Scottish national identity

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The Cross of St. Andrew, adopted as a national symbol in the late Middle Ages

Scottish national identity is a term referring to the sense of national identity and common culture of the Scottish people.

Although the various dialects of Gaelic, the Scots language and Scottish English are distinctive, people associate them all together as Scottish with a shared identity, as well as a regional or local identity. Parts of Scotland, like Glasgow, the Outer Hebrides, the north east of Scotland (including Aberdeen), and the Scottish Borders retain a strong sense of regional identity, alongside the idea of a Scottish national identity.[1]



Early Middle Ages

In the early Middle Ages, what is now Scotland was divided between four major ethnic groups and kingdoms. In the east were the Picts, who fell under the leadership of the kings of Fortriu.[2] In the west were the Gaelic (Goidelic)-speaking people of Dál Riata with close links with the island of Ireland, from which they brought with them the name Scots.[3] In the south-west was the British (Brythonic) Kingdom of Strathclyde, often named Alt Clut.[4] Finally there were the 'English', the Angles, a Germanic people who had established a number of kingdoms in Great Britain, including the Kingdom of Bernicia, part of which was in the south-east of modern Scotland.[5] In the late eighth century this situation was transformed by the beginning of ferocious attacks by the Vikings, who eventually settled in Galloway, Orkney, Shetland and the Hebrides. These threats may have speeded a long term process of gaelicisation of the Pictish kingdoms, which adopted Gaelic language and customs. There was also a merger of the Gaelic and Pictish crowns. When he died as king of the combined kingdom in 900, Domnall II (Donald II) was the first man to be called rí Alban (i.e. King of Alba).[6]

High Middle Ages

The Royal Standard of Scotland, first adopted by king William I, (1143–1214)

In the High Middle Ages the word "Scot" was only used by Scots to describe themselves to foreigners, amongst whom it was the most common word. They called themselves Albanach or simply Gaidel. Both "Scot" and Gaidel were ethnic terms that connected them to the majority of the inhabitants of Ireland. At the beginning of the thirteenth century, the author of De Situ Albanie noted: "The name Arregathel [Argyll] means margin of the Scots or Irish, because all Scots and Irish are generally called 'Gattheli'."[7] Scotland came to possess a unity which transcended Gaelic, French and Germanic ethnic differences and by the end of the period, the Latin, French and English word "Scot" could be used for any subject of the Scottish king. Scotland's multilingual Scoto-Norman monarchs and mixed Gaelic and Scoto-Norman aristocracy all became part of the "Community of the Realm", in which ethnic differences were less divisive than in Ireland and Wales.[8] This identity was defined in opposition to English attempts to annexe the country and as a result of social and cultural changes. The resulting antipathy towards England dominated Scottish foreign policy well into the fifteenth century, making it extremely difficult for Scottish kings like James III and James IV to pursue policies of peace towards their southern neighbour.[9] In particular the Declaration of Arbroath asserted the ancient distinctiveness of Scotland in the face of English aggression, arguing that it was the role of the king to defend the independence of the community of Scotland. This document has been seen as the first "nationalist theory of sovereignty".[10]

Late Middle Ages

The 'Tyninghame' copy of the Declaration of Arbroath from 1320

The late middle ages has often been seen as the era in which Scottish national identity was initially forged, in opposition to English attempts to annexe the country, led by figures such as Robert the Bruce and William Wallace and as a result of social and cultural changes. English invasions and interference in Scotland have been judged to have created a sense of national unity and a hatred towards England which dominated Scottish foreign policy well into the 15th century, making it extremely difficult for Scottish kings like James III and James IV to pursue policies of peace towards their southern neighbour.[9] In particular the Declaration of Arbroath (1320) asserted the ancient distinctiveness of Scotland in the face of English aggression, arguing that it was the role of the king was to defend the independence of the community of Scotland and has been seen as the first "nationalist theory of sovereignty".[10]

The adoption of Middle Scots by the aristocracy has been seen as building a sense of national solidarity and culture between rulers and ruled, although the fact that North of the Tay Gaelic still dominated, may have helped widen the cultural divide between highlands and lowlands.[11] The national literature of Scotland created in the late medieval period employed legend and history in the service of the crown and nationalism, helping to foster a sense of national identity at least within its elite audience. The epic poetic history of the The Brus and Wallace helped outline a narrative of united struggle against the English enemy. Arthurian literature differed from conventional version of the legend by treating Arthur as a villain and Mordred, the son of the king of the Picts, as a hero.[11] The origin myth of the Scots, systematised by John of Fordun (c. 1320-c. 1384), traced their beginnings from the Greek prince Gathelus and his Egyptian wife Scota, allowing them to argue superiority over the English, who claimed their descent from the Trojans, who had been defeated by the Greeks.[10]

