The English are fed up with the racist Scots and are ready for the fallout
The effect on English opinion of the contemptuous insults of Alex Salmond bodes ill for Scotland in future negotiations
Last Night of the Proms
The English are getting fed up with the racist Scots. About 15 years ago, maddened by the twists and turns of the peace process, I wrote a satirical crime novel called The Anglo-Irish Murders. It was set in Mayo at a conference intended to help the inhabitants of the British Isles better to appreciate each other's cultures.
The English organiser was apprehensive: "these peoples have been at each other's throats for centuries," he explained to a friend. "The Catholic Irish have hated the English and the Protestant Anglo-Irish, certainly, though not necessarily vice versa. But the English and the Welsh have always hated each other. The Protestants of Northern Ireland are mostly Scots and hate the English as well as the Irish, and the Scots look down on everyone and since getting their own parliament to swank importantly in, have become as militant as the Micks."
And, he added, "In the middle of this the poor old English are always wondering why people get so excited and why everybody else can't be sensible."
Wanting a more peaceful existence was one reason I decamped for England in the late 1960s. Having had an overdose of nationalism growing up in Ireland, I really appreciated how low-key English patriotism was and how - unlike the Celts - they didn't go on about it but mostly subsumed it in their Britishness, as during the Last Night of the Proms, when there would be some waving of the Union Flag and singing of Rule Britannia.
They were benign about their neighbours. If England wasn't playing, they'd cheer for the Irish, Welsh or Scots, and be a bit mystified why the compliment wasn't returned.
Of course the non-English complained about what they perceived as the English sense of superiority, something that sprang from having about 80pc of the population of the two islands and from being patient with the touchy Celts. Noting that England (as opposed to Great Britain) didn't have a national song, Michael Flanders, the lyricist of the great satirical combo Flanders and Swann, obliged with the Song of Patriotic Prejudice which you'll find on YouTube.
It opens with:
"The English, the English, the English are best
I wouldn't give tuppence for all of the rest.
The rottenest bits of these islands of ours
We've left in the hands of three unfriendly powers
Examine the Irishman, Welshman or Scot
You'll find he's a stinker, as likely as not."
And so on. My favourite lines are: "The English are moral, the English are good/ And clever and modest and misunderstood" -which is what most secretly believe but would have thought it bad form to say out loud.
But what with having Islamists murder and threaten them, seeing their values derided by the left, being given no credit for their decency to immigrants and neighbours, and having a strong sense (exacerbated by the discovery that gangs of Pakistani origin got away with grooming white children) that racism seems to be off-limits to everyone except those who hate the English, there's a change of mood. The tone of the independence campaign, with Alex Salmond's sneering anti-Englishness and his more excitable supporters' racism has made it worse.
At a recent party, I asked a nice middle-class English couple I'd barely met if they had a view on the Scottish referendum. "I hope they vote 'yes,'" said the woman passionately. "I can't stand them." It turned out she'd lived in Scotland for a few years where she'd had her origins and accent incessantly mocked and derided and she was outraged by how so many Scots had bought into the ugly nationalism of the vicious Mel Gibson Braveheart (wicked-cruel-English-heroic-William-Wallace) travesty, a film the writer and Labour activist John O'Farrell once explained could not have been more historically inaccurate even if a plasticine dog had been inserted in the film and the title changed to William Wallace and Gromit.
What rocked me was that she was an ordained member of the notoriously gentle and tolerant Church of England. It was also clear that others present, including me, were simmering with repressed anger and a sense of "The hell with them. See how they enjoy life without us to pick up the tab."
I don't really think that, as I truly believe it would be a tragedy for these islands if the Union is fragmented because the Scots have been taken in by a charlatan. But if they do say 'yes', Scotland will have to face a harsh reality. The English will not be a push- over in the complex and crucial negotiations to come. As David Trimble put it pithily about the major issue: "If there is no Union then why would the English electorate agree to let Scots share their currency?"
Whichever way the vote goes, there's enormous pressure building up for a constitutional conference to give England a fairer deal and its regions more power. It's the sensible thing to do.