The claim that Scotland and England have drifted apart since devolution is unarguably true. Its made by Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) in a paper by Douglas Fraser, political editor of The Herald newspaper.
The paper argues that the media, and largely London-based media are to blame for this. While many London-based papers have Scottish editions, the Scottish stories are ripped out in the English editions; leaving the English, and London in particular with little view on the political changes in Scotland.
Douglas Fraser makes the point that there has been more coverage on the American Democrat nomination race in the London-based national papers than there is about Scotland. Hence he argues the English are better informed on that than the rise of nationalism in Scotland. Or in other words, they don’t know what’s happening in their own backyard.
Now that Scotland has its own Parliament again, its obvious that the Scottish papers will focus on Holyrood rather than Westminster. Its a lot closer, and makes policies more relevant to Scots than Westminster does.
In the Scottish papers Westminster does get more coverage than the European Parliament though, and both Parliaments affect Scotland.
From the BBC News page they report Douglas Fraser:-
‘He said London-based newspapers tend to treat Scotland as a foreign country, only covering “heroin and haggis” stories which limit the understanding of Scotland in England.’
That indeed is the point.
England and Scotland are two different countries joined by a Union that means very different things to the Scots than it does for the English.
As I have noted before, not one of the Scottish papers or London-based Scottish editions is pro-independence. The Scottish papers therefore seem to promote the UK as healthy and as beneficial to Scotland.
Whereas the English papers are reflecting on what matters to England. That doesn’t include Scotland. But outside of the Scottish editions, I guess they never included Scotland. The UK has always been to them England with a few wee countries tacked on. Maybe that’s what has so irked Mr. Fraser; the fact that the Union with England is promoted in Scotland, yet the Union with Scotland is virtually ignored by England. If so, then he’s just moved another inch closer to being a Nationalist.
Remember I quoted Stephen Ladyman in The English Labour Party:- “It is important to recognise that the election is won or lost in England. We need to have English voices speaking and giving messages that make sense in English communities.”
The London-based papers have English voices speaking to English communities, just as The Herald and The Scotsman and other Scottish papers should provide a Scottish voice to Scotland.
I’m afraid Douglas’ call to the London-based media will go unheeded. I guess their response will be ‘Wake us up when you have a referendum’. In other words, if its worth reporting to middle-englander, if it affects us then we’ll run the story. Until then its the heroin and haggis.
Any resentment this might store up is difficult to tell; after all its been happening for years and some people still vote for Unionist parties in Scotland. I don’t think us Scots really expect that to change while part of the UK. Its a by-product of what Ludovic Kennedy called being ‘In Bed with an Elephant’.
There has always been a Little Englander philosophy prevalent by some in England. Traditionally Scots have been more open to other cultures, spreading far and wide. Even the British Empire was built in no small part by Scots.
The fact that we’re treated as a foreign country should be no surprise. Most Scots who’ve tried to change Scots money in England will testify to that.
But what’s wrong with that? I expect to have to change money when abroad, and I get my information about foreign countries from the media and internet. I’d be surprised if a Norwegian paper carried in-depth stories on Scotland; I wouldn’t expect an English paper to do the same.
Its only a symptom that – as Henry McLeish, ex-Scottish First Minister has said – “The Union is not fit for purpose.”
Though that’s probably not been reported in London.