It was in this period that the national flag emerged as a common symbol. The image of St. Andrew martyred bound to an X-shaped cross first appeared in the Kingdom of Scotland during the reign of William I and was again depicted on seals used during the late 13th century; including on one particular example used by the Guardians of Scotland, dated 1286.[12] Use of a simplified symbol associated with Saint Andrew, the saltire, has its origins in the late 14th century; the Parliament of Scotland decreed in 1385 that Scottish soldiers wear a white Saint Andrew's Cross on their person, both in front and behind, for the purpose of identification. Use of a blue background for the Saint Andrew's Cross is said to date from at least the 15th century.[13] The earliest reference to the Saint Andrew's Cross as a flag is to be found in the Vienna Book of Hours, circa 1503.[14]

Like most western European monarchies, the Scottish crown in the fifteenth century adopted the example of the Burgundian court, through formality and elegance putting itself at the centre of culture and political life, defined with display, ritual and pageantry, reflected in elaborate new palaces and patronage of the arts.[15] Renaissance ideas began to influence views on government, described as New or Renaissance monarchy, which emphasised the status and significance of the monarch. The Roman Law principle that "a king is emperor in his own kingdom" can be seen in Scotland from the mid-fifteenth century. In 1469 Parliament passed an act that declared that James III possessed "full jurisdiction and empire within his realm".[16] From the 1480s the king's image on his silver groats showed him wearing a closed, arched, imperial crown, in place of the open circlet of medieval kings, probably the first coin image of its kind outside of Italy. It soon began to appear in heraldry, on royal seals, manuscripts, sculptures and the steeples of churches with royal connections, as at St. Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh.[16]

Sixteenth century

Images of a silver coin: one side showing a crowned king and the other the heraldic lion rampant of Scotland on a shield, both surrounded by writing.
Groat of James V, showing him wearing an imperial closed crown

The idea of imperial monarchy emphasised the dignity of the crown and included its role as a unifying national force, defending national borders and interest, royal supremacy over the law and a distinctive national church within the Catholic communion. James V was the first Scottish monarch to wear the closed imperial crown, in place of the open circlet of medieval kings, suggesting a claim to absolute authority within the kingdom.[16] His diadem was reworked to include arches in 1532, which were re-added when it was reconstructed in 1540 in what remains the Crown of Scotland.[16] During her brief personal rule Mary, Queen of Scots brought many of the elaborate court activities that she had grown up with at the French court, with balls, masques and celebrations, designed to illustrate the resurgence of the monarchy and to facilitate national unity.[17] However, her personal reign ended in civil war, deposition, imprisonment and execution in England. Her infant son James VI was crowned King of Scots in 1567.[18]

By the early modern era Gaelic had been in geographical decline for three centuries and had begun to be a second class language, confined to the Highlands and Islands. It was gradually being replaced by Middle Scots, which became the language of both the nobility and the majority population. Scots was derived substantially from Old English, with Gaelic and French influences. It was called Inglyshe in the fifteenth century and was very close to the language spoken in northern England,[19] but by the sixteenth century it had established orthographic and literary norms largely independent of those developing in England.[20] From the mid-sixteenth century, written Scots was increasingly influenced by the developing Standard English of Southern England due to developments in royal and political interactions with England.[21] With the increasing influence and availability of books printed in England, most writing in Scotland came to be done in the English fashion.[22] Unlike many of his predecessors, James VI generally despised Gaelic culture.[23]

After the Reformation there was the development of a national kirk that claimed to represent all of Scotland. It became the subject of national pride, and was often compared with the less clearly reformed church in neighbouring England. Jane Dawson suggests that the loss of national standing in the contest for dominance of Britain between England and France suffered by the Scots, may have led them to stress their religious achievements.[24] A theology developed that saw the kingdom as in a covenant relationship with God. Many Scots saw their country as a new Israel and themselves as a holy people engaged in a struggle between the forces of Christ and Antichrist, the later being identified with the resurgent papacy and the Roman Catholic Church. This view was reinforced by events elsewhere that demonstrated that Reformed religion was under threat, such as the 1572 Massacre of St Bartholomew in France and the Spanish Armada in 1588.[24] These views were popularised through the first Protestant histories, such as Knox's History of the Reformation and George Buchanan's Rerum Scoticarum Historia.[25] This period also saw a growth of a patriotic literature facilitated by the rise of popular printing. Published editions of medieval poetry by John Barbour and Robert Henryson and the plays of David Lyndsay all gained a new audience.[26]

Seventeenth century

James VI, King of Scots, whose inheritance of the thrones of England and Ireland created a dynastic union in 1603

In 1603, James VI King of Scots inherited the throne of the Kingdom of England and left Edinburgh for London where he would reign as James I.[27] The Union was a personal or dynastic union, with the crowns remaining both distinct and separate—despite James' best efforts to create a new "imperial" throne of "Great Britain".[28] James used his Royal prerogative powers to take the style of "King of Great Britain"[29] and to give an explicitly British character to his court and person, and attempted to create a political union between England and Scotland.[30] The two parliaments established a commission to negotiate a union, formulating an instrument of union between the two countries. However, the idea of political union was unpopular, and when James dropped his policy of a speedy union, the topic quietly disappeared from the legislative agenda. When the House of Commons attempted to revive the proposal in 1610, it was met with a more open hostility.[31]

