Below is an article I wrote in college reflecting on Nationalism in Scotland during the 21st century.
On September 18th, 2014, a referendum was held in which the people of Scotland were given the opportunity to decide whether or not they wished for Scotland to become an independent country once more. Whilst the results declared that Scotland would in fact remain a part of the United Kingdom (UK), the event alone saw a rise in political activism in regards to the public as well as a rise of Nationalism throughout various parts of Scotland. (Scotland, 2014). Nationalism can be defined as a subjective ideology which creates a sense of unity within a Nation, giving individual members of the public a sense of belonging. (Alexander, 2001). Throughout history Nationalism has always been an underlying ideology within Scottish society, fuelled by the patriotic sentiment of the Scottish people. An example of the earlier acts of patriotism were the rebellions and uprisings which followed The Act of Union which saw Scotland and England joining together to form the United Kingdom in 1707. (Scottish-Devolution, 2015). Whilst the level of violence has lessened in regards to the people of Scotland asserting their loyalty to their country, it has by no means disappeared and statistics such as those gathered at the referendum as well as the steady rise of the political party known as the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) provides evidence to prove as much.
One of the contributing factors which plays a part in the rise of Nationalism within Scotland and which encourages a sense of patriotism is the image of Scotland which is created both by those who live in other countries and those who live in Scotland itself. Stereotypes are part of what makes up every country worldwide and much like other countries, both positive and negative stereotypical remarks can be made about Scotland and the Scots who inhabit the country. Such stereotypical remarks include the idea that Scots are typically seen as a bunch who shouldn’t be messed with, proud but modest people, who wear tartan kilts, play the bagpipes, eat haggis and enjoy their drink perhaps a little too much. (Sturton, 2009). Throughout the years the media has helped to encourage the stereotypical images made of Scotland and its people through films such as ‘Braveheart’ in which Actor, Mel Gibson, portrays the stereotypical freedom-fighting Scot. (Edensor, 1997). Mel Gibson’s portrayal of William Wallace is seen by many Historians as a comedic one, particularly due the number of historical inaccuracies, such as William Wallace’s face being painted blue. However, despite the historical inaccuracy of the movie, it is clear that the film itself inspires Scots to be patriotic and enhances the feeling of pride they have for the Country in which they live. A famous quote from the movie, “They may take our lives, but they’ll never take our freedom!”, is one which has helped to establish the stereotypical view of the Scots as fighters and warriors, installing the belief that all Scots are the same and desire independence when, although many do, not all wish for it. (Gibson, 1995). Furthermore, in regards to Scottish imagery and how it helps to promote a stereotypical view of the Nation, other countries are not the only ones who stereotype and generalize and the Scots themselves use these assigned trademarks to their own advantage such as the use of tartan and especially the bagpipes, neither of which are of Scottish origin. Regardless it is not uncommon to find bagpipers busking in the City centres of Glasgow and Edinburgh wearing their tartan finery and hearing the bagpipers play songs such as ‘Scotland The Brave’ (Stonewallmatze, 2008). and ‘Flower of Scotland’ (Epic Bagpipe Sound, 2014). seem almost like a trigger which give Scottish listeners an immediate sense of pride for their country and help to heighten a general feeling of Nationalism in the public through a combined sense of patriotism and belonging. It is clear that that which makes up the image of Scotland holds value in that they are things which have persisted in identifying Scotland as a Country and Nation throughout the centuries. (Craig et al., 2014).
