How have British attitudes changed over the last decade? The latest British Social Attitudes survey is out today, suggesting that Britons have become less tolerant of immigration, benefits tourism and those who don’t speak English since 2003. Here are the five key things you need to know about what Britain is thinking and feeling as a country:
1. You must be born here and speak English to be ‘truly British’
Britons still have a strong sense of what it is to be British. According to the BSA, 95 per cent think you need to speak English to be ’truly British’. The last time the BSA tackled the question in 2003, just after the Iraq war, 91 per cent thought it was important. It’s becoming more important to people. In the 1995 survey, 65 per cent felt it was ‘very important’ but by 2013, this had increased eleven points:
Birth place and ancestry is also important to being British. Nearly three quarters state it’s important to be born in Britain, suggesting Prince Philip, Cliff Richard and Boris Johnson aren’t properly British under this definition. A similar level also think you must have lived in Britain for most of your life to be a ‘true Brit’ while half think British ancestry is important.
2. We’re still split on immigration
The BSA suggests a significant proportion of the British population would like to see immigration reduced, but opinion is more split on whether migration has been a good thing for the country. 47 per cent of Brits think immigration has been a bad thing, but 60 per cent of graduates thinks it has benefited the British economy. Only 17 per cent of those without any qualifications think it has benefited us. The London divide can be starkly seen on migration — half of Londoners think it’s good for British economy, double rest of the country.
3. Benefits for EU migrants need to be clamped down
Britons are becoming less tolerant of people abusing our benefits system. According to the report, 61 per cent want tougher rules to deter benefits tourism; by ensuring EU immigrants have to wait three years before claiming. Overwhelmingly, 83 per cent believe EU immigrants should have lived here for one year of more before claiming.
4. Britishness is in decline
Although we still have strong ideas about what defines being British, we are becoming less nationalistic. In the latest BSA, 35 per cent state they are proud to be British, compared to 43 per cent in 2003. Out of all the age categories, only 65+ are still very proud to call themselves British:
5. An independent Scotland wants to retain a UK identity
With 92 days to go till the Scottish independence referendum, the BSA has probed how Scotland would feel in the respective outcomes. If Scotland votes ‘No’, the BSA suggests the Scots will be looking for more devolution — almost two thirds believe Scotland should be responsible for own taxes if it remains in the union.
But if the Scotland votes ‘Yes’, 86 per cent said they’d like to carry on watching the BBC. An independent Scotland would like to keep the monarchy and the pound while, as The Herald splashed today, Scotland has similar levels of support for nuclear weapons as England. Not an easy argument for the SNP to digest.
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