The Protestant identification of Scotland as a "new Israel", emphasising a covenant with God,[32] emerged at the front of national politics in 1637, as Presbyterians rebelled against Charles I's liturgical reforms and signed the National Covenant.[33] In the subsequent Wars of Three Kingdoms Scottish armies marched under the saltire of St. Andrew, rather than the lion rampant, with slogans such as "Religion, Crown, Covenant and Country".[34] After defeats at Dunbar (1650) and Worcester (1651) Scotland was occupied and in 1652 declared part of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland. Although it had supporters, the independence of Scotland as a kingdom was restored with the Stuart monarchy in 1660.[35]

In the Glorious Revolution in 1688–89, the Catholic James VII was replaced by the Protestant William of Orange, Stadtholder of the Netherlands and his wife Mary, James's daughter, on the thrones of England, Scotland and Ireland.[35] The final settlement restored Presbyterianism and abolished the bishops, who had generally supported James. The result left the nation divided between a predominately Presbyterian Lowland and a predominately Episcopalian Highland region.[36] Support for James, which became known as Jacobitism, from the Latin (Jacobus) for James, led to a series of risings, beginning with John Graham of Claverhouse, Viscount Dundee. His forces, almost all Highlanders, defeated William's forces at the Battle of Killiecrankie in 1689, but they took heavy losses and Dundee was slain in the fighting. Without his leadership the Jacobite army was soon defeated at the Battle of Dunkeld.[37] During the following years, William proposed a complete union to the Parliament of Scotland in 1700 and 1702, but the proposals were rejected.[38]

William's successor was Mary's sister Anne, who had no surviving children and so the Protestant succession seemed in doubt. The English Parliament passed the Act of Settlement 1701, which fixed the succession on Sophia of Hanover and her descendants. However, the Scottish Parliament's parallel Act of Security, merely prohibited a Roman Catholic successor, leaving open the possibility that the crowns would diverge. Rather than risk the possible return of James Francis Edward Stuart, then living in France, the English parliament pressed for full union of the two countries, passing the Alien Act 1705, which threatened to make all Scotsmen unable to hold property in England unless moves toward union were made and would have severely damaged the cattle and linen trades. A political union between Scotland and England also became economically attractive, promising to open up the much larger markets of England, as well as those of the growing Empire.[39] However, there was widespread, if disunited opposition and mistrust in the general population.[40] Sums paid to Scottish commissioners and leading political figure have been described as bribes, but the existence of direct bribes is disputed.[41] The Treaty of Union confirmed the Hanoverian succession. The Church of Scotland and Scottish law and courts remained separate. The English and Scottish parliaments were replaced by a combined Parliament of Great Britain, but it sat in Westminster and largely continued English traditions without interruption. Forty-five Scots were added to the 513 members of the House of Commons and 16 Scots to the 190 members of the House of Lords.[41] Rosalind Mitchison argues that the parliament became a focus of national political life, but it never attained the position of a true centre of national identity attained by its English counterpart.[42] It was also a full economic union, replacing the Scottish systems of currency, taxation and laws regulating trade.[41] The Privy Council was abolished, which meant that effective government in Scotland lay in the hands of unofficial "managers".[43]

Early Union (1707–1832)

Jacobite Risings

At the beginning of the 18th century, following the Union of 1707, there were two major Jacobite Risings—one in 1715 and one in 1745. Originally the Jacobites were the people who supported James VII, but later on Jacobites became identified with rebels fighting against the Union. The first rising took place after Queen Anne's death in 1714. George I of Hanover succeeded to the throne, but in Scotland James VIII, son of James VII, was proclaimed king in September 1715. James VIII was in France, but he sailed off for Scotland. He arrived at the end of the year, delayed by illness, bad weather and poor communications. James VIII turned out to be a rather incompetent leader, and he was not supported by the French King, as he had expected, since Louis XIV had just died, and Louis XV was not inclined to help him. The Jacobite Rising was led by the eleventh Earl of Mar, a former Unionist and Tory, but since George I had deprived him of his privileges, he had changed side and was now in charge of the Jacobite army.

The Jacobite risings highlighted the social and cultural schism within Scotland – the predominantly Protestant Lowlanders (and thus more inclined to be pro-Union, given more social and cultural similarities with the English) and the predominantly Catholic Highlanders. The fighting also created contention between the Lowlanders (as well as the English) and the Highlanders.

Following the last Jacobite rising, the Dress Act of 1746 was introduced to crush the Highland Gaelic culture (note: not Lowland Scots culture). The Act prohibited any use of Highland Dress, punishable by six-month's imprisonment – for a second offence possibly transportation "to any of His Majesty's Plantations beyond the Seas, there to remain for the space of Seven Years". This Act of Parliament was not repealed until 1782. Samuel Johnson ("Dr. Johnson"), one of the most outstanding members of English intellectual life, travelled in the Highlands in 1773, and there he found that the Dress Act had been "universally obeyed".

Highland Regiments

The use of Highland Dress was only legal in the Highland Regiments, which were raised and incorporated in the British Army in large numbers during the eighteenth century. The Highland culture was male and martial – many clansmen had no other profession than one of arms, and to them the Highland Regiments were a possibility to continue their way of life; here they could still be warriors, and still wear the kilt. Indeed the formation of these regiments helped to unite the Highlanders and Lowlanders, and give them a shared sense of "Scottishness", by changing the image of Highlanders from being backward and savage, to being "the very embodiment of Scotland" (which became clearly evident during the Romanticist period in Scotland).

