The Scottish referendum. The British identity that dare not speak its name


The best article I’ve seen about the dearth of a cultural identity debate in Scotland by Alex Linklater, son of the great Magnus. Could Scots learn a thing or two from the Irish? Or maybe not?

 You’d have thought the Scottish cultural air would be thrumming with an accrued history of intellectual fighting and flyting over who we are, dating back to the unions of crowns and parliaments, through the Enlightenment and into all the scientific and artistic legacies of 19th and 20th-century Scottish culture, as manifested now, at a constitutional crossroads.

The accusation aimed at the Better Together campaign is that it has no positive vision of the UK. But, by exactly the same token, the yes campaign has little more than economic promises, based on speculation that an independent Scotland could be better off financially..

A vote for independence in September would not mean separation from England (a matter of cartography that was resolved 1,000 years ago). It would mean separation from Britain, a country that was created and constituted by Scots at least as much as it was by our partners in the union. But the Scottish Enlightenment, the diaspora, Scots in the empire, Scottish explorers and scientists and philosophers and inventors – the tartan seams in the British story – have been bleached out of a narrow debate,

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London