Leader comment: English opinion on independence

THERE is ammunition for both sides of Scottish independence referendum divide in a new poll of English opinion commissioned by Cardiff University and the ESRC Scottish Centre on Constitutional Change at Edinburgh University.

The cumulative effect of the referendum seems to have been to sour relations between Scotland and England. Picture: Getty

The so-called Future of England survey paints the most detailed picture yet of how England would regard a post-referendum Scotland, in the event of both a Yes vote and a No vote.

What both scenarios have in common seems to be a hardening of English opinion against the aspirations of the Scottish nation.

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The emerging attitude seems to be one in which the English are keen to punish the Scots for flirting with – or in the case of a Yes vote, achieving – independence.

None of this is good news from a Scottish point of view. It is hard to escape the conclusion that the cumulative effect of the referendum seems to have been to sour relations between Scotland and its southern neighbour.

Different aspects of this research will doubtless be picked up by the Yes and No campaigns as backing their arguments.

Campaigners for the UK will point to an English reluctance to share the pound in a formal currency union with an independent Scotland.

This argument has often been presented as a refusal by the UK parties to play ball with an independent Scotland. In the light of this poll it can more accurately be seen as a realisation by the UK parties that they would have difficulty selling this pact to an English electorate.

An English reluctance to back an independent Scotland’s bids to join Nato and the European Union are other sticks in the Yes campaign’s spokes.

But there is also bad news for the No campaign in an English demand for public spending in Scotland to be reduced to English levels after a No vote, and a determination to stop Scottish MPs voting on English-only matters.

From a Scottish point of view, this report makes alarming reading. Regardless of the outcome of the 18 September referendum, England will remain our closest neighbour and our most important trading partner. As such, it would also be wise to have it as our closest ally.

Such a hope is beginning to look vain, at least now in the thick of a referendum campaign where withering criticisms of “Westminster” can often be taken as thinly-veiled attacks on England and the English.

Can we really be surprised that our neighbours – watching the Scots disparage the rest of the UK – are in no mood to do those self-same Scots a kindness after 18 September?

The nationalist historian and former diplomat Paul Henderson Scott famously described Scotland’s place in the Union as being “in bed with an elephant”.

We should, perhaps, bear in mind that in the event of a Yes vote on 18 September, although we may well have separate beds, we and the elephant will still be sharing a bedroom.

Banking on the grandparents

EVERY parent of a teenager is ruefully familiar with the concept of The Bank of Mum and Dad. The customers of this particular bank have managed the enviable trick of making countless withdrawals while inexplicably failing to make any deposits.

The Bank of Granny and Grandad is a less well-known institution, but – as a new report indicates – it is coming into its own as a way of helping young people negotiate their way through life in the absence of a regular income.

The study indicates that grandparents are putting aside £4,000 to help with their grandchildren’s university education – more than four times the amount being used for this purpose five years ago.

In reality, this is as much a help to the mums and dads as it is to the young people themselves. Parents with children at university are among the most financially stretched people in Britain.

This is perhaps most acute in England, where university tuition fees can cost £9,000 a year. But in Scotland, too, a university education is not cheap when accommodation, books and subsistence are taken into account. Some student halls of residence now cost £125 a week.

Of course, not all grandparents are flush enough to be able to afford such munificence. But many retirees these days enjoy the benefits of final-salary pensions that are no longer available to most people still in work.

They have a level of prosperity that was not available to OAPs in the previous generation, nor is it likely to be enjoyed by the next.

They have the satisfaction of being able to help grandchildren get a good start in life. That is its own reward.