Scots are not so different

April 19, 1996

Olga Wojtas and Huw Richards report from the Political Studies Association annual conference in Glasgow. Scots have been basking in the afterglow of Braveheart, the biopic of 13th century patriot William Wallace, that confirmed what they have always known: the Scots cherish democracy, freedom and honesty, while the English are into world domination and all-round nastiness.

Well, not quite, according to Bill Miller, professor of politics at Glasgow University. His research has shown that while the Scots are proud of their distinctive political system, there is little to distinguish the underlying political culture of Scotland from the rest of mainland Britain.

In a foreword to the programme for the Political Studies Association conference, Professor Miller says: "Scotland, like other countries, is not a nation of lawyers, constitutional experts, journalists or sociologists.

"So despite all the very plausible reasons why Scots should be very different, our study shows that there are far bigger differences in political culture between the young and old, the educated and uneducated, the religious and irreligious, the rich and poor, and even between public and politicians, than between the Scots and the English."

But the Scots can take a little comfort from Professor Miller's British Rights Survey. It has uncovered some small but none the less significant differences. People living in Scotland scored exactly the British average for their commitment to liberty, but slightly higher for their commitment to equality. And the Scots were 12 per cent more egalitarian than the British as a whole in their attitudes to the Government's responsibility for removing inequalities of wealth.

In terms of sympathies and antipathies, there was scarcely any difference between Scots and the rest of the country. The only substantial differences were that on a 200-point scale the Scots were ten points more favourable to the socially disadvantaged and ten points more likely to agree that British governments had been reducing citizens' rights in recent years.

On the issue of greater self-government for the different parts of Britain, the Scots were distinguished by their favourable attitude towards more self government for the English regions, being 13 per cent more in favour of devolution for the English than were the British as a whole.

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