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This comes after demand for change from Scotland and Wales. In May, first minister Alex Salmond’s Scottish National Party took the majority of seats in the Edinburgh Parliament. It was the biggest victory margin in Scottish political history. The majority nationalist government in Scotland is committed to holding a referendum on the country’s constitutional future within the next five years. Meanwhile, in Wales, nationalist pressure has resulted in an assembly with full legislative responsibility for areas such as health and education.
Studies show that three in five people in Wales believe that the Welsh, not UK, government should be the most influential institution there. In Scotland, the same number of people believe that the Edinburgh parliament should take on more decisions about tax and welfare benefits. Opinion is divided as to whether this devolution process could lead to the breakup of the union.
According to a survey carried out by the Guardian newspaper, less than one in two UK citizens call themselves British. Over 16,000 people from the four countries of the United Kingdom were asked to ‘plant a flag’ online to show where they lived. Residents of England were the most likely to call themselves British. However, the majority of Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish residents rejected the term and chose to identify themselves with their home nations. Over 1000 people chose ‘other’, particularly in Cornwall and in the Shetland isles, north of Scotland. Both are areas with strong identities.
British and Scottish social attitudes surveys and other studies in Wales and Northern Island have found that if voters are forced to choose, 52 percent of people in England choose British first compared to 19 percent of Scots and 30 percent of Welsh.
The Guardian newspaper asked writers and bloggers to give their view on the debate. Writing in the newspaper, journalist Simon Jenkins said: ‘The United Kingdom [...] was pieced together in the 18th century from the half of the British Isles that the Normans had failed to conquer and assimilate. It began to disintegrate when the Irish had had enough of inept English government. Now the Scots are reaching the same conclusion, and up to a point the Welsh.’
One reader wrote to the newspaper, saying: ‘It is apparently taboo to mention either of the elephants in the room: how long England will passively watch the other three UK nations moving inexorably towards full internal self-government while England alone is denied its obvious benefits; and why those seeking a credible policy for saving the UK from disintegration still can’t see the obvious alternative to breakup, namely a full federation of the four UK nations – each eventually enjoying full internal self-government.’
Another blogger added to the debate by saying that England seemed to have no say in the matter: ‘I’m a Scot but I completely understand those from south of the border [between Scotland and England] who think that England is being left out of the constitutional debate.
I think that part of the problem is that England’s vastly greater size and overwhelmingly greater representation in the Westminister parliament nurtured, in English people, the belief that they already had a parliament.’ The debate continues...
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