Scottish independence: England must have its say - Ed Miliband
THE future of the United Kingdom is “too important” to be debated only in Scotland, Ed Miliband will declare in a speech in London today, as he insists that people in England should have their say ahead of the independence referendum.
The Labour leader will argue that his own party has been guilty of burying English identity for fear of retreating into a “narrow nationalism”.
England, he says, has been neglected by Labour which has instead focused on delivering devolution in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, something he says “does not make sense”.
Now, with the referendum on independence for Scotland likely to take place in 2014, Mr Miliband will insist that “more than ever, as we make the case for the UK throughout the UK, we must talk about England”. He criticises public figures in England, such as BBC presenter Jeremy Clarkson who, he says, “shrug their shoulders at the prospect of the break-up of the Union”.
And drawing on his own experience as the son of Jewish immigrants who settled in London, he argues that Britain is “a country where it is always possible to have more than one identity”, whether English, Scottish, Welsh or Northern Irish.
However, Mr Miliband is not expected to back calls for an English parliament or assembly.
The speech follows a series of lectures by First Minister Alex Salmond in England in recent months in which he argued that Scotland and England would both benefit by going their own way, ensuring there were no Scottish MPs “poking their noses into English business”.
Mr Miliband will say that the Diamond Jubilee and the forthcoming London Olympics have brought to the surface the mixed identities across the United Kingdom. The “multiple allegiances” across the country have, he says, raised “serious questions” about the country.
The neglected issue of England must be answered, he will say. “For too long people have believed that to express English identity is to undermine the Union.
“At the same time, we have rightly helped express Scottish identity within the Union. This does not make sense.”
He adds: “In Scotland, the narrow nationalists of the SNP pose a false choice. They ask: are you Scottish or British? I say you can be both. And here in England there are people like Jeremy Clarkson who shrug their shoulders at the prospect of the break-up of the Union.
“To me, Britain is a country where it is always possible to have more than one identity. More than one place in mind when you talk of home,” he says.
“A narrow view of identity would mean concern for the young unemployed in Scotland does not reach Newcastle or that we in England would care less for the pensioner in Edinburgh. What a deeply pessimistic vision. It’s a mistake wherever you find it.
“Having to say: ‘Scottish or British, Welsh or British, English or British.’ I don’t accept any of that. It’s always a false choice.”
On his own identity, he notes: “I am the son of a Jewish refugee. A Leeds supporter, from north London. A baseball fan. I am proud to lead the Labour Party.
“I am proud to represent the people of Doncaster North. I am proud to be English. And I am proud to be British too.”
However, SNP MSP Humza Yousaf criticised Mr Miliband’s claims, accusing the Labour leader of being “out of touch”. He added: “Independence is the broad, inclusive and positive option for Scotland, in which the wide range of identities we have in our modern nation – Scottish, British, Pakistani, Chinese, Polish, Irish and many, many more – can all be reflected and celebrated.”
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Weather for Edinburgh
Thursday 23 May 2013
Temperature: 5 C to 10 C
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