Letters: The problem with Englishness

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Simon Jenkins It's time for England's first empire to get independence, 11 May is correct to argue the benefits to both Scotland and England that a break-up of the UK would bring. However, some additional points need to be made.Jenkins implies that the withdrawal of the 8bn "subsidy" would damage Scotland's social spending, but an independent Scotland would not need Trident, nuclear subs, expensive aircraft carriers or advanced jets. It would not have to contribute to major infrastructure schemes that only benefit England. And it would have oil, gas, tidal and hydroelectric power that it could sell to England. However, as a Scot with a Welsh name who lives in England I feel that the greatest benefit to Scots would be the loss of the ability to blame England for all their woes. The English would also benefit. They could rethink their role in the world. An England finally free of the trappings of empire might be a better place.Peter EvansNorwich Madeleine Bunting makes some interesting points If Scotland goes, all we'll have left is the Englishness we so despise, 16 May but I feel the term "British" represents the state, which gives equal rights under the law for a multicultural society, rather than a nation, which is a cultural identity. My experience differs from Bunting's, since I feel I am Welsh, but with some distant English roots, mainly from the Cotswolds, and, as such, I am sad to see definitions of English nationalism abandoned to the football hooligan and the far right. The extremist attitudes she mentions are not, however, confined to the far right. How else do you explain the level of racial abuse I've suffered over the years, working as an engineer in England, merely because I'm Welsh a level of abuse which has amazed colleagues from America, New Zealand and Australia. I welcome the flowering of a more progressive, tolerant English nationalism, it can't come too soon.John OwenCaerphilly, Glamorgan How wonderful that Madeleine Bunting's call for a "progressive English nationalism that we can all be proud of" should be followed by your leader in praise of civil parishes. These may be, as you say, quaint heirlooms bequeathed from Old Englande, but they embody something of the unique quality of Englishness which must inform the nationalism she calls for.Bunting quite rightly says this is a massive political challenge, and that the first step is to start talking about it. My suggestions for getting the conversation started include exercising the right to state our nationality as "English" in all official documents; agree a national anthem; celebrate English culture and multiculturalism; move towards an elected English national assembly; and offer the civil parish facility to any community that is prepared to establish and maintain it. I hope others will propose their own ideas, in which case we shall have started talking about it. In particular we would need to ensure that we avoid the kind of jingoistic racist exclusiveness that pervades much so-called "nationalist" thinking, but that surely is not beyond us, for have not we English always been a mongrel race, and is it not that breeding which makes us the great nation we are?Roger MundayHebden Bridge, West Yorkshire The most important issue for the English is the fact that we are totally excluded from the debate about our own future, and that of our shared United Kingdom. There is no first minister for England, no English parliament, no likelihood of a referendum on the English view of the future of the union, and no major political party that gives expression to English national sentiment. Instead, the Lib Dems, the Tories and Labour are all resolutely unionist in England, though circumspectly nationalist in Scotland and Wales. It is time for the English to demand an extension of democracy from the periphery of the union to its heart.Dr Stephen CullenUniversity of Warwick Simon Jenkins claims "historians" call Scotland "England's first empire". I doubt it. England already had an overseas empire at the Act of Union. The Scottish motivation for the Union was their desire to get in on the loot of this English empire after Scotland's attempt to establish its own overseas colonies had collapsed.English nationality issues raised by Madeleine Bunting are unresolved but her references to "football hooligans" are spot on. England football supporters have been heard booing opponents' anthems, yet we are currently a nation without one. An examination of nominees Land of Hope and Glory, Jerusalem, I Vow to Thee my Country, Rose of England, and There'll Always be an England reveal dated, divisive lyrics. However, the melodies are rousing. Better lyrics are in A Place Called England by Maggie Holland who wrote it when she emigrated to Scotland and is historically referenced but with a drab folksy tune. For words and music combined it's hard to beat Hope by Asian Dub Foundation. Alternatively, we could settle for Bobby McFerrin's, Don't Worry, Be Happy, inspired by Indian mystic and spiritual master Meher Baba, meanwhile Sunderland fans are chanting "don't worry about a thing" from Bob Marley's Three Little Birds. You never know, discussing English identity may result in football terrace chants, of "Who are we, who are we, who are we?".Ibrahim Brian ThompsonFerryhill, Co DurhamBritish identity and societyScotlandScottish National Party SNPWalesguardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2011 Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions More Feeds

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