England no longer needs Scotland, says English Tory
THE English have no more need of Scotland or its oil wealth, and should stop letting Scotland "extort" money, says a leading Conservative.
Michael Portillo, who ran for the Tory leadership in 2001, left parliament last year and is now a journalist, which gives him licence to say the unsayable within Tory ranks.
In a newspaper column yesterday, Mr Portillo, a former defence secretary, said the English used to fear becoming economically inferior to Germany and France and worried about what would happen if they lost part of the UK's population and North Sea oil revenue.
Tory interests would be better served by splitting England from Scotland, now that Britain is growing more strongly than its large continental rivals, he argued.
"The loss of one-twelfth of our population in a region that drags down our national performance could not harm us. Our hydrocarbons are less of an issue now that they are being exhausted." He added it would be good for Scotland to be separate. "It is a pensioner economy existing on English handouts and consequently its politicians implement centralising policies of a kind abandoned in the former Soviet satellite states," he wrote.
The creation of a separate parliament has not reduced "wearisome whingeing" and the World Cup finals have not helped relations, he said, and First Minister Jack McConnell's support for Trinidad and Tobago against England in last week's match was a display of offensive and "undignified chippiness". He said: "Perhaps McConnell needs reminding his population lives as well as it does thanks to subsidies extorted from English taxpayers."
Alex Salmond gave a caustic welcome to Mr Portillo's comments, saying "even the most unlikely convert to the cause of independence has to be welcomed, even if it is a rather extreme reaction to Gordon Brown's support for the England football team".
The SNP leader added: "His conclusion that Scotland would benefit from independence is undeniably correct."
Today, a Labour-dominated Commons select committee is expected to report its concern about rising disquiet in England at the role of Scots MPs who shape policy on issues which have little impact in their own constituencies.
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