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From Brexit to the break-up of Britain?
From Brexit to the break-up of Britain?

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3 Identities in tension

The arguments George Callaghan presents in the video you played in Activity 2 are powerful ones which need to be taken seriously. But some of the evidence is less clear-cut. In his analysis of opinion poll data around the referendum, John Curtice (2017) identified some key features that underpinned the difference between England and Scotland in the final vote. For example, the proportion of Scots who think the economy will suffer from leaving the EU was higher than in England and the issue of immigration was of less concern in Scotland. In addition, the vote was also underpinned by an understanding of Scotland’s distinctive position, associated with the campaigning of the Scottish National Party and the possibility of maintaining an autonomous Scotland. However, this does not translate directly back into the view that voters would rather be in the EU than the UK, if that were the choice. The vote translated a more complex reality into a single set of figures as while 62% voted Remain polls taken at the same time suggested that only 45% would vote for independence.

Activity 3 Voting and national identities

Timing: Allow about 15 minutes

In the following blog, Chris Pattie and Ron Johnston draw on data from the British Election Study, undertaken following the Brexit Referendum, to explore some of these issues from a slightly different angle. They review the extent to which voters in England, Scotland and Wales identify with different perceptions of the nations to which they belong.

Read Pattie and Johnston’s blog post by clicking on the following link. You may want to read the blog as a whole, but for the purpose of this activity you should focus your attention on the text starting with the paragraph beginning ‘But, when all is said and done, Indyref #2 will turn on issues of the heart as well as on those of the head…’ to the end of the end of the blog. When you have finished return here to answer the question below.

What are the main results from the study and the issues Pattie and Johnston identify?

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Using a scale of 1 to 7, Pattie and Johnston (2017) confirm that Scots tend to identify more with Scottishness than Britishness (average of 5.7 to 4.54). The bar graph in their blog demonstrates how this contrasts with the English and Welsh respondents, both of whom tend to identify more as British than as English or Welsh, respectively. Scots also identify as European more than either English or Welsh (with the Welsh respondents reporting the lowest levels of feeling European). This is all consistent with the points made by George Callaghan (in Activity 2). However, Pattie and Johnston conclude that the message is not quite as unequivocal as George Callaghan seems to suggest. As they note, the score for Britishness remains significantly higher than that for Europeanness (at 3.87) and the pie chart in their blog confirms that a majority of Scots see themselves as more British than European, with only 30% seeing themselves as more European than British.

In other words, the survey suggests that Scotland’s position within the UK remains uneasy and there remain significant tensions around questions of national identity. But it also indicates that the political outcome of those tensions is still in the balance. Both those seeking independence and those opposed to it can draw comfort from this.