I WRITE this piece as an Englishman who has campaigned for an English Parliament and as an individual who believes that the British Government is currently treating the English and the English nation unfairly. For years as the campaign director and former chairman of the Campaign for an English Parliament, I have championed a federal UK but recently have openly admitted that England’s only chance of self-determination might be as an independent country. This is due to the complete and absolute refusal by the British Government to treat England with respect.

The final straw for me has been the British Government’s failure to appoint a Brexit minister for England so that England could be properly represented during the internal UK discussions on Brexit. This has meant that an English voice has been denied. So I have had to finally accept that Theresa May’s government doesn’t give a damn about England, the English nation or English concerns. Many Scottish nationalists, no doubt, feel the same about the British Government and Scotland!

Although some English people still want a federal UK it is becoming harder and harder for a patriotic English to see how that is going to work. Moving to a constitutional position that now includes independence for England has meant that I have taken more interest into the SNP’s interaction with both its supporters and the British Government. I realise that an English nationalist approaches the issue of self-government differently to a Scottish nationalist, but our common ground is growing.

We are similar in that English nationalists want to do the best for England just as the Scottish nationalist wants to do the best for Scotland. However, English nationalists come into the debate with the acknowledgement that we are the largest nation of the UK in population, geographical size and in economic terms and also have a history that shows we have dominated the British Isles for much of the last 1000 years.

I know that this view will put me at odds with many Scottish nationalists but all I am doing is stating simple truths from an English nationalist perceptive. All that said, I am not asking for the Scots’ sympathy over the way the British Government treats England, I just thought it would be helpful to understand an English nationalist position before highlighting the rocks hidden under the water by the British Government that the SNP appear to be heading towards. It is essential that Nicola Sturgeon navigates her team and the Scottish independence movement away from those treacherous waters if the SNP are to get the Scottish independence they desperately want. If English nationalists who understand the underhandedness of the British government can assist in the SNP steering safely through those treacherous waters then the Scottish independence movement will not run aground.

Not being a Scottish nationalist has made it easier to see that the British Government does not view Nicola Sturgeon with the same respect as Alex Salmond. One reason for this is that Nicola Sturgeon committed the Scottish nationalist movement, after the Brexit referendum, to the position of fervently wanting to remain in the EU. The British Government, acting like the wreckers of old, have encouraged her to overly tack her EU-supporting position and she sailed right into a British government trap. She locked the SNP’s ship on one particular course by declaring against Brexit too quickly.

This was accomplished by encouraging Nicola Sturgeon to confuse one Union of nations (the UK) with wanting another union of nations (the EU). They allowed her to confuse her supporters by blurring the clear issue of simply wanting Scotland to become an independent country. She was essentially saying that she was quite happy to be subservient to another block of nations dominated by France and Germany. This has divided her core supporters. It is no longer good enough that a Scottish nationalist just wants to dock into the port of independence, but that port must now belong to the EU as well. SNP supporters have been forced to pick another alliance! That type of ballast needs to be jettisoned or it will sink the SNP.

Sir John Curtice, professor of politics at Strathclyde University, who is no friend of the SNP, has highlighted that the EU-supporting course set by the SNP is splitting the Scottish nationalist vote by a third. From an English nationalist view, there appears no advantage for the SNP saying any more that they are pro-EU.

This has meant that all the British Government needs to do is to keep flickering the false shore light and wait for the SNP to run aground at the next General Election. This will enable them to say that the SNP no longer has the mandate to call for a second independence referendum. This is because the odds are that no government can remain in power for a number of terms without being damaged by an active opposition. It is natural that a government’s support gradually crumbles away because the mere fact of being in government expands opposition and undermines support. The navigational risks for the SNP are clear to see from the English shoreline, and English nationalist help in pointing out some of the hidden rocks is needed.

Steering a ship with wreckers at work is difficult because no captain wants to be beached, so the SNP has a couple of very stark choices to make. They can either sit tight out at sea and hope Scottish nationalist support increases at the next General Election, or they steer directly towards another Scottish independence referendum in 2019 and accept that heading towards a port will take a ship close to shallow waters. But that is the risk a captain has to face when wanting to dock a ship during a storm, and getting Scottish independence is definitely creating one. Most captains who want to “weather the storm” would accept friendly and helpful guidance from the shoreline, even if it was from English nationalists!

The SNP are now stuck between hoping that they do not have a slow death by a decreasing vote at the ballot box or taking the chance of a second referendum when they might not be 100% ready. I know which choice I would take and it seems to me that the SNP cannot wait for the next General Election because that is exactly what the British Government wants them to do. This is where the British wreaker’s lamp is pointing the SNP towards. The SNP need to avoid that option and need to commit to a 2019 Scottish independence referendum, or the General Election 2020 could be the end of the independence issue! Commit or slowly sink!

This leads me to a second point. I have always thought that the SNP had made a mistake at the last Scottish independence referendum by not working along with an English constitutional non-partisan group because they had mistakenly focused on wanting England broken up so that Edinburgh and the Scottish economy could challenge London and the south-east of England’s economy more successfully.

The SNP’s political adventures into northern England, I assumed, were part of a plan to disrupt any attempts at England uniting. At the last independence referendum I thought they might have had a better chance of winning had they worked with the Campaign for an English Parliament, because we could have been arguing the case for English equality and fairness along the Northern Border towns. It was clear that many in England also wanted Scottish independence and many Scottish Unionists could have been reassured by the prospect of two independent countries working together. The SNP rejected that offer even after we went to Edinburgh to discuss what type of working arrangement could be organised.

But now I think the time has changed and the SNP needs to work with English people who are in favour of an independent England or an independent Scotland. If they want to win the next referendum on Scottish independence the SNP cannot afford to reject working with an English organisation this time. If they do, then the SNP will have truly wreaked their Scottish independence hopes on the rocks, or simply run out of supply or fuel because of staying out at sea for too long

Eddie Bone
Campaign director, Campaign for an English Parliament