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The new state of an old nation

This book covers recent aspects of Scottish politics, Scottish society and Scottish life. Underpinned by current and ongoing research, it examines contemporary Scotland through a sociopolitical lens, considering the nature and foundations of Scotland today.

Despite the significant and ongoing attention paid to Scotland, and the national and international interest in numerous aspects of Scottish society and politics, there are very few up-to-date works to which readers can refer. Yet, at a time when the country’s constitutional future has engaged the world, and when interest in Scotland and Scottish issues has been significantly heightened internationally, books that provide insight into Scotland remain limited. This book fills a significant gap by delivering just such insights.

The book includes chapters on Scottish identity, politics, education, employment, gender, ethnicity, class, art, heritage, culture and sport, as well as looking at Scottish culture in Scotland and elsewhere in the UK and overseas. Each chapter draws on contemporary research and identifies key reading, which enables readers to further explore topics in-depth.

This book will be of interest to a wide variety of readers; from university students, researchers and academics, to policymakers and members of the general public, both within and beyond Scotland. It will inform and update people’s understanding of modern-day Scotland and allow for a greater insight and understanding of why and how Scotland has come to be a topic of discussion for itself and others.

Both main authors have wide experience of researching and publishing on a range of Scottish issues and their work underpins this discussion.

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Murray Stewart Leith and Duncan Sim

Sport plays an important role within Scottish life, not least as a focus of national identity. Although Scotland is not an independent state, it has its own international football, rugby and cricket teams and competes independently at the Commonwealth Games. Scotland has played a significant part in the development of sport, particularly within football and in golf, with the world headquarters of golf being at St Andrews. This chapter explores the role that sport plays within Scottish life and in helping to sustain a separate and distinct sense of Scottish identity.

in Scotland
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Murray Stewart Leith and Duncan Sim

We finish with a conclusion in which we seek to bring together various aspects of Scottish politics and society and perhaps indulge in some tightly focused crystal-ball gazing, in terms of the future direction of the country. After two referendums, on Scottish independence and on EU membership, it is clear that the constitutional future of Scotland is a matter of ongoing debate. We reflect on this and on the wider implications for Scottish society and identity.

in Scotland
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Murray Stewart Leith and Duncan Sim

There is a sizeable literature on how Scotland is portrayed or indeed portrays itself. We look at tartan imagery (the ‘Tartan Monster’, as Tom Nairn put it), at images of the ‘kailyard’, ‘Clydesidism’ and the international image of Scotland as a land of heather and glens, whisky, haggis and shortbread. All nations use different forms of imagery but Scotland’s imagery (particularly tartan) is recognised worldwide. Scots are sometimes uncomfortable with this but recognise it as an important marketing tool. We add to the traditional considerations and presentations by looking at how Scotland and being Scottish is employed in contemporary literature and Arts both within and outwith Scotland. We will ask if there is a modern image of Scotland to which all Scots could subscribe and that might be more appropriate in the twenty-first century.

in Scotland
Murray Stewart Leith and Duncan Sim

We move on to discuss more specific aspects of Scottish identity, using ideas such as those of Benedict Anderson, Michael Billig, Tom Nairn and Anthony Smith. We look at how the Scottish nation can be and is defined and, using data from the census and social attitudes surveys, how individuals within that nation define themselves. Are Scots increasingly Scottish, still British or simply ‘not English’? We assess the various layers of identity that exist, the extent to which a Scottish identity is growing at the expense of a British one and the longer-term implications of this. The existing social data is complemented by our recent studies of Scots throughout Scotland, and the contemporary Scottish diaspora itself.

in Scotland
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Murray Stewart Leith and Duncan Sim

This chapter is intended to provide a short historical background to Scotland. It discusses the formation of the kingdom and its battle to remain an independent state. We discuss at what point were we then all ‘Scots’? We consider the various factors that acted to unify the country as well as those that acted to divide. We are not historians and we do not seek to compete with those who are, but we feel it is important to discuss how the country came into being and how it maintained its identity through both the Union of the Crowns in 1603 and the Treaty of Union in 1707. This background will be important to understand some of the long-running social tensions that echo through to today and still impact upon contemporary social and political Scotland.

in Scotland
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Murray Stewart Leith and Duncan Sim

We begin by asking how many Scotlands there are and how we may make sense of them. Geography has long acted as a way of dividing the country – for example Highland versus Lowland, Glasgow versus Edinburgh, etc. – but people also have an overarching sense of belonging to another Scotland, whatever it might be. There are those who feel part of civic Scotland and those who feel excluded. There are social, religious and cultural differences within Scotland, as within any country. What we focus on and set out in this initial chapter is how we will differentiate them and approach our task, by unpicking the various elements within Scottish life, to expose the many Scotlands that exist, and the many Scots who inhabit them.

in Scotland
Murray Stewart Leith and Duncan Sim

This chapter looks at the importance of heritage within Scotland and the development of the country’s tourist industry. There is a significant literature on tourism, its relationship to national identity and to the way in which Scotland ‘sells itself’. The chapter therefore relates back to earlier chapters. In many respects, Scotland has led in certain tourist developments such as genealogical research and ‘roots’ tourism and we explore and explain this.

in Scotland
Murray Stewart Leith and Duncan Sim

We use this chapter to explore the Scottish education system and its strengths and weaknesses. We also explore the current employment situation within Scotland and, using census and other data, describe the changing nature of employment as the country has increasingly moved from being dominated by heavy industry to being increasingly characterised by science, technology and businesses associated with the so-called ‘Silicon Glen’.

in Scotland
Murray Stewart Leith and Duncan Sim

Scottish identity is closely linked to the development of a Scottish culture. There is a body of literature that has explored aspects of art, culture and literature and its distinctiveness from other British culture. This chapter explores art and culture, the role it plays in Scottish life and its role in maintaining a distinctive Scottish identity within Scotland.

in Scotland