Thursday, 5 July 2007

The Union (if I have asked you to look at my blog for an explanation, this is the post)

I have finally found some English people (more of that in another blog) and it has been an enriching and enlightening experience. However when someone raises the topic of Scottish devolution, I tend to feel like the only gay in a room full of politically correct homophobes.

Therefore I am writing this as a solution to avoid having to repeat myself ad nauseum for the rest of my London life. When I ask you to look at my blog at a dinner table in the middle of a discussion on this topic, this is the one I mean.

We now have a parliament in Edinburgh. We didn’t have one for 292 years. We have always had different laws to that of England and Wales. When a law was passed in parliament in Westminster previous to 1999 it only ever covered England and Wales. Another law had to be rushed through to apply to Scotland. They were then put in to place in Scotland via the Scottish Office in Edinburgh which was where people living in Scotland were effectively governed from. So we got badly thought out laws that were passed double quick given the constraints of Westminster time. It also gave all Scots a wonderful opportunity to blame the English for everything that went wrong.

The creation of the parliament in Edinburgh took our ability to moan away – something that is lamented every time we get another badly thought out law that has just had more parliamentary time to mess up. However it didn’t give us very much real power, in fact all the Parliament got was the powers that the old Scottish Office had.

It is very true that a Scottish Minister of Health in Westminster would have powers over England and Wales and not Scotland but to an extent this has always been the case. The NHS in Scotland has a slightly different system than the English and Welsh one and any Health Minister in the cabinet wouldn’t really have had much to do with the Scottish NHS. Likewise an Education Minister (again our system is different). Our laws are different, we print our own money and we drink a lot more alcohol.

Yes devolution isn’t fair as Scottish MPs in Westminster can vote on issues in England that English MPs can’t do for Scotland.
Yes devolution has its problems and no is hasn’t been done very well.
But the Union hasn’t been ‘done’ very well for 300 years.
It’s just that the English haven’t noticed for 292 of them.

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Where are the English?

Now that Golden Brown has finally got to the top of the pile, I thought that I should take the high road away from Loch Lomond and see what he was up to and what people think about him.
On first arrival it seems to me the very worst place in the whole of the UK to be to learn this is London. I can’t find any English people to tell me.
Brazilians, Polish, Australians, South Africans - thousands and millions of them. English people are pretty thin on the ground.
In the three weeks I have been here I can honestly say that goings on of Lula, the president of Brazil, his murky associations with drug barons and interference in the politics of Sao Paolo seem to have more importance than anything the Golden one might do.
The London based newspapers that I have spent most of my adult life reading have never seemed so irrelevant. Reading articles written by white middle class –albeit with a token second generation immigrant here and there - English people about London and the south of England had significance north of the border. The culture that these journalists talk about and move in is similar to an urban Scottish one albeit bigger and with more options. Reading them the average Scot can believe that the London life they read about can easily be accessed by them should they tread the well worn path south.
Well I can, at last, go and see the films and exhibitions that these newspapers review but not with anyone English.
Sizeable communities that appear invisible to the media thrive here. Who is conscious of the numbers of white South Africans who live in the UK, most of them in London? Apart from Rio Ferdinand whose Brazilian father seems like an anomaly in the history of UK immigration, how many people are aware of the sheer number of Brazilians are here? Why does no one in the London press ever mention these people?
The only conclusion I can come to is not only is the London press unaware of anything that goes on out with easy reach of the capital, neither do they actually have any idea what goes on in it. They must live and work within their own tiny wee group somewhat similar in style to the Hassidic Jews of Hendon. I am sure that it would make a good topic for anthropological study.
Meanwhile I try to decipher the Portuguese in the London Brazilian newspapers and magazines or read the white South Africans’ London magazine to see if I am missing anything.