Another aspect of Scottish Nationalism is the topic of identity and that which comes with it such as the underlying belief that it is simply due to the Scottish hating the English that they wish for Scotland to become an Independent Country. To be Scottish, not British or English, is something which matters a great deal to the Nationalistic Scot. A survey carried out between the 29th and the 31st of August this year shows what percentage of Scots who took part in the survey believe that certain traits can make an individual Scottish or not Scottish. For example, the survey shows that 87% of the public who took part believed that being born in Scotland made you Scottish. Whilst 58% believed that whilst having lived in Scotland for 10 years despite not being born in Scotland in fact makes you less of a Scot. Further study into the topic of identity and how identity can be defined subjectively shows an increase in the number of Scots who would state their Nationality as Scottish rather than British whilst the numbers of English citizens would not be as hasty to define themselves as English or British. (Smith, 2016). The media two seems to encourage the anti-English behaviour which now appears to be, for many, part of what it means to be Scottish. It is not uncommon to hear of the Scots insulting their English neighbours. Many famous comedians such as Frankie Boyle and Kevin Bridges often direct their humour towards the English, as do other Scottish Comedians across the Country, producing a series of jokes which at times can often be interpreted as insults. On the lead up to the Independence Referendum of 2014, many Scottish comedians were seen to be encouraging the ‘Yes’ voters merely by insulting the English. (Nicky Carrey, 2016). However, despite the rising belief that those who make up the Scottish population who wish to become Independent are only doing so in order to break away from England due to Anti-English sentiment is not a view shared by all. Many Scots in fact have no problem with the English population and merely wish to become Independent so that they are able to govern their country once more.
In response to the people of Scotland’s desire to govern their country once more a political party known as the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) was founded in 1934 with the primary aim to gain Independence for Scotland once again. (SNP, 2016). In 2011, a majority was won in the Holyrood Elections by the Scottish National Party. (Carrell, 2011). Having won a majority of 902, 915 votes and 53 seats, there was now the opportunity for the Scottish Parliament to plan a future referendum for Independence. (BBC, 2011). The Scottish Referendum for Independence, which First Minister at the time, Alex Salmond, was promised to happen within the next five years. (Carrell, 2011). Salmond stated that the SNP had successfully showed that Scotland were able to govern themselves and the Independence Referendum would look to only prove that further in allowing Scotland to govern themselves completely and not only in regards to particular issues with only devolved powers to execute. (Macwhirter, 2014). Following the failure to achieve Independence for Scotland, Alex Salmond resigned and was replaced as First Minister and Leader of the Scottish National Party by Nicola Sturgeon on November 19th, 2014. Since accepting the nomination for the position, Sturgeon has focused on a great deal of issues within Scotland such as Finance. Education, and Inequalities, particularly involving Gender. (Scottish Government, 2015). Nicola Sturgeon’s cabinet is the first to consist of an equal number of men and women, with herself as First Minister, John Swinney as Deputy Minister and four other male and female Ministers. The inequality between men and woman is an issue which Nicola Sturgeon has set out to deal with, particularly in regards to employment. (Brooks, 2014). Furthermore, Nicola Sturgeon has continued with the aim of Scottish Independence and following the Brexit vote on June 23rd, 2016, Sturgeon stated that it was highly likely that a second Scottish Referendum for Independence would occur, sometime in 2020 if the UK was to leave the European Union (EU). (Elgot, 2016). This possibility has sparked the interest of many politicians who emphasise the positive and negative consequences which may occur should Scotland gain independence and leave the United Kingdom to become and Independent Country. A conference in Glasgow saw First Minister Nicola Sturgeon informing the public that an Independence Referendum Bill for the Second Referendum was in the process of being published. (BBC, 2016)
In conclusion, the rise of Nationalism seems to be on the increase within Scotland, particularly in regards to the political front. However, whilst the means of displaying our patriotic sentiment and Nationalist ideology has changed throughout the course of history, it is clear that the subjective ideology of Nationalism still exists within Scotland. Having been encouraged by the way in which individuals from other countries and from Scotland view themselves and the Country, Scotland has become a country which seemed almost destined for independence. With one Referendum already having passed and a Second with a high probability rate of being held, it may be hard to think that Scotland won’t at some stage leave the United Kingdom to become the Independent Country which many Scots aspire for it to be. Whilst it is believed that many Scots are considered to only desire to become independent due to their dislike of the English, it is clear that the true reason for the Scottish people desiring Independence is due to the Patriotism and Nationalistic ideology that comes with Independence and being allowed to prove and rule their own Country rather than being ruled from Westminster in London, England by people who, generally, do not know much about issues which are specifically affected Scotland and its people. Furthermore, it can be noted that should Scotland be allowed to become its own Independent country and Nation, the majority of the issues which Scotland deals with at the moment would decrease as many of those issues are not a result of Scotland’s environment or activities alone but rather those which the United Kingdom as a whole produces.
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(Epic Bagpipe Sound, 2014)
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(Nicky Carrey, 2016)
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