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Elements of Scottish nationalism

Up to the 1950s, Scots had been very much pro-UK. The weakening of this attitude in Scotland is linked to Britain’s retreat (1) from empire, whose fruits Scotland enjoyed in a disproportionate way.

The tendency was reinforced by the erosion of Scottish identity within British institutions, notably the army, which lost the last of its Highland infantry regiments in 2006. Asked to choose a single nationality, 39% of Scots said they were British in 1970. In 2013 that number had fallen to 23%.

What does it mean to be exclusively Scottish? Resentment (2) of England is a very strong element of Scottish nationalism. But the main aspect of that nationalism is political.

Scotland suffered from deindustrialisation just as disproportionately as it benefited from empire. As its steel mills and shipyards declined, trade unions struggled to save them in a militant way. Scottish politics moved left. The same process took place in northern England and Wales, but in Scotland it combined with the rise of Scottish nationalism. The idea was that Scotland needs to be separated from England because only independence can bring about (3) the social democracy Scots want. Margaret Thatcher shaped Scottish nationalism more than any other factor, when Scotland lost a fifth of its workforce under her rule.

This is how the story of job-destroying, Scots-hating Conservatives took hold (4) and increasingly, Conservatives came to be identified with England as a whole. Despite the story though, polls still show the No camp comfortably in front of the Yes campaign for the referendum on Scottish independence due to take place on September 18th.



  1. What reason is mentioned in the text for Scotland being pro-UK before the advent of the 1950s?
  2. What did, according to the article, change in the 1950s?
  3. According to the article, what is the main characteristic of Scottish nationalism?
  4. Why did Scottish politics swing left following deindustrialization?
  5. How did, according to the article, Margaret Thatcher influence Scottish nationalism?
  6. Does the article suggest that proponents of Scottish independence will probably win the referendum scheduled for 18 September?
  7. Do you care if Scotland breaks from the UK? What do you think would be the consequences?
  8. Do you think it was wise for Slovakia and the Czech Republic to split up?
  9. Can you imagine any of the Czech regions (such as Moravia) seceding from the Czech Republic? What do you think would be the consequences?


retreat (1) – when you change your mind about something because your idea was unpopular or too difficult or, more generally, any movement away from someone or something

resentment (2) – a feeling of anger because something has happened that you think is unfair

bring about (3) – to cause to happen

take hold (4) – become established


You can find additional explanation and more examples to help you understand and use English words and phrases at https://dictionary.reference.com, https://dictionary.cambridge.org/, https://www.merriam-webster.com/ or https://www.ldoceonline.com/