A friend sends me an item from the BBC News website this morning, “Is the UK really in Scandinavia?” I’ll adumbrate some of the points it makes:
Is England nearer to being America, or Germany (and Fance) or Scandinavia? In terms of overseas aid almost no countries fulfilled the United Nations target of 0.7% of GDP per year — except Britain, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Iceland. Exactly the same applies to the top quartile users of the Internet. Of online shopping, Britain leads the way followed by Denmark, Norway and Sweden. A Swede living in England says that Engish people think those countries are high-spend welfare states, but they’re reforming now. The result is that both the left and the right use the Scandinavian countries as examplars !
I’ll now quote my friend’s comments:
“It will not amuse left-wing parties in this country — the Labourr Party, Plaid Cymru [in Wales], the Green Party, the Scottish National Party — to compare centre-right, free market Britain with what they conceive to be liberal Scandinavia. But actually, Scandinavia’s economic policies are much more right-wing in many ways than they care to realise. It is hard to get unemployment benefit in Sweden for example. And Denmark makes people sell valuables before they can get benefits. And Norway didn’t subsidise inefficient industries like coal mining and manufacturing in the way that Britain did in the 1980s (and still does). Scandinavia is in many ways more Thatcherite than Thatcher ever dared to be.”
My correspondent then goes on to say: “Scotland under the SNP however, will have more in common with socialist Venezuela that the Scandinavians the Scottish National Party admires.”
My comments concern the last point only. Under the stimulus of new scientific and artistic ideas being brought back to England in the 16th and 17th centuries by our ariistocrats making their Grand Tours of Europe — a revival of the Renaissance history of Italy particularrly — England might well have industrialised anyway. But it would have been only slowly — as was also going on in Western Europe.
What was different in our case is that a stream of Scottish engineers and scientists was already pouring into northern England — as well as some Scottish banking practices. The reason for this is that Scotland, with four universities in a quarter of our population — whereas our Oxford and Cambridge were theology colleges — totally outranked England in potential innovations. It was these that caused the industrialization to become revolutionary in 1785 and onwards.
Cultures don’t die overnight — they take generations to change. When Scottish people voted for independence in 2014 a considerable number of centre and certre-right voters must also have voted for independence as well as the Scottish Nationalist Party and almost all the Scorttish Labour Party.Scottish desire for indpendence is more than merely political in the narrow sense.
Even though, today, the policies of the ultra-left Scottish Nationalist dominated Partiament will alsmost certainly get them into deep water before too long, there is enough Scottish pride available to make independence work sooner or later — in my view.
To answer the original question of the title I would suggest that the more you look in detail at the culture of any country the more unique to seems to be. Britain, I suggest, because of its particular history during the Industrial Revolution is unique — although making a bad fist, so far, of adjusting to post-industrial times