2007 - 2022

Some Thoughts on ‘Britishness’

A map of Britain resized by house prices leaves the south-east looking like the yolk of a fried egg,I miss being British. There, I’ve said it.

I miss being British. I was brought up British, not English. We in my family never really described ourselves as English. Although I was born in Lancashire I never felt particularly Lancastrian either. My family’s from all over so I didn’t grow up with the local traditions and dialect that I’m envious of in others.

I grew up believing that to be British meant to identify with and belong to the British Isles. I was brought up near Liverpool, with its large Irish community, and not far from the Welsh border. The place I grew up couldn’t have felt more different from Anglo-Saxon middle and southern England. My part of the world had influences from all over the UK, hence we were “British”.

But outside of England, I now know being “British” means something quite different. Almost everyone I know in Scotland sees the term “British” as suggesting a recognition and identification with the political construct of the British State. Since moving out of England I’ve also realised that many English people, my own brother included, have an infuriating tendency to use the terms British and English interchangeably. This will not be news to my Scottish friends, but discussing this just now with my southern English husband has brought us close to falling out!

The conflation of these two concepts of Britishness and Englishness, which has become de rigeur among most UK politicians, has the effect of trampling over the rich diversity of these islands. We were told yesterday by Theresa May, channelling Margaret Thatcher, that we are “four nations, but one people”, but that’s simply not true. We are four nations and many more groups of people. Within England, regions like Cornwall and Yorkshire increasingly recognise their distinctiveness, and in Scotland we have huge variations between the cultural and linguistic heritage of different parts of the country.

Instead of celebrating this diversity, the British establishment increasingly seeks to suppress it. The largest group – the English – has fully adopted the label “British” and anyone from elsewhere in the UK who doesn’t identify with this anglicised view of Britishness is labelled a “nationalist”. I find this deeply depressing and as a result I’ve resolved to call myself “English”, although truth be told I still don’t feel it.

I want to see all the nations of these islands working together as equals. Even with all our differences, we do collectively have a different psyche from many of our European neighbours. Lots of people feel the same way, and many of them believe this means that the 300 year old political union (with its 100 year old addition) must continue in its current form or close to it. I disagree.

Sometimes a thing has to be dismantled in order to be repaired. I want to reclaim my British identity, but first the concept has to be separated from the stranglehold of the British State.  Left to its own devices the British establishment will never move out of its comfort zone so we have to make it change. Each nation of these islands must regain its sovereignty. Borders must be redefined where they naturally fall, and the locations of those natural borders are becoming clearer by the day.

Once that has happened, we can then build a new relationship between the peoples of these islands. And those of us who wish to be can be unapologetically British again.


Sylvina Tilbury is on Twitter at @caorach and blogs at Notes from a New Scot

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  1. J Sayin says:

    Two nations, a province, and a principality.

    1. Jean says:

      The ‘province’ which Ulster is often incorrectly referred to, in the political sense, is in fact 9 counties including Donegal, Monaghan and Cavan and not just the six that where stolen. It is incorrect therefore to refer to the six counties as ‘the province’.

    2. Neilyn says:

      Incorrect. Wales’ erroneous description as a ‘principality’ was officially overturned a good few years back following agreement between the Welsh Government, the UK Government and the International Standards Organisation. The UK officially has three constituent countries; England, Scotland and Wales.


      Northern Irleand does officially remain a ‘province’ of the United Kingdom.

      1. Jean says:

        Then Why not the entire ancient ‘province’ of Ulster……..does gerrymandering come to mind? It is only in loyalist communities, the media and the uneducated British that insist on using the name Ulster incorrectly.

        1. Neilyn says:


          My earlier comment was directed entirely at the post by J Sayin. I should have made that clear, apologies.

          Whilst my remark about the official status / description of Northern Ireland was just fact, I happen to agree with you completely. Reunify Ireland and of course you reunify Ulster. I’ve always imagined that autonomy for the historical 9 county Ulster within a reunified Ireland could be a truly effective way of bridging the divide.

          1. Jean says:

            No problem, thanks for the clarification. J

  2. Crubag says:

    I think this article of some of the same confusions that it regrets in others.

    I’d say nation is another word for people (there are many stateless nations). Nation state is a setup where an ethnic group has its own state (Germany, Austria, France, Israel etc.).

    On that basis, the Uk has many nations, although the strength of English-language culture (which includes America), and economics, has meant much distinctiveness has been lost.

    And Englishness is certainly not lost. The polling shows a growth in English identity and the groth in St George flags would seem to confirm it.

    1. c rober says:

      I chuckle every time that “Englishness” is brought up , with its EU hate especially so.

      The Flag of an Immigrant , Greek.
      A German Royal Family.
      The word pound , from the Roman invaders , representing the Imperial weights once used and the currency name today.
      The name England derived from the word Angle , immigrants to their shores.
      A Chunk of the language traceable back to same above.
      Its love of Latin in posh schools , medicine and law.
      Its banking System created by a Scot.
      Its printed and TV media owned by an Australian and couple of Jewish guys.

      Yep for them to want to go back to Rule Britania , of Empire 2.0 is the new goal.