Ossian Cult

Between 1760 and 1763, James Macpherson published three prose works, which he claimed were the works of Ossian, a Gaelic bard from the third century AD. The works were tales of love and heroes, much like the tales of Virgil and Homer. They created sensation in Scotland, in England and in all of Europe. They inspired artists everywhere and encouraged people in Germany and Scandinavia to seek their Nordic past; Nordic, but just as proud and heroic as the Latin/Greek past. Ossian enthralled Napoleon Bonaparte, who even brought the book with him on campaigns and on St. Helena. The cult of Ossian lasted 60 years on the continent, but in England and Scotland the excitement faded, when prominent persons doubted its authenticity. MacPherson had no clear proof to show, but persisted that he had reproduced an old, Gaelic text, written down after centuries of oral tradition. Samuel Johnson went to the Western Isles, where he discovered that the population were almost completely illiterate, but that they in fact had a strong oral tradition. Thus, he concluded that MacPherson had created Ossian from old songs, blending its with his own imagination. Authentic or not, one cannot disregard the great impact Ossian had on the forming of the Romanticism.


Robert Burns (1759–96) and Walter Scott (1771–1832) were highly influenced by the Ossian cycle. Burns, an Ayrshire poet and lyricist, is widely regarded as the national poet of Scotland and a major influence on the Romantic movement. His poem (and song) "Auld Lang Syne" is often sung at Hogmanay (the last day of the year), and "Scots Wha Hae" served for a long time as an unofficial national anthem of the country.[44]

Walter Scott began as a poet and also collected and published Scottish ballads. His first prose work, Waverley in 1814, is often called the first historical novel.[45] It launched a highly successful career, with other historical novels such as Rob Roy (1817), The Heart of Midlothian (1818) and Ivanhoe (1820). Scott probably did more than any other figure to define and popularise Scottish cultural identity in the nineteenth century.[46] Scott's "staging" of the royal Visit of King George IV to Scotland in 1822 and the king's wearing of tartan resulted in a massive upsurge in demand for kilts and tartans that could not be met by the Scottish linen industry. The designation of individual clan tartans was largely defined in this period and they became a major symbol of Scottish identity.[47] The fashion for all things Scottish was maintained by Queen Victoria who help secure the identity of Scotland as a tourist resort and the popularity of the tartan fashion.[48] This "tartanry" identified Scottish identity with the previously despised or distrusted Highland identity and may have been a response to the disappearance of traditional Highland society, increasing industrialisation and urbanisation.[49]

The romanticisation of the Highlands and the adoption of Jacobitism into mainstream culture have been seen as defusing the potential threat to the Union with England, the House of Hanover and the dominant Whig government.[50] In many countries Romanticism played a major part in the emergence of radical independence movements through the development of national identities. Tom Nairn argues that Romanticism in Scotland did not develop along the lines seen elsewhere in Europe, leaving a "rootless" intelligentsia, who moved to England or elsewhere and so did not supply a cultural nationalism that could be communicated to the emerging working classes.[51] Graeme Moreton and Lindsay Paterson both argue that the lack of interference of the British state in civil society meant that the middle classes had no reason to object to the union.[51] Atsuko Ichijo argues that national identity cannot be equated with a movement for independence.[52] Moreton suggests that there was a Scottish nationalism, but that it was expressed in terms of "Unionist nationalism".[53]

Victorian and Edwardian eras (1832–1910)

The Reform Act of 1832 marked a milestone in Scottish history due to the expansion of the electorate, which subsequently allowed more Scots the opportunity to make their opinion matter. However, though more people were allowed to vote, tenants were often forced to do so by the owners of the land which they cultivated, so despite it being a free choice whether one would vote or not, the subdued farmers were facing use of excessive force from the landowners to whom they belonged. The conditions of the tenants are described sufficiently by Michael Lynch, in his book "Scotland – A New History":

"Without the security of a secret ballot, tenants, it was complained in 1835, were driven to the polls by landowners like 'a herd of vassals'".[54]

This highlights the clear division between the social classes in Scotland; a division which would prove to grow larger in time. Due to the differences in the strata of Scottish society, it became unlikely that the Scottish people would unite in great national matters. This lack of solidarity, and Scotland's prosperity within the Union and as part of the British Empire, inhibited the emergence of nationalism.

Additionally, the voting system was not the only change forged by the Reform Act; the fact that Scotland was a British state was now generally accepted, and hereby a sense of belonging to Great Britain emerged and created the notion of "Britishness". That is, Scottish people were generally proud to identify as "British" as well as "Scottish", least not the social elite. Lynch comments on this also:[55]

"Bourgeois respectability linked arms with the new British state, which had emerged after the Reform Act of 1832. [...] The concentric loyalties of Victorian Scotland – a new Scottishness, a new Britishness and a revised sense of local pride – were held together by a phenomenon bigger than all of them – a Greater Britain whose stability rested on the Empire."

