The ‘Empire’ of London (Scotland the first to say “no more”?)

Posted: February 10, 2014 in Britain, Community, Economics, England, Government, History, Money, Politics, Science, Society, UK
Tags: , , , , , ,

Before and after the United Kingdom officially came into being with the Act of Union between England and Scotland in 1707, England has often seemed to be unprepared in historically significant events or periods.

The Empire came about more by accident due the consequences of the huge expense of developing the Royal Navy and them needing to recoup back to the Treasury the vast sums spent. To put this into perspective, at it’s height the Admiralty’s expenditure accounted for 10% of GDP of the country. This was the primary reason the Admiralty encouraged the system of the a Royal Navy ships Captains being able to retain the percentage of any ‘booty’ they brought back to share with himself and his crew. A state sanctioned ‘piracy’ if you like.

As with many European countries, any land area they docked at which had the potential of riches was ‘claimed’ on behalf of the sovereign to protect the assets discovered. In the example of India, a reciprocal arrangement was developed with the British East India Company. In effect a trading company with a private army that eventually led to the whole of India being under British control.

It was a successful blueprint similarly adopted that eventually comprised of overseas possessions and trading posts that ruled or administered over approximately 458 million people (an estimated 20% of the world’s population at the time) covering over 13 million square miles.

Historians can argue for or against the rights, wrongs etc but two things cannot really be disputed.

1) From all over the vast areas there had to be a central point everything went back to. That by logic was the capital city of the ‘Mother Country’ London.

2) The United Kingdom Governments took full advantage of the ‘spoils’ from those regions, and the effect of what wasn’t given back in return resonates with the consequences of this to the present day.

Closer to home, the pulling in of controlling power by a centralised government also became a legacy we have to the present day.

We were pathetically unprepared at the outbreak of the World War 2 in 1939, but the replacement of a Prime Minister totally unsuitable for the time in Neville Chamberlain, and the pure luck of an American President who wasn’t an isolationist and prepared to apply a Lend Lease policy helped us get out of being overrun by Germany.

After the end of World War 2 in 1945 Central Government in London held on to this. Even the possibility it could be diminished after 1945 as it was being justified less and less with the break up of the Empire wasn’t going to stop them.

However, over the 69 years of no worldwide conflict the requirement of the Central Government to centralise the financial, fiscal and legislative powers in London has become less and less relevant.

The mobility of the population in relation to moving and working in another part of the country from where one was born and raised hasn’t diminished the flourishing of the identity of the many regions in the UK. The phrase “once a Yorkshireman, always a Yorkshireman” could well be applied to anywhere else in the country by simply just changing ‘Yorkshireman’ as appropriate to the specific area concerned.

That term “we’re all in it together” for the financial crisis and cuts used by the Government simply doesn’t resonate with many because it’s plainly not true.

The resources spent per head in London far outweighs other parts of the UK, but the financial contribution from these other parts of the UK in return to Central Government in London greatly exceeds what they get back.

When you bring into play the current legislative powers of the Scottish Assembly to use for the benefit of it’s people, plus London expecting the English to accept MP’s from Scotland who can vote on English matters in the House of Commons, with the reverse not happening, is a classic case of their insular attitude.

A political arrangement by the way only for the benefit of the main parties to ensure they didn’t lose representatives from north of the border. This of course also applies to MP’s from other regions of the UK where they have a legislative body.

This is further compounded by the slashing of the budgets in real terms of all government departments, to also include the English County Councils downwards making the population of England suffer more than anywhere else generally.

Even today a vast majority, if not all, of the revenue from local taxation goes back to the Treasury who in turn then allocate a sum back that the English Regions have to fight tooth an nail for. They exercise near 100% financial and legislative control over the English regions purely by the fact their responsibilities issued by Central Government ensure the Councils require two thirds more revenue than they raise. Nearly every £ given has a caveat of what can be done with it and it is Central Government who decide how much your local government will receive.

The choice of cuts is left at local level but the amount of money they receive to maintain the services is decided in London. And when it’s announced an Adult Social Care respite establishment is being trimmed back or closed down, who do the local residents petition, protest and blame? .. not London.

When a major problem arises such as the floods it’s left to the local government authorities, rescue services and agencies to deal with until they are at near breaking point. Only when it beings to maybe look bad for London will they react.

The period of inaction from London to flood affected areas such as Somerset is a typical example and symptomatic of the attitude to the rest of England. I can’t imagine the Scottish politicians allowing such a situation to go on so long without intervention.

Central Government in London is like the old UK with it’s Empire, carry on regardless and get the most out with as little input as possible. The grand announcement that another £130 million is being allocated to battle the flood defence situation rings hollow with the leaked information the Environment Agency in England have heavy budget cuts imposed by ministers meaning it will have to shed about 25% of its staff, including frontline flood staff. This is despite pledges by its chairman that reducing the agency’s emergency response was a “red line”  http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/feb/10/floods-environment-agency-staff-cuts

With all the evidence over the years of climate change and the almost guaranteed weather to some degree of the type we are now experiencing nearly every year, they have actively decreased the capability of a government agency whose primary remit is to hold back nature. Replace the environment agency with the downsizing and lack of modernisation of the armed services between up to 1938 – when it was as plain as day the likely intentions of Hitler in Germany by his actions between from 1933* – and one has again the totally unprepared scenario.

Prime Minister David Cameron is our Neville Chamberlain of 1939, but the question of why we need all the power centralised in London is being asked in Scotland, and the same question is being asked more and more all over the shires of England.

* Build up of armed forces in direct contravention of 1919 Treaty of Versaille – Annexe of Alasce and Lorraine from France – Annexe of Austria – occupation of Czechoslovakia. All prior to invasion of Poland in 1939 

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Comments
  1. […] The ‘Empire’ of London (Scotland the first to say “no more”?) […]

  2. Karen Smith says:

    Interesting piece.

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