      Back to signs of No Blacks , no dogs , no irish , of English football teams full of of local white lads , cricket teams of private educated same , of high streets with white shopkeepers , of workers affording only british made cloth caps not imported cars , of once again british cabs not private hire , of housing in councils without industry , of public transport with carriages and classes…

      Yep its an easy sell , just blame the EU and immigrant for successive failures indpendent of party , keeping the colony of Scotland and its lovely piggy bank for Bankrupt Britain 2.0 , this nationalism bad this one good. Aided by a NATIONAL Labour party mandate , once elected on wanting the same sort of “old Scotland” as old Britannia in promising a return to industry , this as the rest of the party offers Tory Lite in England.

      The Turkeys got xmas , note to PM , must change the name of the bird as it reflects the outer periphery of the EU too much.

    2. Seumas MacDhòmhnaill says:

      As a general rule, A hae nae problem wi whit ye are sayin, it’s aw richt. But the idea that France is a nation state ignores awbody fae the Corsicans tae the Martinicans tae the Kanaks in New Caledonia.

  3. Crubag says:

    “Borders must be redefined where they naturally fall, and the locations of those natural borders are becoming clearer by the day.”

    And although I’m sure it’s not meant, this reads like the kind of thing that kicked off umpteen wars in Europe because the political borders didn’t follow the footprint of a particular nation.

    Civic nationalism is a better way forward – there’s always going to be an ethnic dimension – but free association under the law means we can have the political structures we want in these islands, rather than an ethnic patchwork.

    1. Dominic says:

      You mean like the civic nationalism of say France, Israel, the USA (not great if you’re black or fist nation) etc etc.

      Need to be progressive and finally move away from the out dated nation state construct – it is after all historically the precedent – Go back 250 years and there was no Italy, no Germany, No USA, No India – as a unitary state…

    2. Sylvina Tilbury says:

      Thanks Crubag and interesting points. I should make clear that I’m not at all intending to imply that borders should be defined according to ethnic nationalism. I suppose the clearest way to describe it is that it’s becoming obvious that different parts of these islands, and the people who live in them (wherever they’re from) have different priorities and different needs, and it’s becoming ever more clear that those needs can’t all be served under the union.

      1. Crubag says:

        Thanks – I don’t think the ethnic component can ever be completely stripped out (different cultures have different views on law, politics, representation, personal autonomy, etc.), but accepting all constitutional arrangements come from a particular culture, they ideally should be able to accommodate different, complementary cultures.

        In the case of Scotland/England, the Lothians and Borders were in the Anglian orbit at the same time that Scotland was being formed. In eastern Europe’s history, they would have been a classic national minority.

  4. Malcolm Webster says:

    Interesting article. I agree that the best way to fix something is sometimes to break it. It is clear now that Scotland and England appear to be on two different paths now. I always think of Scotland’s wishes being more about self-determination and independence rather than what we would normally call simply nationalism. After all, every other country in Mainland Europe is in charge of its own affairs. I don’t think that request is unreasonable in any way. Once we have that power we can then have a healthier relationship with all of our neighbours and trading partners.

  5. Me Bungo Pony says:

    Its s good piece. I broadly agree with its main thrust though not with every point.

    One claim which many “British” people have a tendency to assert is that there is a “British” psyche and a “European” psyche. While there may well be a “British” psyche, the idea that there is a pan-European one falls into the same anglo-centric category as the famous headline “Fog in Channel, Europe cut off”.

    If such a thing as a national psyche exists, then the French, German, Italian, Spanish, Swedish, etc psyches will be as different from each other as they are from Britain’s.

    I know the author did not intend to infer the Continent was a homogenous mass with Britons standing as a distinct counterpoint. However, it is a view I like to think Scotland’s civic nationalism rejects. Scotland’s civic nationalism sees Scotland as the equal of our independent neighbours, not superior. We are ” as good” not better. We are as “distinct” as each and every one of them are.

  6. Derek says:

    I can understand the argument over national boundaries, when we look at the complete horlicks Britain (England anyone?) and France made of redrawing borders in the middle east after WW1.
    And the swathes of disruption over borders between what was E Germany, Poland, Russia before and after WW2. I’m aware that ignores many obvious elephants in the room.
    Within the British Isles? The creation of Northern Ireland, coming on 100 years ago, which may well unravel in years to come.
    Scotland’s border with England has shifted back and forth over the centuries but follows an almost logical physical route – though I await Berwick’s secession from England as they follow their football team north of the border 🙂

  7. john young says:

    For me the crux of the matter is not whether we are British/Scottish/English etc it is do we want to determine our own future or do we cede this to someone else as we have done for over 300yrs.All this “better to-gether” is a load of bull,you either want to lead or be lead.

    1. MBC says:

      There’s nothing much wrong with being led if you both want (and need) the same things anyway. Many marriages are still successful even with one very dominant partner.

      The problem starts when you want different things. Scotland and England are on different trajectories. That’s the crux of the matter. It was for the British Empire that we came together. That’s gone now, so there is no longer any purpose in the British project than Scottish subordination.

  8. Redgauntlet says:

    Sylvina, one of the differences between Scotland and England perhaps is that nobody cares in Scotland whether you feel yourself English, British or Scottish, Spanish, German or Dutch.

    Everybody is equally welcome. Feel whichever way you want to feel, we are trying to build a country which is international and culturally heterogeneous, but politically autonomous.