Industrial Revolution

In 1837, as the industrial revolution was well on its way in the cotton industry, a trade union called the "Spinners Association", which up until then had prevented the introduction of new labour-saving machinery, had had enough power to influence the factory owners' decisions. After a strike in 1837, the trade union's power deteriorated, and industrial progress could be introduced throughout Scotland's cotton industry.[56]

Once the machines were running, a factory owner could depend on very few skilled workers to keep these machines going, and the rest of the work could be performed by unskilled labour. What the various trade unions sought to prevent by keeping the human workforce in the factories, was the inevitable outcome of the industrialisation; namely huge unemployment among the skilled workforce, because of the higher wages they had to be paid, as opposed to the unskilled labour. Unskilled labour could be paid less wages and thereby keep the expenses down, not unlike the production philosophies we know today, when companies move their production from their homeland to a foreign country where labour is cheap, and trade unions do not exist or lack power to get their demands through.

Without the trade unions to exercise the power held by them, the industry had no problems introducing technology and cheaper labour – this meant more profit and a faster production to the owners of the cotton mills, but the consequences for the main parts of the workforce was unemployment and a life at no more than subsistence level. This was a life without any kind of sufficient social support, as was seen with the disruption of 1843.

The industrialisation resulted, at first, in employment for just about anybody. The fact that the "rush" of the cotton mills passed, and technology/machinery replaced lots of working people, combined with the large urbanisation, resulted in an inevitable outcome: massive unemployment, with depression and frustration in its wake. This was what characterised the poor districts of the urbanised areas.

Disruption of 1843

The Disruption Assembly of 1843, painted by David Octavius Hill

The late 18th and 19th centuries saw a fragmentation of the Church of Scotland that had been created in the Reformation. These fractures were prompted by issues of government and patronage, but reflected a wider division between the Evangelicals and the Moderate Party over fears of fanaticism by the former and the acceptance of Enlightenment ideas by the latter. The legal right of lay patrons to present clergymen of their choice to local ecclesiastical livings led to minor schisms from the church. The first in 1733, known as the First Secession, led to the creation of a series of secessionist churches. The second in 1761 lead to the foundation of the independent Relief Church.[57] Gaining strength in the Evangelical Revival of the later 18th century[58] and after prolonged years of struggle, in 1834 the Evangelicals gained control of the General Assembly and passed the Veto Act, which allowed congregations to reject unwanted "intrusive" presentations to livings by patrons. The following "Ten Years' Conflict" of legal and political wrangling ended in defeat for the non-intrusionists in the civil courts. The result was a schism from the church by some of the non-intrusionists led by Dr Thomas Chalmers known as the Great Disruption of 1843. Roughly a third of the clergy, mainly from the North and Highlands, formed the separate Free Church of Scotland. In the late 19th century the major debates were between fundamentalist Calvinists and theological liberals, who rejected a literal interpretation of the Bible. This resulted in a further split in the Free Church as the rigid Calvinists broke away to form the Free Presbyterian Church in 1893.[57] There were, however, also moves towards reunion, beginning with the unification of some secessionist churches into the United Secession Church in 1820, which united with the Relief Church in 1847 to form the United Presbyterian Church, which in turn joined with the Free Church in 1900. The removal of legislation on lay patronage allowed the majority of the Free Church to rejoin Church of Scotland in 1929. The schisms left small denominations including the Free Presbyterians and a remnant as the Free Church from 1900.[57]


In Scotland there was a school in almost every parish, and the parishes were controlled by the Church of Scotland (until the Disruption of 1843). As there were no regulations dictating how pupils should be taught, and no "road maps" regarding education as such, it would be fairly easy for the New Church to establish an educational system of their own, without compromising any written conventions agreed by the Scottish government. This was also the case with other branches of the religious life in Scotland; in theory just about anybody could start a school, this would "only" take an interested crowd of people, who would make their children attend. Of course, this is very roughly put, but nonetheless this was to a wide extent what the Scottish educational system consisted of before the 1872 Education (Scotland) Act, in which all schools were brought under state control.[59]

The change from Church to state control following the 1872 Education (Scotland) Act meant an organisation of school boards, which were controlled from the Scotch Education Department (SED) which was based in London.

Social conditions

The duality that emerged with the separation of the Church did not only raise problems concerning education; there were also large numbers of poor people to consider. The national Church had lost its authority concerning the parishes which had taken care of the poor, and seen to their well-being. The Free Church had to build up an entirely new organisation, to avoid leaving the poor to themselves and their fate. It was the church itself that took care of the poor people of Scotland; no governmental aids were provided, so the small-time business of hiring out coffin covers at funerals, together with private donations at Kirk-sessions, did not fulfil the needs of the poor at all.

For a time, the Free Church was in fact a sanctuary for the crofters and other low-paid parts of society, but eventually this was a short-term relief from the upper-middle classes, who were fast in taking over the important posts of the new church. The Free Church consisted mainly of younger people, allowing the better economic founded classes to move in on the new "territory" and take control.

