[...] The truth is, however, that differences between Scotland and England are fewer than they used to be. The strongest institution in 19th- and early 20th-century Scotland was the Presbyterian Kirk. It set the tone of the nation. Its values – thrift, self-restraint, self-help, hard work – were thought to characterise the Scottish people. The Kirk was very different from the Church of England, its morality narrower and more demanding. Now it is a pale shadow of what it used to be. Religion plays no greater a part in Scottish than in English life. Both countries have been secularised. For years, too, the Church and Nation Committee of the Kirk produced reports on socio-economic matters that were little different from Labour Party handouts. When Margaret Thatcher was invited to address the general assembly of the Kirk, she infuriated her audience by speaking, from her Methodist background, much as ministers of the Kirk might have done a couple of generations previously.
Assimilation is evident in other visible ways. Shopping centres in Scotland
are just like shopping centres in England; the same may be said of what is
left of our high streets. We mostly watch the same television programmes,
see the same movies, and respond to the same popular music. Football is
Scotland’s national game, but Scottish newspapers give far more coverage to
English football than they used to, and if a boy is not wearing a Rangers or
Celtic replica shirt, he is more likely to wear a Manchester United one than
that of another Scottish club. Our postman was early one Saturday. When I
asked why, he said he had arranged his shift to get to Old Trafford.
The more life in Scotland is like life in England, the more the need is felt
to assert our distinct identity. There is another factor not perhaps given
sufficient weight. This is the gravitational pull exerted by London – and
increasingly resented. Read more