Scotland’s distinctive symbols, culture, history, and customs are equally important, if not more important, than economic preferences for calls for Scottish independence.
Seven years have passed since the first Scottish independence referendum, but debates surrounding the subject intensify every day. These arguments fall into two categories, where the first group argues that Scottish needs and rights have been ignored over the years.
Nicola Ferguson Sturgeon, first minister of Scotland’s remarks reinforce this argument. “The UK Parliament has not worked in Scotland’s national interests for a very long time,” she said. The results of the Brexit referendum are also another sign of differences in the interests of Scotland and Britain, thus proving the claims of the first group. The UK voted to leave the EU by 52% to 48%, while every council in Scotland voted for Remain.
Meanwhile, the second group argues that Scots demand their “own policies and preferences” which are different from those in the rest of the UK in terms of the economy, policy, and social policy. The Scottish people can have a better life by controlling their natural resources and creating their own policies; something which has happened in other small Northern European countries, ie Norway, Denmark, Finland and Sweden.
Although the economic arguments for Scottish independence, such as the unfair distribution of resources and opportunities or Scotland’s access to oil, have been talked about frequently, the cultural, emotional, and historical differences between the Scottish and English people should not be overlooked. Although they have been united for over 300 years by the Act of Union in 1707, Scotland was allowed to retain “its own systems of law and local administration as well as its educational and financial institutions”. Yet the politics, economics, and culture of these two nations have remained distinct. Research shows that after the Act of Union “Scottish pride in their cultural heritage became even greater, for it was something which allowed them to retain and express their unique identity, even within the union”.
Over the past 300 years, Scotland and England have always had a tenuous relationship with one another. The tension goes back a long way. Historically, the Scots are united around different symbols, cultures, and customs distinct from England’s identity, creating a sense of national identity among the Scotts.
Many believe that separation from England will allow the Scottish people to make decisions in accordance with their own values and requirements. These factors led to calls for independence and the first secession referendum took place in 2014. Although the referendum did not vote to leave, surveys show that a majority of Scots now want independence. As revealed by Panelbase, in the event of another referendum, 54% will vote to leave while 46% would want to stay. According to reports, Brexit prompted further pro-independence feelings, because the Scots felt that their opinions were not being taken seriously. “It’s always felt like we’re kind of second to the English viewpoint, maybe because there are less of us. It feels like they don’t take our opinions seriously”, said Katherine, a young Scott.
Scotland and England have significant cultural differences now and the political system places little emphasis on the preferences of the Scottish people. In the post-Brexit era with the UK having a clear preference for a leave vote over that of the Scottish people to remain in the EU, the case for Scottish independence has intensified. Given the current situation in the EU and the UK, seeking a second independence referendum is looking more likely than it did before the 2014 referendum.
Furthermore, anti-Scottish sentiment in England has become more pronounced, especially after Brexit, exacerbating the sense of independence among the Scotts. There are some reports about “sneering contempt” and “abuse about Jocks” against Scots in England. Such anti-Scottish acts were also reported following the 2014 independence referendum. Notably, based on a survey, the majority of English people (54%) say they do not want Scotland to remain part of the UK.
Now, the Scottish people feel looked down on by the English. They feel their worth is underestimated by society. “The Scottish sacrificed for the British Empire while losing their own way of life,” Nicola Sturgeon said in a 2012 speech at Strathclyde University.
Based on research, the Scots consider themselves separate from Britain; “There is one very real sense in which Scots feel detached from Britain and the importance of the finding cannot be underestimated. The most recent polls suggest that more Scots feel that most English people look down on them” said Gordon Brown in his book, “My Scotland, Our Britain: A Future Worth Sharing”.
The Treaty of May 1707, during the reign of Queen Anne, marked the beginning of the union between the two independent kingdoms of England and Scotland, and the birth of the United Kingdom of Great Britain; a land which also includes Wales. It went on to include N Ireland and become the UK. Scotland, with a population of 5.5 million, and a surface area of 31,000 square miles, makes up one-third of the British territory. Although Scotland is part of the UK, it has always had its own identity and heritage. In the last several decades, these differences have grown, with a government which puts little emphasis on the Scottish people.
Additionally, the post-Brexit events revealed divergent attitudes regarding the future of the Scottish nation. Scotland now considers itself to be a separate nation rather than part of a larger whole, demonstrating their rights to self-determination based on their own preferences and priorities.