This "take over" of the Free Church by the better classes resulted in a further secularisation of the social layers of Scotland. What had begun – or at least become, as the church attended mainly by the workers of the nation – was soon to be set apart from these people. It is peculiar how this diversion between the different civic groups in Scotland was manifested; even though most of the people fulfilled, or had fulfilled, a place in society.

Besides the problems in the more-urbanised areas of Scotland, the Highlands had problems of their own to handle. The Disruption had a great impact on the highlanders; they saw it as an opportunity to dissociate from the landowners and their kind – a class diversion in which the peasantry of the rural areas of Scotland found a haven free from their "superiors".

It was in wake of these massive changes in Scotland at the time that Scottish society remained detached from a sense of Scottish national identity. Moreover, Scottish society remained fragmented, though this was chiefly along class lines more so than the historic Highland/Lowland divide of the past.

World Wars (1914–1960)

In the years leading up to the first World War, Scotland found herself on the verge of devolution. The Liberals were in power at Whitehall, largely confirmed by the Scots, and they were about to legislate on Irish Home Rule. Gaelic culture was on the rise, and long lasting disputes within the Church had finally been settled.

Economic conditions from 1914–1922

Between 1906 and 1908 the Clyde shipbuilding industry suffered a decline in output of 50%.[60] At the time, the steel and engineering industries were also ailing. These were ominous signs for an economy that was based on eight staple industries – agriculture, coal mining, shipbuilding, engineering, textiles, building, steel, and fishing. These eight accounted for 60% of the country's industrial output. With 12.5% of the UK production output compared with its 10.5% of the population, the Scottish economy was a comparatively significant factor in the British economy. Despite a bleak economic outlook, Scotland did not hesitate in participating in World War I, which broke out on 4 August 1914. Though seemingly enthusiastic about engagement in the war, with Scotland mobilising 22 out of the 157 battalions that made up the British Expeditionary Force, the wartime threat to an exporting economy soon came to the fore. Panic spread[dubious ] because of the fear that the war would lead to disastrous conditions for industrial areas, and unemployment would, subsequently, rise. This panic soon abated, though, as the German offensive on the Western front came to a halt. In the Glasgow Herald, the MP Sir William Raeburn stated:

"The War has falsified almost every prophecy. Food was to be an enormous price [sic] unemployment rife [...] revolution was to be feared. What are the facts? The freight market [...] is now active and prosperous [...] prices of food have risen very little, and the difficulty at present is to get sufficient labour, skilled and unskilled. We have not only maintained our own trades, but have been busy capturing our enemies'."

However the textile industry was immediately hit by the rising of charges in freight and insurance by 30–40%. Coal mining was also affected as the German market – which had consisted of 2.9 million tons – disappeared during the war, and along with it the Baltic market. Enlistment resulted in a grave decline of efficiency due to the condition of the remaining miners who were either less skilled, too old or in poor physical shape. The fishing industry was struck, again because the main importers of herring were Germany and Russia. The war's affect on fishing resulted in an enormous flow of fishermen into the Royal Naval Reserve.

Industries that gained from the war appeared to be the shipbuilding and the munitions industry in general. But while these industries had a positive effect on the employment situation, they dealt with a production of a limited future, and when the War ended in 1918 so did the orders that had kept the Clyde yards busy. It was soon to become evident that the war would leave the Scottish economy scarred for years to come.

The War had seen an enormous sacrifice from the Scots with an estimated loss of around a 100,000 men, according to the National War Memorial White Paper. At 5% of the male population this nearly doubled the British average. The capital from the expanded munitions industry had moved south, and likewise the control of much of the Scottish business. English banks had taken over Scottish banks, and those that remained had switched much of their investment into government stocks, or down south to more profitable commercial concerns. This made the Glasgow Herald, who was usually no friend to nationalism, state: "That ere long the commercial community will be sighing for a banking William Wallace to free them from southern oppression."

The War had also brought a new desolation to the Highlands. The forests were chopped down and death and migration had put an end to traditional industries. Schemes were made to restore the area: plantation of new forests, building of railways and an industrialisation of the islands after a Scandinavian pattern, constructed around deep sea fishery. But the carrying out of these plans was dependent on a continuing British economic prosperity.

The plans for a reorganisation of the railways were of critical importance. The newly created Minister of Transport suggested a nationalisation of the railways, with a separate Scottish region that was supposed to be autonomous. But as this scheme would put an extraordinary strain on the Scottish railways, as already seen during the War, when there was national control. This led to an upgrade in maintenance and wages with resulting rise in expenses. A separate Scottish company would be forced to uphold these standards, even though it was only carrying a little more than half the tons of traffic, compared with the English railway. This would, all in all, make the Scottish system uneconomical. The result of this schism was a campaign headed by a coalition of Scottish MPs from both the Labour, the Liberal and the Conservative parties in which the "rhetoric of nationalism" was used to secure an amalgamation of Scottish and English railways.