    Whereas if you go down to the Home Counties and say you don’t feel British, you are more likely than not going to receive that slightly baffled, slightly miffed, slightly patronizing smile…. at least that’s my experience.

    1. Dominic says:

      hahahahaha…the lack of self awareness in this statement is hilarious.

      1. Redgauntlet says:

        See below for my reply Dominic.

        In any case, a glancing reference to Lesley Ridoch’s book is hardly proof of a smothering identity imposed by “the Nationalists”, mate. Lesley Ridoch is a political commentator, I think you must be getting her confused with Fiona Hyslop…

        By the way, Martin Amis said something interesting the other day when asked in an interview in JotDown Magazine here in Spain about the existence or not of national identities. Do they exist? he was asked.

        Yes, he said, and nobody ever complains about them when they are positive traits. And he then quoted Orwell who made the point that the English love flowers and their gardens, and that the Irish are great story tellers, and that Spanish are extroverted and love socializing, and so and so forth.

        And it’s true, nobody ever complains when the “national identity trait” is a positive thing.

        Except in Scotland of course, where, whenever we say we have a different social culture, a more egalitarian tradition, and that we feel more and more alienated from Tory England as it time goes by, along comes somebody to tell us that this is a myth – Gerry Hassan say…

    2. Sylvina Tilbury says:

      You’re right Redgauntlet and I certainly feel that myself, but others don’t. Dominic, below, says that he feels it alienating to listen to many Scottish nationalists. I have to say I sympathise with that point. In fact I’ve spent much time on Twitter this last week (I published this article on my blog last weekend) trying to explain to some people that dismissing the very idea of a British identity, and openly deriding everything associated with “Britain” is possibly not the best way to win people around to supporting Scottish independence. I used the example of whether you would seek to persuade a French resident of Scotland of the benefits of independence in the same breath as telling him you despise his home country…

      1. Dominic says:


        Finally someone gets it. Thanks Sylvina.

      2. Dominic says:

        There are 500 thousand English born/ have half english heritage, most of them tough working class from places in the North, especially in places like Aberdeen – the largest migration in the British Isles since the Irish.. who have been derided and dismissed. There is serious anger and a new sectarianism growing out there.


      3. Mungo says:

        Britain is a geographical term and The UK is a political term. I thought the whole point of your analysis was to highlight the 4 nations of this island and to correct those English who equate England and Britain as the same thing? The difference here is that France is a country, Britain is not. When I say I hate Britain I mean the British identity which has been forced upon me to exclusion of my Scottish identity through a deliberate cultural and educational brainwashing perpetrated by the British state.
        I suggest it’s far easier to feel a sense of Britishness for an English person as their culture has not been under deliberate attack.

        1. S Tilbury says:

          I’m trying to demonstrate how it might feel for someone in Scotland, quite possibly someone who has moved up from England, who feels their own identity is being attacked.

          1. Mungo says:

            If their identity is the misguided English=British identity you speak of, then it is under attack! And quite rightly.

          2. Redgauntlet says:

            Why S Tilbury, would you feel your own PERSONAL British identity under attack in Scotland?

            You mean because many people around you don’t share it? If so, that is no argument, that is you trying project your identity onto others, or at least your expectations.

            I live in Spain. My identity is Scottish-Irish-European. The fact that I am surrounded by people who have a different identity, a Spanish identity or a Basque identity or whatever, makes no difference to me. Why would their identity make any difference to me? Or mine to them?

            If you come up to live in Scotland and are surprised that it is not England, well you shouldn’t be. But that has nothing to do with identity. Identity is something you carry around with you, and has many sides to it of course, and is independent of where you live, at least after a certain age…

  9. bringiton says:

    Being a state confers certain abilities denied to a country,certainly within the confines of the highly centralised UK.
    No sane person denies that Scotland is a country,the argument is about whether the additional powers we would have as a state would be beneficial or not.

    1. Mungo says:

      Please expand the circumstances in which they would not be beneficial?

    2. Mungo says:

      Sorry that should have read “explain.” Perhaps there are some powers of state which are just too important to trust Scots with?

  10. Dominic says:

    Ironically, this is precisely why Scots, who live or are from outside the Central Belt (I’m hazarding the author lives in Glasgow – probably the West End – maybe Southside of Edinburgh), reject Scottish Nationalism and the West of Scotland Establishment. The Nationalists have systematically reduced Scottishness to a mono cultural phenomenon that suits their single minded purpose. I refer anyone who disagrees to Lesley Riddoch’s Blossom and her narrow, patronising, opening chapter on Scottish distinctiveness – On the Ball, tenements, always post industrial and a narrow definition of working class. If you are from Orkney or the Borders you are patted on the head occasionally – For many Britishness allows them more freedom as due to it’s potential plurality – ethnically, socially, nationally – it at least has the potential to be more more inclusive – if you claim it for yourself. Mo Farah can wave a union jack with less self-consciousness than a St Georges cross.

    Yes there are those in England, especially the south who are clueless regarding the distinctiveness of the Atlantic Archepelego, but there is equally a narrative that (although is under threat by Nationalists – North and South) is worth preserving – I’m thinking of 2012 and Danny Boyle’s Olympics – or even the most celebrated film Scotland has produced was a British collaboration – English director, English music – think of Trainspotting without New Order, Scottish screen writer, English actors, and so on.

