“England is more egalitarian than Scotland when it comes to embracing racial diversity, Gordon Brown has claimed” – The Times, 16 September 2021


The case for independence rests on the fact that Scots continually vote for progressive parties and get reactionary Tory governments.


Our Scottish Future (OSF) is a pro-Union campaigning body set up by Gordon Brown in 2019. It “supports Scotland's continued place within the UK” but it also claims to “set out a progressive agenda for change in Scotland”.

The OSF Board of Advisors includes former LibDem leader Menzies Campbell (below), former Labour MSP Jenny Marra, Professor Azeem Ibrahim (a member of the US Army war College), Andrew Hilland (one of Brown’s former political advisors), and Philip Rycroft (former permanent secretary at the Department for Exiting the European Union).

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OSF claims to “campaign for a modernised Union” which sounds suspiciously like the modern version of federalism Brown offered in 2014 and subsequently failed to deliver. Whatever one’s views on Scottish independence or the Union, OSF can hardly be labelled an objective think tank.


On September 16, OSF published the results of an opinion poll which, according to the group, “reveals that the nations of the UK are united on the key priorities they want government to pursue after the pandemic, and by the values that underpin their sense of national pride".

We should say from the start that the OSF report covers only Scotland, England and Wales – Northern Ireland is not included. No explanation is given of the omission of Northern Ireland. So the report does not refer to the UK but only to Great Britain.

READ MORE: Gordon Brown claims England is more inclusive than Scotland as he attacks case for Yes

The essence of the OSF polling evidence is that England is more tolerant, diverse, inclusive and egalitarian than at any point in recent history.

Across England, Scotland and Wales there are similar levels of support for equality (76, 78 and 78 per cent respectively), tolerance (83, 83, 83 per cent) and diversity (82, 82, 80 per cent) as qualities that make people proud of their respective countries.

Brown’s conclusion is that such similar social and political attitudes can provide common ground for a united Britain to build a progressive future (again he makes no mention of Northern Ireland). 

It is interesting that in the media presentation of the OSF findings, some details are downplayed. For instance, the OSF poll shows that all voters across the UK feel that elected leaders in the devolved administrations and in the English mayoralties understand and can represent the electorate better than the government and MPs at Westminster.

Again, the OSF polling shows that most UK voters are against austerity and are in favour of the wealthy paying a “fairer share in tax”. Presumably Gordon Brown will pass this finding on popular support for a wealth tax to Sir Keir Starmer (below).

The National: Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer speaking at the TUC congress in London


Should we trust the OSF one-off polling data? The most independent and reliable surveys of social views in the UK are the annual British (BSA) and Scottish (SSA) Social Attitudes surveys, conducted by the National Centre for Social Research (NCSR) since 1983. In the case of the SSA, the polling research is conducted in association with Edinburgh University.

In 2018, the NCSR conducted a special analysis of attitudes towards immigration, comparing Scotland with the rest of the UK. The work was fronted by Sir John Curtice. This study found that in Scotland more people believe immigration is good for the economy (46 per cent) than believe it is bad (17 per cent). However, the same proved true in England and Wales, where 47 per cent think immigration is good for the economy with 16 per cent against.

Again, in Scotland, more people think immigration enriches local culture (43 per cent) than undermines it (20 per cent). But the picture in England is very similar. So there is no evidence from the standard, independent attitude surveys of any noticeable difference in attitudes to immigration (as a good proxy for attitudes to race and diversity) between the Home Nations.

However, the 2018 NCSR study (based on a series of annual surveys) did find significant differences across Britain in the link between attitudes towards immigration and how people vote. Specifically, those who vote Conservative or Labour in Scotland are less likely than the supporters of those parties in England and Wales to hold a favourable view of the economic consequences of immigration. On the other hand, SNP voters have a relatively favourable view of the consequences of immigration.

The National: John Curtice

How do we explain this difference in correlation between voting and views on immigration, north and south of the Border? According to Curtice (above) and his fellow researchers, the more strongly someone feels English relative to their sense of being British, the more likely they are to believe that immigration has “undermined” Britain’s culture. However, SNP voters tend to feel a strong sense of Scotland as a new nation and so generally welcome immigrants.

This political division in attitudes between Scotland and England was seen in the 2016 Brexit referendum when Scotland voted 62 per cent remain and England voted 53 per cent Leave.


A close inspection of the new OSF polling data does provide evidence of a generally liberal England, but drilling down still shows Scots are more open to the world in some ways. Asked if they wanted to live in a country with “open borders”, 36 per cent of Scots were open to the proposition compared to only 29 per cent of English respondents.

The OSF report is packaged to suggest that Scotland and England share the same liberal values and therefore should work together to promote those values. However, the case for independence was never predicated – as the OSF report wrongly infers – on individual Scots being more liberal than individual English citizens.

The Scottish political case for self-determination rests on the fact that Scots continually vote for progressive parties and get conservative – indeed reactionary – Tory governments. Since 1959, the people of Scotland have not voted for a Conservative government once. Yet they have had Tory administrations for 39 of the last 62 years.


The National: National Fact Check Mixed

Full marks for Gareth Southgate’s version of a liberal England but zero for implying that Scotland staying in the Union will give us progressive government at Westminster any time soon.