This is one example of how nationalism could be tied up with economics. More generally, any economic disadvantage relative to the rest of the UK could be used by politicians as a justification for active intervention by either a devolved or independent administration.[61]

Scotland had been close to a vote on devolution prior to the outbreak of the First World War, but though economic problems were not by all means a novelty, they had not been a case for nationalism before 1914. Until then, governmental interventions had been of a social character, as displayed in the 1832–1914 period, where the major issues were social welfare and the educational system. With this in mind, it would be fair to assert that actions concerning the economy were not considered functions of the government before 1914. It was only incidentally that economic issues appeared in nationalist political forms.

The Scottish electorate had risen from 779,012 at the 1910 election to 2,205,383 in 1918, due to the Representation of the People Act 1918, which entitled women over 30 to vote, plus added male voters by a full 50%.[62] But even though Labour had Home Rule on its program, and supported it with two distinctively Scottish planks: "The Self-Determination of the Scottish People" and "The Complete Restoration of the Land of Scotland to the Scottish People", it was the Unionists who prevailed with 32 seats in the Commons, as opposed to only seven in 1910. What the Scots did not know yet, was that the period following the War would be a time of an unprecedented depression; and they obviously had paid no heed to the ominous signs of the War's influence on the economy, which the consensus of the 1918 election was clearly a proof of.

Economic conditions from 1922–1960

The Scottish economy was heavily dependent on international trade. A decline in the trade would mean over capacity in shipping and a fall in owner's profit. This again would lead to fewer orders for new ships, and this slump would then spread to the other heavy industries. In 1921 the shipbuilding industry had been hit by the combination of a vanishing naval market, the surplus of products of American shipyards, and confiscated enemy ships.

Scotland needed to plan her way out of trouble. In 1930 the Labour government had, though it was considered a purely cosmetic move, encouraged regional industrial development groups, which led to the forming of the Scottish National Development Council (SNDC). The forming of the SNDC later led to the set up of the Scottish Economy Committee (SEC). Neither of these bodies sought a cure for Scotland's ills by nationalist political solutions, and many of those who were actively involved in them joined in a comprehensive condemnation of any form of home rule.[63] However, at the same time the secretary of the committee justified its existence by stating: "It is undoubtedly true that Scotland's national economy tends to pass unnoticed in the hands of the Ministry of Labour and the Board of Trade". Because increasing legislation required more Scottish statutes, the importance of the legal and the administrative in the years between the wars grew. The move of the administration to St. Andrew's House was considered an important act, but while welcoming the move in 1937, Walter Elliot – the Secretary of State then – feared the changes:

"[...] will not in themselves dispose of the problems whose solution a general improvement in Scottish social and economic conditions depends [...] it is the consciousness of their existence which is reflected in, not in the small and unimportant Nationalist Party, but in the dissatisfaction and uneasiness amongst moderate and reasonable people of every view or rank – a dissatisfaction expressed in every book published about Scotland now for several years".

As government began to play an increasingly interventionist role in the economy, it became easy to advocate a nationalist remedy to ensure that it was in what ever was deemed Scotland's interest. As before 1914, the easy conditions of world trade after 1945 made Scottish industry prosper, and any need for drastic political interventions were postponed until the late 1950s, when the economic progress of Scotland started to deteriorate, and shipbuilding and engineering companies were forced to shut down. But even if the decline in the late 1950s meant an increasing degree of intervention from the government, there was no evidence of any other political change. Even the Scottish Council's inquiry into the Scottish economy in 1960 was specific: "The proposal for a Scottish Parliament [...] implies constitutional changes of a kind that place it beyond our remit although it is fair to say that we do not regard it as a solution".

Literary renaissance

While the post 1914 period appears to have been devoted to the economic questions and problems of Scotland, it also saw the birth of a Scottish literary renaissance in the 1924–1934 decade.

In the late 18th and 19th century, industrialisation had swept across Scotland with great speed. Such was the rate of industrialisation that the Scottish society had failed to adequately adapt to the massive changes which industrialisation had brought. The Scottish intelligentsia was overwhelmed by the growth of the Scottish industrial revolution, and the new entrepreneurial bourgeoisie linked to it. It was "deprived of its typical nationalist role. [...] There was no call for its usual services".[64] These 'services' would normally lead the nation to the threshold of political independence. So the, indeed, very well known intelligentsia[who?] of Scotland was operating on an entirely different stage, though it was not really Scottish at all.[citation needed] As a contrast, or perhaps a reaction to this, an entirely different literary "school" erupted in the late 19th century: the Kailyard.

Along with Tartanry, Kailyard has come to represent a "cultural sub-nationalism". The Kailyard literature, and the garish symbols of Tartanry, fortified each other and became a sort of substitute for nationalism.[citation needed] The parochialism of the Kailyard, and the myths of an irreversible past of the Tartanry, came to represent a politically impotent nationalism.[citation needed]

One of the first to recognise this "lack of teeth" was the poet Hugh MacDiarmid. MacDiarmid, both a nationalist and a socialist, saw the parochialism of the Scottish literature as a sign of English hegemony, hence it had to be destroyed. He tried to do this through his poetry, and used his own reworking of old Scots or "Lallans" (Lowland Scots) in the tradition of Robert Burns instead of Scots Gaelic or standard English.[65] MacDiarmid's "crusade" brought along other writers and poets, like Lewis Grassic Gibbon and Edwin Muir; but this literary renaissance lasted only for about ten years.