    As a Scot not from the central belt, who could care less about Celtic or Rangers and so on, it’s very alienating listening to most Scot Nationalists.

  11. Dominic says:

    In fact one of the most irritating aspects of Nationalism are many of the English supporters who all, when they refer to Scotland, are actually referring to Glasgow/ post industrial central belt. All of them do it – Billy Bragg, Paul Mason, John Harris…The notion that you could be a socially conservative farmer from Selkirk, or an independent minded Shetlander who has never set foot in Glasgow but has often been to Stavanger is anathema.

    Oh and it should be pointed out that the SNP have pursued a centralising policy unprecedented even for the likes of Thatcher.

    1. MBC says:

      Hardly surprising since most Scots live in the central belt and major cities. Still, your point about the diversity of Scotland is valid.

      The diversity of England is equally valid too. Not that you would ever hear of it on the BBC post-Birt.

      It was Birt who decided regional news – however interesting – should never be broadcast except regionally. It was Birt who decided that national news was metropolitan news and that a Cornishman had no interest or right to hear about either innovations or deprivations in Newcastle or Glasgow.

      Look no further than the narrow ownership of the mainstream media and their narrow metropolitan concerns if you really want to understand the break up of Britain.

      1. Dominic says:

        Fair enough points about the UK – but all these complaints are being replicated on a Scottish basis – this more than independence is what many ‘Yoons’ object to. It’s ironic, the attempt to nation build and centralise for control of the ‘national’ narrative by the SNP has the effect of alienating the very people they ought to be trying to convince.

        1. MBC says:

          Sorry, you lost me there. If we in Scotland feel sufficiently alienated by the hubris of the metropolitan elite to vocalise it, that’s our right, and perfectly reasonable in the circumstances. It’s healthy. It shows self awareness, dignity, self respect, principle, direction.

          If most of provincial England feels equally alienated by the metropolitan elite but can find no other way of articulating that frustration than to vote Brexit out of some mis-placed ill focused xenophobia, that’s their right. But it’s not healthy. It lacks proper self awareness.

  12. MBC says:

    I really appreciated that piece. Thank you. It’s a lament for what could have been, and what briefly was, in the period from 1945 and 1973 when the old conception of Britishness associated with the unifying project of the British Empire faded away and the new prospect of a smaller, more progressive and inclusive notion of ‘British Empire’ as a true commonwealth of British peoples on these islands briefly seemed to flourish until dismantled by Margaret Thatcher after 1979 and the Troubles in Northern Ireland. The idea of common ownership of our resources and a common culture in the folk revival of the British isles, when Cornish sea-shanties, Warwickshire folk tunes, Irish ballads, Scots Muckle Sangs and Hebridean lilts all cross-fertilised and affirmed the people’s past, not the state’s geo-politics and the narrow self-interest of the ruling new-imperial ruling elites.

    But that was all a weak force, as we’ve learned, all that post-war optimism. And Britishness emerges as a chimera that never really was.

    1. Interpolar says:

      I think you have put your finger on it. For Britishness to flourish, Englishness would have to wither. Only when the regions of England become Cornish/Yorkshire/Norththumbrian/Kentish and British first, while skipping English almost entirely, that a more even commonwealth can take hold in which Wales, Scotland and NI are not dwarfed by an overwhelming powerful neighbour. Unfortunately, I’ve given up on this ever happening, as the current political discourse is making the conflation of English and British (rather like Russian and Soviet at one time) nigh irreversible.

      1. MBC says:

        ‘English’ always sounded and felt like middle-class Home Counties to me. You’re right that at the grass-roots level ‘Englishness’ was always a far more locally based identity, Cornish, Yorkshire, Northumbrian, etc.. For Englishness to thrive Britishness has to decline. I feel sorry for the English. They don’t know who they are any more, and that’s not a good place to be.

        I sometimes think the real English opposition to Scottish independence is that with Scotland gone they would have to face up to their Englishness. Britain has been a comfort blanket.

  13. Dominic says:

    Also, there is a deeper issue here that the author of the article touches upon. And that’s the failure of Nation States – outdated 18th century constructs – to be fully responsive of plural identity (Britain or Scotland). It has been the tragedy of the world for the last few centuries, trying to shoe horn people into narrow singular ‘National’ idendities. Let alone the utter failure of the Nation State to respond to globalisation and mobile capital, labour and so on. This is why genuine progressiveness can only be plural overlapping soveriengty and looking for new less definite forms of community and association – civic pride, cities, regions, overlapping and shared cooperation beyond borders.

    Nationalism is a regression – British and Scottish – and will not provide the changes people want. It’s the wrong tool for the job.

    1. MBC says:

      What crap. Nation states are highly successful. Unfettered globalisation has brought obscene levels of wealth for the few; instability, poverty and hardship for the many, including the dissolution of national identity and the nation’s sovereign capacity to protect its citizens. Nation states provide their citizens with security, education, welfare. Plus there can be no international co-operation without national governments to guarantee it.

    2. MBC says:

      The nation state is our only bulwark against multi-nationals polluting the earth and oppressing ordinary citizens by their massive wealth and power. The British state has however failed in protecting its citizens having been purchased after 1979 by corporate power and it is now disintegrating as a result.

