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Tuesday, 23 April, 2002, 18:42 GMT 19:42 UK
SNP leader flags up English nationalism
John Swinney
John Swinney ponders life on the street
The leader of the Scottish National Party has highlighted the rise in English nationalism on a St George's Day visit to Manchester.

John Swinney believes that "Britishness" is dying out, but that the relationship between the Scottish and the English remains strong.

The SNP leader said it was "fascinating" to watch the reawakening of the English national identity and suggested that this process was "more positive" than some people had claimed.

Mr Swinney visit included tours of the Coronation Street set and the city's new Commonwealth Games stadium.

Once again, the SNP have shown themselves to be a joke

Labour spokesman

He argued that a reawakening on English identity had been born out of Scottish nationalism.

"Labour love to talk about independence ripping Scotland out of Britain," said Mr Swinney.

"The reality is that we have a shared cultural commonwealth that will long outlive the British state."

"Emerging from Britain, we can see a new 'Commonwealth of the Isles', made up of the cultural bonds that Scots and English share.

"From Coronation Street to Sean Connery and from Shakespeare to Robert Louis Stevenson, we share bonds that do not need a state to remain in place.

'Unique programming'

"I will still be a Corrie fan after independence and Kidnapped will still grip the imagination of thousands of English children long after the British state is consigned to history."

But his enthusiasm for Coronation Street was ridiculed by Labour which said: "Once again, the SNP have shown themselves to be a joke.

"If they want to talk about popular TV programmes, they should tell us how much it will cost the television stations in an independent Scotland to buy all the programmes people enjoy now, while funding unique Scottish programming."

John Swinney with Corrie star Tina O'Brien
With Corrie star Tina O'Brien

He highlighted figures which suggest that the number of people south of the border who feel English rather than British has trebled since 1997.

Mr Swinney attributed that to the success of Scotland's campaign for self-government.

The SNP leader said people may be better off without being part of a United Kingdom but this should not mean breaking the social ties that link the Scots and the English.

Speaking before his trip, Mr Swinney said: "On St George's Day, it may seem strange for the leader of Scottish nationalism to celebrate this search for English identity.

National identity

"But the reality is we share a common history, common roots and, after independence, will be part of a new commonwealth of the isles."

He said the resurgence of English nationalism in recent years was changing concepts of "Britishness".

"It has been fascinating to watch the reawakening of the English national identity - a reawakening much more positive than some commentators have tried to claim.

"For many people in England, St George's Cross has replaced the Union Jack and there is a gathering momentum for political change within the English nation, both positive developments," he said.

Scottish self-confidence

In February, the SNP's economy spokesman, Andrew Wilson, called on Scots to support England in the forthcoming World Cup finals.

Mr Wilson said it was time to forget ancient rivalry and for Scots to lose the chip on their shoulders.

He argued that supporting the English football team would be "a symbol for the strength of Scottish self-confidence".

BBC Scotland's Glenn Campbell reports
"A walk down Britain's most famous street for SNP leader John Swinney"
See also:

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English 'victims of discrimination'
23 Apr 99 | UK
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