available. If I went to live in Holland (for example) I could no doubt after a sufficient period of residence etc. apply for Dutch citizenship. But if I moved to Wales I couldn’t obtain Welsh nationality, because there’s no such thing. No more than there’s a Yorkshire nationality or even a Cornish nationality etc. So really I’m confused by the way people are now being invited to identify with all these semi-official nationalities. What does being ‘English’ or ‘Welsh’ etc. actually mean? There are probably as many ideas as there are respondents, which makes these self-identifying statistics decidedly dodgy.

    Dare I recycle a terrible joke? It goes like this :
    There are three kinds of people in the world …
    1. Scots
    2. Those who aspire to be Scots
    3. People devoid of all ambition

    The serious idea behind this is that a nation/culture/ethos, if it has any real value, will be something that people want to be a part of. For Wales to succeed there has to be a idea of Welshness, of shared values and aspirations, that is open for incomers to join, and that is so bloody brilliant that they’ll fall over themselves to join in — lol! Seriously! The alternative is to take a siege mentality, put up the barricades and repel borders for as long as possible. But that sort of isolation makes you instantly irrelevant to the rest of the world, and since people are bound to leave, if you can’t recruit at least an equal number of incomers to replace them, then in time your society will wither and die.

    Clearly we face ‘interesting times’ 🙂

  12. On identity: I was born and bred in Wales and have always considered myself Welsh. However, I am forever being told by government officials, politicians, the media and their ilk that I’m British. I do not want to be British; whatever that precisely means, as no one ever seems to define it except in terms of the Queen, the BBC and fish and chips. I fully respect all peoples and their nationalities and allegiances, be they English or Ecuadorian, Scottish or Somali. I do not want much in life but I do want to be acknowledged universally as Welsh and to live my life in Wales. Having stated this, I now await the responses from people telling me I’m a parochial xenophobe because I see zero worth in Britishness.

  13. This is all so predictable. Indeed, some of us were predicting it in 1997. Once again we get back to the point that Mr Blair and his associates never really thought through the long term consequences of his desire for change for the sake of change. Rather than go over old ground, anyone interested can read the details here, among other places:*Version*=1&*entries*=0

    It is not surprising that for many years the English paid little attention to devolution. The whole thing was poorly considered, poorly explained, and poorly publicised. Now with the Scottish referendum, and the threat of federalism from two directions at once, the English are becoming aware of the situation at last and they have no reason to like what they see.

    Michael’s point should not be overlooked. Some of the anti-English things said routinely by some Scots and Welshmen would be considered very bad form if said by an Englishman of us. Those are not necessarily the views of the vast majority but, as usual, the loudest voices get most attention.

    Once again, we need to be careful about using labels. Many who consider themselves Scots or Welsh might have at least one English parent or grandparent, and vice versa. Approaching all these questions with assumptions about racial voting blocs is to miss the point entirely.

  14. Note the Scottish referendum is open to anyone living in Scotland, wherever they were born. English residents are not excluded. However, Scots living in England or elsewhere cannot vote. So this is not a racial voting block, it is a residential voting block. Voting for the Welsh National Assembly is similarly residential. My brother living in England has no vote despite his parentage; my neighbours, who are Brummies, have a vote, though I don’t think they bother. That is all as it should be.

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