      That is why the Scots want out. Soon to be followed by the Northern Irish.

      And you want even more of that? More corporate power, more privatisation, more austerity and more shrinkage of the state? More anarchy and chaos?

      1. Dominic says:

        If the nation state is the only Bulwark against the malign effects of globalisation then we may as well pack up and go home now.

        Nation States aren’t exactly doing a great job. They are out dated constructs that are increasingly obsolete. Give the Nation Staters like Brit Nat Brexiteers, Trump, Scot Nats, Le Pens France, a decade and people will see how hollow their populist promises are.

        Labour is mobile, Capital is mobile, manufacturing is mobile, environmental destruction does not stop at borders, wars – as we see with the refugee crisis – does not stop at borders, resources are actually not national, services are mobile, information is mobile, poverty is mobile…isolationism is not going to solve any of these problems.

    3. Redgauntlet says:

      Dominic, overlooking your tone of derision, I basically take your point about the bias towards the Central Belt. No doubt we need to hear more from people in other parts of Scotland, no doubt we sound deluded to a Shetland farmer, say.

      Nor am I arguing with you about some, or indeed many, of the SNP’s policies which you criticize. I agree with you there too, for example about centralization.

      As for the Nation State, it is largely the guarantor of our personal rights and liberties, and individual rights and liberties were born with the nation state, in the American and French revolutions.

      Believe me, as Scottish resident in Spain, and pondering the future and what to do after Brexit – a bargaining chip for Theresa May and Boris Johnson as things stand – it has never been driven home to me quite so much how,ultimately, the only guarantor of my rights is the British State….

      …boy, would I like to be apply for a passport of “citizen of the world”, or even “European citizen” or as you suggest, “citizen of Madrid”.

      Unfortunately, these are not options on the table, and your Unionist/Imperialist friends down south are going in precisely the opposite direction of travel.

      On the other hand, as for your notion that we are somehow stuck in the 18th century, this is just nonsense.

      The post 1945 world saw an explosion of international institutions, such as the UN, the International Criminal Court, The European Court of Human Rights, the European Union and countless others.

      Some of these are better than others, but all of them seek to address the confines of the “nation state” and increase international cooperation and governance.

      1. Dominic says:

        Apologies for derision. But the inherent logic of nationalism – as we have seen in Scotland + UK- necessarily requires centralisation of power. My point is simply that smaller units and over lapping soveriegnty is the only way to solve over lapping problems. This is not a defence of Britain – certainly not Brexit Britain, but a recognition that even if Scotland does become independent then the problems faced at the moment will simply be exacerbated.

        Ireland is a classic example – They didn’t vote for Brexit but they are royally screwed by it. They didn’t vote for austerity but had it imposed on them by the EU and IMF. They only policy of agency they have is low corporation tax and to let an entire generation emigrate. Wouldn’t it be better if there was another forum for say County Cork or Dublin or Manchester or Glasgow or indeed London who could make their own multi level arrangements with other like minded. The nation State is not historically the only possible unit of political arrangement, neither is it necessarily the only possible.

        Waving flags is pointless.
        The problems of globalisation are interdependent – therefore surely the answer ought to be political solutions that are also interdependent?

        1. Redgauntlet says:

          Thanks Dominic, and no need for any apologies,I can give and take the rough and tumble of BTL on Bella by now.

          I agree with you basically. To hell with the nation State! The State came into existence to protect Capital. That is what its chief function is and always has been.

          Our grandfathers and great-grandmothers, at huge personal sacrifice, managed to tack on a number of fundamental rights to the functions the State, rights which are being eroded at a frightening pace….

          I don’t disagree with you in theory. But right now, we don’t have that choice. We don’t have an alternative. We have a straight choice coming down the road at us: a) remain in the post Brexit British State, b) form a new independent State with our 27 European partners.

          There is only one answer for me, and according to your own transnational logic, for you too: an independent Scotland in the EU, and the sooner the better.

          Then we can both roll up our sleeves and turn our attentions to some of the SNP’s more terrible policies, of which there are many….

          1. Dominic says:

            Fair enough, I fully admit that Brexit has opened the question up and is infuriatingly short sighted – But some of the responsibility for Brexit has to be laid at the feet of Scot nats – at least the SNP and their phony outrage – they did hardly anything, if nothing to campaign for remain – where were all the ‘indy’ protestors and flag wavers in George Square for the EU? Over 1 million voted to leave in mostly Yes districts. Nationalism begets nationalism – it’s all part of the same process however you dress it up. Also, I’m sceptical that the EU will last. If things keep going the way they are into protectionism. Also over the last decade or so any far sighted suggestions to decentralise and reconfigure the UK have been blocked by both the Tories and the SNP. And also the fundamental problem remains. Even with de facto independence Scotland will not actually be in control of her destiny. As stated see Ireland/ Greece…this is why I think if people are to be empowered and real answers are to be found then decentralisation and maintaining overlapping interdependence is crucial.

            The often stated phrase too poor too wee and too stupid is used. When it comes to the global economy and globalisation this sadly is true of all nation states, even the big ones.

