‘Scottish values’, national community, and its boundaries

This paper will discuss the ways in which the Scottish ‘national community’ is imagined in the context of the Scottish independence referendum in 2014. As Anderson argues, ‘communities are to be distinguished (…) by the style in which they are imagined’ (1991:6; emphasis added). This paper will, firstly, consider the ways in which history – and which parts of history specifically – are appropriated in the SNP’s narrative of the nation and, importantly, how the party makes reference to specific ‘Scottish values’, which are portrayed as rooted in history. Following this, the paper will then move on to consider the ways in which ethnic minorities understand and narrate the Scottish nation or Scotland as a ‘community’. However, in order to understand how a ‘community’ is constructed, it is important to look at the ways in which it is demarcated and, therefore, what its boundaries are as well.  The discussion will draw on empirical evidence collected during my PhD fieldwork in the run-up to, and in the aftermath of, the independence referendum. The data consist of interviews with ‘experts’ and ethnic minority voters, as well as content analysis of SNP’s party political publications and key SNP figures’ speeches, for example.  The key argument is that a seemingly open and inclusive ‘national community’ based on specific ‘Enlightenment values’ is imagined via a selective reading of history, and this national community is, in turn, especially juxtaposed to ideas of England and Englishness.

Minna Liinpää (University of Glasgow)

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