Article in today's Daily Telegraph by Philip Johnston http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jhtml;jsessionid=PXECFD3IRVPDFQFIQMGSFFWAVCBQWIV0?xml=/opinion/2007/04/23/do2302.xml Happy St George's Day. You are, no doubt, preparing to wear your red rose to work or are packing the children off to school sporting a corsage of bluebells and primroses that they will proudly show off to their friends. Tonight, there will be a splendid supper party with such English culinary delights as Lancashire hotpot or shepherd's pie followed by readings from the works of the Bard, whose birthday also happens to fall today. In London, Ken Livingstone will lead the taxpayer-funded celebrations as Morris Dancers and hobby horses process through a capital festooned with flags bearing the cross of St George, while revellers will drink far too liberally of those quintessential flat bitters that knock other, darker, ales into a leprechaun's cocked hat. Dream on. This is the day that dare not speak its name. If you turned up at work with a rose in your lapel it would be assumed you were on your way to a wedding. While the Welsh would feel naked on St David's Day without their daffodils or leeks, and the Irish are happy to wander around in the middle of March wearing what looks like a handful of wilting spinach, the English would merely be embarrassed sporting their floral equivalents. A Scot reciting Scots Wha Hae or Ye Banks and Braes o' Bonnie Doon might have a tear in his eye and a tremor in his voice; most Englishmen would have trouble remembering more than a few lines written by their greatest writer. And an invitation to celebrate both the English national day and Shakespeare in a combined replication of St Andrew's and Burns nights would be regarded with a mixture of puzzlement and deep suspicion. Unless Richard II is being performed somewhere tonight, there will be few extempore renditions of John of Gaunt's speech about "This royal throne of kings, this sceptr'd isle/This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars/This other Eden, demi-paradise...This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England...'' (OK. I looked it up.) To be fair to Mayor Livingstone, he has made a gesture towards St George. At the weekend there were a number of events in the capital, including a formal march organised by the Royal Society of St George; and English music and dance was performed in Covent Garden. The Globe hosted a birthday party for Shakespeare and the cast of Spamalot, the Monty Python musical, will tonight seek to break the world record for the number of people playing in a coconut orchestra. Now, that must make you feel proud to be English. Maybe this is all about to change. On May 3, the Scots will go to the polls and a victory for the Scottish National Party is widely predicted. The SNP will not win an outright majority and will find it difficult to secure a coalition if it insists upon honouring its pledge to hold a referendum on independence: Labour, the Tories and the Lib Dems are all opposed to separation. But perhaps there should be a referendum, and it should be held both north and south of the border. This matter needs to be resolved; and if we have to do so in the 300th year of the Union, so be it. If the SNP wins 40 per cent of the vote or thereabouts, why should its promised referendum be vetoed by a party that secures a quarter of that? However, British constitutional matters are not devolved to the Scottish parliament. They remain reserved to the national legislature at Westminster. Furthermore, a Union is exactly that: why should the other half of the divorcing party not have a say in the matter? So, just as both parliaments of Scotland and England were required to pass legislation in 1707 to ratify the Treaty of Union, which took effect 300 years ago next Tuesday, so should the people of both countries have a say if there is to be a parting of the ways, and do so with their eyes open. The principle of self-determination means, of course, that one country could not stop the other doing what it wanted. But the SNP, as far as we know, is not proposing unilateral secession. The received wisdom has always been that, in a double referendum, the Scots would vote for independence and the English to retain the Union. I suspect the reverse is the case. An opinion poll just before Christmas indicated that while the Scots would like the nationalists to be part of the government in Edinburgh, they did not want separation. Yet, at the same time, there was an exceptionally high level of support in England for a breach. How has it come to this? Fifty years ago, the question would never have arisen. Not until the late 1960s, around the time the first barrels of North Sea oil came ashore, did the SNP make any breakthrough. Devolution was a bid to arrest what was seen as a slide to independence. Instead, it probably hastened it. Is anyone surprised when we made so little attempt to defend the integrity of the Union which, with all its flaws, was one of the most successful and enduring political systems in the world, the foundation of an empire, the crucible of democracy and enlightenment? For goodness sake, which other nation would celebrate its 300th birthday in such a mealy-mouthed way, with the minting of a Â£2 coin, and that's it? Do you remember the spectacular bicentenary parties thrown by the Americans in 1976, or the French in 1989? Where is the pomp and circumstance we do so well? Where is the leadership? It was all well and good for Messrs Blair and Brown rushing to man the barricades with panicky articles in this newspaper a few weeks back; but the fort had been overrun while they slept. Even though some polls suggest a joint referendum held tomorrow might result in separation, a campaign in which the arguments were fully debated would probably pull the peoples of both countries back from the brink, though it would be a close- run thing. At least the people of England should have a say in the matter. As Chesterton said, they have not spoken yet. * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * So ladies and gentlemen of the jury, should there be a public holiday in England on St George's Day?