          2. Dominic says:

            And one final thought. If the data and historical precedent is to be believed, the process of populist centralisation is exacerbated and intensified after seccession, not the opposite…see India, Pakistan, Singapore, Kenya, Uganda, Vietnam, Ireland, Brazil, Argentina, Malaysia.

            I do not want to live in the people’s republic of Glasgow – fine though that city may be.

          3. Dominic says:

            In fact when you stop to think about it nearly all genuinely progressive policy forums have circumvented the Nation State – from the world cities forum that are cooperating to de carbonise and find shared economic solutions for 50 % of the world’s population, UNCLOS and the laws of the sea – 40% of the earth’s surface is out of ‘national’ juridiction, Issues and policy forums on gender and equality, health programs and solutions – Ebola was not confined to a single country, shared tech and renewables.

            And also the most progressive periods in history have been based on mutually interacting and dependent cities, not states. Renaissance Italy, Chang An, to Asana, to Istanbul and the Tang dynasty silk road, Timbuktu and the Ashanti.

            Besides in 20 years time nearly 70 % of the world’s population will be urban – the good thing abut cities is that they are genuinely ‘civic’ and anyone can belong – that’s where the term comes from.

          4. Redgauntlet says:

            Dominic, you’d have to tell me more about things like the World City forum, I don’t know anything about that at all.

            I basically agree with you about the limits of the Nation State, though you mention none of its virtues – for example, how would wealth distribution between rich city states and poor, largely empty hinterland communities such as in rural Spain, or the Highlands of Scotland, come about? (By the way, if anybody wants to buy an abandoned Spanish village in the middle of Old Castille, you can probably get one for about five hundred quid)

            And you are wriggling out of the question I raised which is whether you prefer to stay in the ultra nationalist post Brexit British State, which is clearly in its last spams of post imperial delusional grandeur, or whether you feel inclined to vote for an independent Scotland in the EU. You don’t need to like the SNP to vote for indie. I find them very conservative and lacking innovation and daring when it comes to policy tailored to Scotland, but I am very optimistic about Scotland’s potential as a totally NEW COUNTRY, with all the opportunities for doing things differently that affords.

            As for the EU, well the limits of the nation state within that structure are being pushed to breaking point at the moment, but I think people underestimate in the UK how positively, in general, over the peace, and notwithstanding the problems of the last six or seven years, most Europeans view the European project. In Spain, approval ratings are at something like 70%. What people dislike is the neo-liberal austerity programme imposed by Brussels / Berlin. But that won’t last for ever.

            As for your criticism of the SNP’s Remain campaign last June, well come on, you can’t complain there. They got the numbers in, they did their job. A handsome victory for Remain, and lots of those who voted to leave were on the Old Left. Cat Boyd for example, if I recall correctly.

  14. Ewan Macintyre says:

    The Anglo-Saxons arrived late in Britannia (5th century), perhaps a thousand years after the British Celts, and soon took over using brute force. They almost wiped out the British Celtic language in eastern Britannia including what is now called Scotland.
    Even the northern version of their Anglian language became known as THE Scots language. Talk about Teutonic arrogance!
    Let’s face it, the British language has never been English, although English is certainly the Lingua Franca. In truth, the British language consists of the surviving Celtic languages, including Irish.

    1. Neilyn says:

      In fact, Ewan, the common Anglo-Saxon word for a Briton was ‘Welsh’, generally regarded as meaning foreigner or stranger – indeed, talk about arrogance! The label stuck, hence all speakers of Welsh are quite entitled to call themselves speakers of British (although few would, for obvious reasons). Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, when addressing the Plaid Cymru conference in 2015, said the following:

      “The Celtic connections our countries share run deep. In preparing to come to Wales today I discovered that the celtic language initially spoken in my home city of Glasgow is most closely related to modern Welsh. I guess that explains why the Scots and the Welsh have always had a good understanding of each other. Even the name Glasgow is apparently Welsh. I’m told it refers to the green fields once found in front of what is now Glasgow Cathedral.”

      The idea that the English language is the true vehicle of historical ‘Britishness’ is a total conceit. It’s merely the state language of a 300yr old politcal union twixt England and Scotland.

      1. Ewan Macintyre says:

        I know little about the way Welsh and Irish people regard the origins of their languages. The point is however – are they keeping up with modern scholarly opinion?
        You may be interested in the views of Peter Schrijver, a Dutch linguist who is a professor of Celtic languages. He tells us that English’s history as a killer language made heavy inroads into Scots Gaelic and Welsh. It finished off Manx on the Isle of Man at the beginning of the twentieth century and Cornish about a century before that.
        Anglo-Saxon settlers gradually destroyed the fabric of Roman British society in a colonisation movement that started after 400 and replaced the British Celtic language (except in the west and north) which was widespread before then.
        How many are aware of the following? “The closest cognate of Irish is British Celtic, or rather Highland British Celtic, the ancestor of Welsh, Cornish, and Breton that was spoken in the west and north of Britain.” He means hilly Wales and Cornwall, not Highland Scotland.
        Also, rapid and deep sound changes occurred in both Irish and British Celtic between 400 A.D. and 600 A.D. taking them in different directions. British Celtic changed into Old Welsh, Cornish and Breton probably caused by Late-spoken Latin influences.
        “… Welsh, Cornish and Breton can be reconstructed as a monolithic sixth-century AD dialect, which hides the fact that British Celtic had been widespread across all of Britain for probably a millennium or more.”

