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Understanding English public reactions to the Scottish parliament

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Although elite commentators have regularly predicted an English backlash to the asymmetric devolution settlement, public opinion surveys generally reveal widespread acceptance of the principle of Scottish self-governance. In this article, I explore some of the reasoning behind English responses to UK constitutional change, drawing on a comprehensive programme of conversational interview research initiated in 2000. Analysis suggests that although people in England often endorse sincere and consistent views on various aspects of the devolution process, currently these are not typically salient, central or strongly held, and are rarely rooted in detailed domain-specific information. In the first decade following the devolution settlement, English responses to UK constitutional reform have tended to be based on abstract values of national rights and procedural justice rather than on calculations of comparative national self-interest. However, popular acceptance of the new constitutional arrangements may be contingent upon a particular set of ideological circumstances, and it would be premature to assume that asymmetric devolution necessarily reflects the settled will of the English people.
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Keywords: English national identity; legitimacy; political attitudes; political information; social psychology

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Psychology,Lancaster University, UK

Publication date: 2012-03-01

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