Cameron calls for honesty on state of union
THE number of people in England, Wales and Scotland who see themselves as British is in decline, David Cameron has declared.
Speaking at a party fundraiser in Glasgow last week, the Conservative leader said it was time to be "honest" about the problems facing the union.
Among those, he said, was the fact that fewer and fewer people across the UK saw themselves as British first and foremost.
In a speech on Friday night, he said: "I believe we should be honest about the problems our union faces. It's not just that the SNP are running Scotland; it goes deeper than that. There is no doubt that the number of people who see themselves as British – ahead of Scottish, Welsh or English – is in decline."
Cameron added: "It is in fact about identity. You see it all over Europe, all over the world. People are seeking a clear identity; often a more localised identity. Just look at the rise of Cornish nationalists. I think we shouldn't fight that; I think we should build on top of that to create an inclusive British identity."
The Tory leader's comments come amid growing focus on the status of Britishness, particularly following the rise of the SNP in Scotland.
Gordon Brown has sought to strengthen the idea of a British identity, suggesting there be a "British" bank holiday, for example.
Cameron said he opposed such "mechanical" moves to strengthen a British identity, arguing instead that unionist politicians needed to renew "a sense of belonging" among people.
There is conflicting research about whether Britishness is in decline. A survey in January in the Births Social Attitudes Report asked people to choose one national identity for themselves.
In England, 39% said they were British, down 9% from the previous year. In Scotland, only 3% of people said they considered themselves "only" or "mainly" British, down from 9% three years earlier.
But John Curtice, professor of politics at Strathclyde University, said that the evidence showed most people were still content to define themselves as having a dual nationality.
He said: "There is no doubt that in Scotland and in Wales, national identity is ahead of British identity. In England, the two are in competition with each other. But in all three countries, a lot of people recognise both.
"It is only when you put them against a wall and force them to choose, they opt one way or another."
He added: "In Scotland, the position hasn't really changed over the last 10 years. Around 75% to 80% of people regard themselves as Scottish ahead of British."
Cameron was speaking at a fundraiser in Glasgow organisers by the Scottish businessman Sir Jack Harvie.
He insisted that there was a future for the Tories in Scotland.
Cameron commented: "Surely Scotland deserves better than having to choose between a centre-left party – Labour – that has failed the country, and another centre-left party – the SNP – which wants to break it up."
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