        Read for yourself Language Contact and the Origins of the Germanic Languages by Peter Schrijver (Routledge).

        1. Neilyn says:

          Interesting stuff certainly, but what you’ve covered there doesn’t strike me as being especially different to what’s been generally accepted for some time. Am I missing something?!

          1. Ewan Macintyre says:

            Are you sure that most Irish people know that “the closest cognate of Irish is British Celtic, or rather Highland British Celtic, the ancestor of Welsh, Cornish, and Breton that was spoken in the west and north of Britain”?
            Are you sure that most Scottish and English people know that the surviving Celtic languages constitute the British language?

  15. Alf Baird says:

    The writers acknowledged cultural/national confusion illustrates the reality for many people coming from England to settle in Scotland, most of whom generally assume Scotland to be merely a northern part of ‘their’ cultural idea of Britain, and this helps to explain their overwhelming propensity to take it upon themselves to vote against Scottish nationhood (in order to ‘protect’ their sense of Britishness?) whenever the opportunity arises.

    1. Sylvina Tilbury says:

      Thank you Alf, and you describe exactly my reasons for writing this article in the first place. Willie Rennie’s speech today has further underlined it, as he attempts to make the “emotional case for the Union”. I don’t see how you can make an emotional case for a political union and I think he is in fact trying to re-open the argument that Better Together used so successfully in the 2014 referendum. The unionists cannot be allowed to exclusively occupy this emotional ground, and I hope that this article can start to address the problem in some small way.

      1. Alf Baird says:

        I have to admit, Sylvina, that I have not read Willie Rennie’s speech, and that I probably never will. Thankfully, most of Scotland figured out the Libdems for what they are a long time ago – i.e. a complete and utter waste of space.

      2. Innes Nightgown says:

        I missed Willie’s speech making an “emotional case for the Union”. However, I did catch him on TV attempting to delegitimize our democracy.

  16. J Galt says:

    H G Wells was peddling this “Internationalist” propaganda with his world state based on air power in “The Shape of Things to Come” in the 1930s. In the film small nationalist “tribes” are derided and the shiny new World Fascist International (because that’s the only way it could really be described) is lauded.

    And then there was the Communist “International” – many of the early Bolshevik leaders had nothing but contempt for the “nationalities” they ruled with absolute terror and attempted to erase national feeling – until that is they needed it to survive in the 1940s!

    Nah – I’m not taken in, the Sovereign Independent State is the best guarantor of freedom – not always and never perfect – human beings will have to go up a notch in the evolutionary scheme before that – but better than the 100s of millions killing, internationalist shite.

  17. Lawrence Target says:

    I miss being European? There I’ve said it, I’m Scottish and European I love my Europeanness I love that we have such different cultures and languages and foods but love being European with all our differences, but there is nothing absolutely nothing about me which is British, it’s an anathema, an insult, a disgusting tag I am forced to use on forms, it’s like calling me a nazi or a murderer, an oppressor, I want nothing to do with it, don’t ever call me British

  18. john young says:

    If we were ever told the truth about “The Great British Empire” then there would be no rush to identify with it in any shape or form except of course from the fascist/neo con right-wingers,treachery/back stabbing/double dealing/cowardice/rape/pillage etc,, Scots or so called Scots to the fore,this episode in our history should shame us but we have a hard core that still revel in it,but things are very slowly changing,our educational curriculum should include Scots history warts and all.I had an interesting debate with a friend of mine who is of the Orange Order yes that,s right a friend and here,s me a “fenian” anyhoo after quite a bit of debate and getting nowhere his final salvo was”well we won the world war”ffs,when I pointed out that Russia destroyed the Nazi armies losing 30+ million his re-ply was what a load of tosh?

  19. Mach1 says:

    “Britishness” would appear to be another example of the false consciousness promoted by the imperialist state. Does anyone miss being Roman, apart from a denizen of Rome? Individual nostalgia for personal mythology is no basis for a political critique. Only by examining the mechanisms by which that state suppresses rival traditions can we understand how to rebuild democracy in Scotland.
    On a lighter note, the BBC has been carrying a story all morning about David Davis’s opinion that the Westminister parliament has no right to alter the legislation for withdrawal from the EU. The kicker on the newsline also offers the perfect nickname for the authoritarian Mr Davis… Brexit Bill!

    1. Redgauntlet says:

      Surely there are cases – many cases- where feeling British has got SFA to do with “false consciousness” and everything to do with circumstances?

      Say, a family made up of a Welsh father and an English mother who live in Scotland with their Scottish born children?

      What else would they feel but British?

      What does that have to do with false consciousness?

      1. Mungo says:

        I’d imagine the father would feel Welsh, the mother English and the kids Scots?

        1. MBC says:

          I think Redgauntlet has a point. The British are one small tribe inhabiting these islands. People who have mixed English, Welsh, Scottish, Irish backgrounds who feel British as they have no other common identity. But they are transient. Very quickly Britishness is dissolved into one of the major component tribes, depending on where the family settles.

