Gordon Brown: Scots see that English values aren’t all about ‘toffs and Brexit’

Former PM launches polling results showing unity among people of UK nations on equality and tolerance

Scots recognise that English values are more aligned with Gareth Southgate and Marcus Rashford than “toffs and Brexit”, Gordon Brown has said.

The former prime minister has launched polling results which indicate a significant alignment between the nations of the UK on equality, tolerance and diversity, as well as a desire for more, not less, cooperation between governments.

“People are beginning to see that England is not the England that has been portrayed,” said Brown of the data from thinktank Our Scottish Future, of which he is a founding member. “It is far more diverse, far more tolerant, far more inclusive, and perhaps the politics doesn’t reflect that at the moment because of Brexit.”

Asked whether they would respond more positively to an England represented by the likes of Southgate and Rashford rather than the current UK government, more than 50% of pro-independence voters in Scotland said they would.

The survey also found that across Scotland, England and Wales, people were united in their belief that equality (78%, 76%, 78%), tolerance (83%, 83%, 83%), liberty (86%, 87%, 83%), and diversity (82%, 82%, 80%) were important to making them proud of their nation.

The analysis also plotted remarkably similar attitudes towards equality versus meritocracy, structural racism and open borders in the three nations.

The polling revealed a pattern across the whole of Britain where local identity is becoming more important, with England mirroring Scotland and Wales in wanting devolved governance. In areas such as London and the north of England in particular, as well as Scotland and Wales, people feel comfortable with plural identities, but this was not just about geography, Brown said, referring to the new US Open champion Emma Raducanu.

“You can be Muslim, English and British and feel quite comfortable with these three identities,” he said, “or you can be a tennis player who was born in Canada from parents who are from China and Romania. And yet that tennis player can become British sporting icon overnight.”

The nations of the UK were also found to be united on the key priorities they want governments to pursue after the pandemic: the NHS; a dignified retirement; climate change; education; and, most significantly according to Brown, want their governments to improve cooperation – particularly since the experience of devolved governments working together through the pandemic.

“It’s important to recognise that 75% of Scottish people at least want cooperation, and sometimes more than 80%,” said Brown. “So instead of this picture of Scotland and England dividing from each other, people actually not only share the same values and have the same ideas about the importance of priorities they attach to policies, but they actually want people to cooperate.”

The immediate lesson from the polling, said Brown, was that the muscular unionism favoured by some in the current Conservative administration was bound to fail. “You cannot ride roughshod over local decision-making. You can’t ignore the need for partnership between Scotland and the UK. You can’t call devolution ‘a disaster’.

“What comes out of our polling, particularly for that middle group who will decide the future of Scotland, they don’t want to choose between being Scottish and British … people have seen cooperation work on vaccination, but I think they want to see it work in other areas for the benefit of the people of Scotland.”


Libby Brooks Scotland correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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