"Scotland's Future in Scotland's Hands": Identity, Memory, and Grievance in the 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum
Reams, Elizabeth D.
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The 2014 Scottish independence referendum was a benchmark moment in the history of Scottish nationalism, resulting directly from the Scottish National Party’s landslide victory in the 2011 Scottish parliamentary elections and indirectly from the gradual growth of the Scottish nationalist movement. Scottish nationalism is rooted in grievances against the British state, particularly the democratic deficit surrounding Scottish representation in the British government, as well as the survival of the distinct Scottish identity, perpetuated since the 1707 Act of Union through the legacy of Scotland’s unique civic institutions. Scottish collective memory has cemented national grievances in Scottish society and serves as a tool for nationalists to mobilize popular support, as happened during the 2014 referendum campaign. In their official campaign rhetoric, the SNP utilized collective memory of national grievances, especially that of the democratic deficit, to justify independence as the only course of action to ensure Scotland’s prosperity. In this paper, I present an overview of the historical development of Scottish nationalism and the independence movement from the 1707 Act of Union to the 2014 referendum. I then outline the ideological foundations of Scottish nationalism—grievance, collective memory, and institutional legacy—reviewing the scholarship and theories supporting these mechanisms and analyzing how they interact to shape the Scottish national movement. I then review the scholarship surrounding identity and nationalism in political discourse generally and in Scotland, as well as of other scholarship focusing on the 2014 referendum as an expression of Scottish nationalism. I then analyze the SNP’s campaign rhetoric—specifically the SNP government’s independence manifesto and speeches made by First Minister Alex Salmond and Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon for the Yes Scotland campaign—focusing on how the SNP constructed Scottish national identity and, most important, how they justified Scottish independence. I then investigate how the SNP’s rhetoric affected popular mobilization leading up to the referendum, before offering concluding thoughts on the likelihood of a second independence referendum.