1960–present day

Scotland had come to rely firmly on the presence of heavy industry, and common Scots shared a working-class identity underneath—or perhaps even above, as could be seen in the later (during the 1980s) attempt to create a new Scottish identity out of the common history of working-class struggle; e.g. Red Clydeside—the dual Scottish/British identity.[66]

Nationalism flourished only in small intellectual circles. Indeed the intelligentsia[who?] repeatedly admonished the working-class for not appreciating the fact that dissociation from Britain was, according to them, the only way to improve the situation in Scotland.[67]

In 1970, however, the independence debate altered in the face of new discoveries. Large quantities of oil were discovered in what would be Scotland's own territorial waters, had she not been a part of the UK. Some felt exploited by central Britain, as they saw little of the oil revenues (which primarily went to Britain), and the economic recession continued.[68] The conviction that the new oil industry might be able to support an independent Scottish nation was the cue for advocates of autonomy to launch into a nationalistic campaigns. The SNP proclaimed "It's Scotland's Oil", campaigning for total independence, and their public support soared to no less than 30% of the Scottish electorate in the 1974 October election (a mere 6.4% behind the established Labour party), giving them 11 MPs in Westminster.[69]

In the following years the nationalistic tendencies were so pronounced that, in 1979, both Scottish and Welsh devolution referenda were held.[70] However, it again became apparent that the Scots were truly a divided people, and that there was, evidently. 52% of the voters voted pro-devolution, but only 32.9% of the entire Scottish electorate turned out, and Westminster required this figure to be at least 40% for the election outcome to be valid.[71]

The outcome indicated that there was no simple, unified "struggle for freedom", and support lent to the active nationalists was gone as quickly as it had appeared. The number of SNP MPs dropped from 11 to only 2 at the following election, as the party had been left somewhat discredited after the referendum.[72]

Various explanations have been suggested for the Scots defying pre-poll expectations of a clear majority in favour of devolution.[69] It is possible that the SNP with their separatist course had frightened supporters of a slower dissociation with Britain, thus—again—invoking the fear of a self-governed Scotland standing alone (even in spite of the expected oil revenues). Oil or no oil, the Scots would need to politicise the "pseudo-nationalism" they had relied on for so long. Or rather they would need to abandon it altogether, they would have to shed the secure (even if forged) tartan-image—established through Tartanry and Kailyard, and reinforced by the tourist ideas of Scotland held by foreigners as well as by the Scots themselves—replacing it with a different form of identity.[73]


Independence in Europe

Statehood, while remaining in the European Union (EU), has been described as "Independence in Europe" by the SNP,[74] who are leading calls for Scottish independence. Continued membership of the EU has since become an important issue in the debate on Scotland becoming an independent country.[75]

A referendum on Scottish independence was held on 18 September 2014 with 55% of those who voted voting against independence.

Cultural icons

Cultural icons in Scotland have changed over the centuries, e.g., the first national instrument was the clàrsach or Celtic harp until it was replaced by the Great Highland bagpipe in the 15th century.[76] Symbols like tartan, the kilt and bagpipes are widely but not universally liked by Scots; their establishment as symbols for the whole of Scotland, especially in the Lowlands, dates back to the early 19th century. This was the age of pseudo-pageantry: the visit of King George IV to Scotland organised by Sir Walter Scott. Scott, very much a Unionist and Tory, was at the same time a great populariser of Scottish mythology through his writings.

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Further reading

  • Abstract of Constructing National Identity: Arts and Landed Elites in Scotland, by Frank Bechhofer, David McCrone, Richard Kiely and Robert Stewart, Research Centre for Social Sciences, University of Edinburgh, Cambridge University Press, 1999
  • Abstract of The markers and rules of Scottish national identity, by Richard Kiely, Frank Bechhofer, Robert Stewart and David McCrone, The Sociological Review, Volume 49 Page 33 – February 2001,
  • National Identities in Post-Devolution Scotland, by Ross Bond and Michael Rosie, Institute of Governance, University of Edinburgh, June 2002
  • Abstract of Near and far: banal national identity and the press in Scotland, by Alex Law, University of Abertay Dundee, Media, Culture and Society, Vol. 23, No. 3, 299–317 (2001)
  • Abstract of Scottish national identities among inter-war migrants in North America and Australasia, by Angela McCarthy, The Journal of Imperial & Commonwealth History, Volume 34, Number 2 / June 2006
  • Scottish Newspapers and Scottish National Identity in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, by IGC Hutchison, University of Stirling, 68th IFLA Council and General Conference, 18–24 August 2002
  • Condor, Susan and Jackie Abell (2007) Vernacular constructions of 'national identity' in post-devolution Scotland and England (pp. 51–76) in J. Wilson & K. Stapleton (Eds) Devolution and Identity Aldershot: Ashgate.
  • PDF file from Welfare Solidarity in a Devolved Scotland, by Nicola McEwen, Politics, School of Social and Political Studies, University of Edinburgh, European Consortium for Political Research Joint Sessions, 28 March – 2 April 2003