Though neither the date of the vote nor the make up of the ballot have been agreed upon, the campaigns over the coming Scottish independence referendum are now in full swing.Despite widespread dissatisfaction with their present economic situation, support for outright independence among Scots is down to around 35%. The governing nationalist party and First Minster Alex Salmond seem to recognize that they won’t reach their goal of an independent Scotland by 2014. As a back up, they seek to add a second question to the ballot not only to make it an “in or out” vote, but also to determine whether Scotland should gain additional regional authority while still remaining in part of the United Kingdom. According to pollsters, Salmond and his nationalist coalition are likely to win on the second question, thereby keeping hopes alive for full independence in the future.It is here that the nationalists run into a major problem. Legally, it is the responsibility of the British Parliament to determine the legitimacy and the overall format of any referendum ballot. There are also concerns that the Scottish Parliment has no legal basis for drafting a binding referendum in the first place. Suffice is to say, the Scots and English are likely to continue to squabble amongst themselves as they have become accustomed to for centuries.Nationalism is a tricky beast. Scotland and England have over 300 years of shared history in the United Kingdom, and both the Scots and the English still think of themselves as having separate national identities (to say nothing of the Welsh). Compared to the European Union project, however, the question of Scotland’s place in the UK is a very simple problem. The EU is a collection of 27 distinct national identities, all of whom have far less in common with one another than even the most dour and plainspoken of Scots has with the plummiest Old Etonian in Mayfair. With so much trouble building a national consensus between two fairly similar sets of people, the idea of an “ever closer union” on the continent looks even harder to reach — and perhaps impossible to sustain over time.
Scottish Independence and National Identity Politics
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