Helen Martin: English pose biggest threat to the Union

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ANY agreement about anything between Scotland and the UK seems about as far-fetched as a perfect Brexit. It’s as if the Auld Enemy relationship hasn’t changed since the 13th to 16th century, despite the establishment of devolution and Theresa May’s reference to her “precious Union”.

The union continues to be hostile rather than precious. With many ­reasons on both sides for that, the most constantly grating is not the drive for independence. It’s England’s lack of respect and total ignorance about this country.

Many 'dahn saff' refer to Britain as 'England' and consider the Union flag  'English'. Picture: AP

Many 'dahn saff' refer to Britain as 'England' and consider the Union flag 'English'. Picture: AP

The public south of the Border (not that there really is a “border”) aren’t expected to know that much about a country they’ve never lived in, with many believing it’s as much a part of England as Yorkshire.

But for major players in Westminster, political pundits, establishment figures, the BBC, other broadcasters and anyone else who comments about Britain, their lack of knowledge about Scotland is pathetic, but also increases hostility among many Scots.

So often “dahn saff” people refer to Britain as “England”, and consider the Union flag to be “English”, along with referring to English passports and the Queen of England. Scotland doesn’t exist.

A year ago, Jeremy Corbyn was ­discussing improving devolution, and suggested it would be “problematic” for Scotland to have its own legal ­system. Apparently, he had no idea that had been the case since 1707. Was he aware of other differences, such as education and the health service?

The Fringe brings chaos to the streets of Edinburgh. Picture: Jon Savage

The Fringe brings chaos to the streets of Edinburgh. Picture: Jon Savage

The lack of knowledge in England about independence and the SNP is hugely significant. The recent case of Chris McEleny who worked in the MoD munitions site in Ayrshire in 2016 while running for the SNP deputy leadership, is interesting.

His security clearance failed followed by suspension, after national security officers questioned him over his pro-independence views. How is it possible that supporting a political party (the main leading party in his country) made him a security risk? Would the same have applied to a Labour candidate?

Perhaps these officers (along with many people in England who know nothing about our politics) believed the SNP was a Scottish version of the IRA, some sort of republican army, a small “nutty” sect, rather than the established political party which has ruled Scotland for years, supported by a large percentage of the population. Our devolved government and its voting system were designed by the UK to avoid a “ruling” party, a plan that failed because of the level of SNP votes.

Not all SNP voters necessarily want independence, they just want an SNP government. It’s all too complex for the English to grasp.

The Scottish Employment Tribunal judge presiding over McEleny’s case against the MoD didn’t focus on party loyalty. He said McEleny’s belief in the right of Scotland to national sovereignty was a philosophical belief with similar cogency to a religious belief.

As a Scottish judge he must have known the precedent repercussions of discriminating against an SNP ­supporter – half the country would be up in arms, especially Nationalists working for English organisations. The English will be mystified. This is NOT an SNP epistle. My point is that there is no chance of Union ­survival while the English establishment remains so ill-informed, lacking in understanding and blind to the country which, for some mysterious reason, it wants to keep.

The Fringe has spread out too far already

Edinburgh Council wants Festival and Fringe venues to spread out across the city to stop bottleneck jams in the centre.

We live in a quiet, residential area next to a very long, walled lane that eventually leads to the Meadows. It can be a dire location at this time of year with raucous Fringe-goers making their way home late at night, laughing, shouting and scattering rubbish, devoid of respect for sleeping families on the other side of the wall. Detrimentally, the Fringe is already “spreading” from the centre.

Widening venue locations will increase levels of disturbance. It won’t be welcomed by everyone. And with more security measures needed at Fringe events, the police may not be happy with the plan either. Is the Fringe simply getting too big?

Stop driving out our own citizens

Evening News reader feedback is a good reflection of public views. As protesters about the ridiculous level of student flats and accommodation being built in Edinburgh made clear, the Capital is becoming a giant campus rather than a city.

My son and his partner, now living in Musselburgh, are part of a growing generation of young city professionals moving to Midlothian and East Lothian where they can afford to buy comfortable, roomy flats and commute. Along with them goes their council tax, plus their retail, trades and leisure custom.

Students don’t pay council tax, and don’t stay forever. Nor do tourists. Yet that’s the direction Edinburgh is going in.

The need to stop pumping up tourism and halt planning approval for student blocks is obvious. Using sites for affordable housing benefiting renters and buyers is what we desperately need to maintain our city.

TV missed the May protesters

I’m not usually a fan of social media. But occasionally, “newsy” films are posted showing interesting events ignored or omitted by Scottish television companies. Last week Facebook posts showed two separate occasions during Theresa May’s brief visit to Scotland when large crowds gathered to boo the PM. No sign of that on TV.