          Janet Street Porter for instance. Her mother was Welsh, and a Welsh speaker, and she and her sister, the aunt, would often speak together in Welsh which young Janet could not understand. She grew up despising Welsh and clearly had no affection for her Welsh mother for some reason. She felt English, and English alone, and inherited all the cultural superiority that came with it.

          1. Redgauntlet says:

            “A small tribe” feel themselves British because “they have no other common identity” says MBC….are you joking man?

            Probably somewhere around 20% of Scots feel themselves to be just as British as Scots or more so even – whatever the background they come from. Or even more than that.

            That’s one million votes!

            We need to win this next referendum, and the “Scottish identity” crap is a massive hindrance because it turns off more people than it turns on. You guys do as much harm as good…

            Scottish independence is about democracy, not about identity, which is a personal matter. Fck sake’s, it’s like we have learned nothing…

          2. Mungo says:

            But if you identify yourself as British then presumably you do not recognise any demographic deficit?

  20. Dave says:

    Cornwall is not an English region. It’s a nation being treated as if it were part of England. We didn’t force them to recognise our national minority status just for the hell of it. We are currently in the transitional phase between recognition and devolution. But it doesn’t help when Nicola, Alex or Theresa talks about “four nations”. Don’t worry, we’ll do it ourselves, a thousand years of English rule and we’re still us.
    – Love, Cornwall

  21. Alf Baird says:

    Scots will always be discriminated against and by a ratio of approx. 9:1 so long as Scotland’s top jobs across the public and private sectors are primarily advertised in the London press. No surprise then that our last population census showed the largest immigrant group coming to Scotland over the past century and more has been from England, and particularly in the ‘professions’. Hence today most of Scotland’s public organisations and institutions are not led by Scots (e.g. as in the principals of 16 out of 19 universities). This ‘imported’ leadership obviously brings with it different cultural norms and priorities, which makes the ‘management’ and strategies/focus of Scotland’s institutions rather different to what might be otherwise expected (e.g. our ‘elite’ universities emphasis on attracting more high fee students from outside Scotland, leaving fewer places for Scottish students). Culturally, though, we surely diminish our own people’s confidence (as well as their opportunities to develop) through this more or less colonial process.

    1. MBC says:

      What do you do about it though? Bar English applicants? That would be fascism.

      1. Alf Baird says:

        MBC, would an independent Scotland still be advertising all its top public sector jobs in London (rather than in Scotland) and still be recruiting maist o oor heid bummers fi oor muckle neibour? A dinna hink sae.

    2. Redgauntlet says:

      Alf Baird, enough of yer girnin, man.

      We are on the threshold of another referendum , and it’s do or die. If we lose it, it’s over in our lifteime, eh? And when Nicola fires the starting gun, we should all be ready to go.

      The only thing on our minds right now should be: how do I convince the Unionist guy next door to vote for independence?

      That’s the key thing. How do I get the guy next door to vote for Scottish independence? If we can all focus on that, then we win.

      The answer will be different in each case, but we’re not going to win by going on about discrimination against the Scots, or the Scots language, or the Scottish identity…

      1. Alf Baird says:

        RG, overcoming entrenched institutionalised discrimination and injustice faced by Scots people in all walks of life is the very raison detre of independence.

        1. MBC says:

          It’s a problem the Canadians have struggled with too vis a vis their larger neighbour. Americans get the top jobs, because they are more numerous and belong to a larger economy, therefore candidates generally have more experience than Canadians applying for jobs. You can’t pass laws requiring employers to only recruit Canadians or to only advertise in Canadian publications. Plus, the internet makes a mockery of that. I don’t know what the answer is frankly.

          1. Alf Baird says:

            “I don’t know what the answer is frankly.”

            The answer is no tae haud doon yer ain fowk, ‘nae mair, nae mair’.

  22. Clootie says:

    We have one nation which assumes dominance – hence the terms English/British being interchangeable.
    Unfortunately they (the establishment) will only recognise the nation of Scotand when it is a “nation”.
    The Federal approach will never work due to numerical dominance and engrained entitlement (Empire culture)

  23. john young says:

    Yer right red gauntlet,how do you change their minds a nigh on impossible task esp if they are English or Orange Order no way but there is a window of opportunity of say 10% that could be swayed,my question to them is what are your reasons for not wanting to govern yourself as it surely is what all nations under the sun aspire to,forget all the intricate details forget especially the”better to-gether” argument and just ask that one simple question.

    1. Redgauntlet says:

      Wait a minute, John, let’s not go down that road that it is an impossible task to convince Unionists, this is not a rerun of 18/14 we’re talking, it’s a totally new referendum, with entirely changed circumstances…

      JK Rowling is now a potential Scottish indie supporter. We need to win over people JK Rowling – though I confess that’s a line I never thought I would ever write.

      To do so, we need to win over voters with a basic gut loyalty to feeling British, or partly British, we need to convince them that they can feel as British as they want in an independent Scotland, because it will be a plural and culturally diverse country. The British community should be no different to the Italians, the Irish, the Europeans, you know?

      We need to win by 60 % minimum….


  24. jamesDow says:

    British, a political construct for a non existent people in an attempt to unify nations with a strong cultural identity with one that doesn’t. Having won the lottery of life being born Scottish, why on earth would I identify with the demeaning term British? And the possibility of being aligned with the English in others eyes

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