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Monday, 23 April, 2001, 09:48 GMT 10:48 UK
St George's Day call for devolution
st george's cross
Campaigners want a debate on the future of England
The government is being urged to use St George's Day - on Monday - to announce a timetable for the introduction of elected regional assemblies.

The Campaign For the English Regions (CFER) is calling for "a much firmer timetable for legislation" for regional government.

The CFER's Don Price said: "In 1997, the government fulfilled its promise to the Scottish and Welsh, with devolution within the first year of the parliament.

"We believe the English regions deserve the same level of commitment in the coming year."


The government needs to take a lead in explaining the real benefits of devolution, just as they did in Scotland and Wales

Jane Thomas
Campaign For the English Regions
Campaigners say the day given over to celebrating England's patron saint is the perfect opportunity to launch a national debate on the future of England.

Jane Thomas, CFER secretary and Campaign for Yorkshire director, said: "We want real power to be devolved to the regions where there is demand but only on the basis of the informed consent of the people.

"For that to happen, the government needs to take a lead in explaining the real benefits of devolution, just as they did in Scotland and Wales.

"We know that the new elected regional assemblies will democratise the existing tier of regional bureaucracy and quangos will be able to meet the special needs of each region much more flexibly and efficiently than current arrangements.

"Now it is time for the government to get this message out loud and clear."

Cultural nationalism

But other campaigners say St George's Day should celebrate a more cultural form of nationalism.

The Royal Society of St George is urging people to display their "Englishness" by wearing red roses and enjoying English beef and ale.

Spokesman Arthur Naisbitt said the aim was to "reawaken English patriotism and pride in our history".

He believes there is a growing concern among English people about the "constant denigration of English traditions and institutions".

English pride

But research indicates that most English people do not know Monday is St George's Day.

In a Mori poll commissioned by the England football kit makers Umbro, only 46% correctly identified the date.

The figure dropped to 31% among those aged between 16 and 24.

Just 26% of those living in the north east of England knew the date - although 91% said they were proud to be English.

Patriotic stamps

Whereas people living in the south east were less patriotic - only 79% said they were proud of their nationality, 59% knew when St George's Day was.

But although many English people do not know the date, three quarters believe St George's Day should be a bank holiday, according to another survey, conducted by Expedia.co.uk.

The Royal Mail is doing its bit to celebrate English history and heritage on St George's Day with four stamps that celebrate Englishness going on sale for the first time at more than 14,000 post offices across England.

Approved by the Queen, the stamps show the crowned lion of England supporting the shield of St George, the three lions of England, an oak tree and the Tudor rose.

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St George's Day
Should the English be more patriotic?
See also:

08 Mar 00 | UK Politics
Assemblies campaign stepped up
12 Apr 00 | UK Politics
New voice for English regions
23 Apr 98 | UK
The great St George revival
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