Jock Tamsons Bairns

Scottish national identity

Scottish national identity is a term referring to the sense of national identity and common culture of Scottish people and is shared by a considerable majority of the people of Scotland.

Scottish national identity is largely free from ethnic distinction, and it has been noted (Sunday Herald 4 September 2005) that many of "immigrant" descent see themselves (and are seen as), for example, Pakistani and Scottish: Asian-Scots. This contrasts with a tendency in England for such families to be called "British" but not "English". Identification of others as Scottish is generally a matter of accent, and though the various dialects of the Scots language and Scottish English (or the accents of Gaelic speakers) are distinctive, people associate them all together as Scottish with a shared identity, as well as a regional or local identity. Some parts of Scotland, like Glasgow, the Outer Hebrides and the north east of Scotland retain a strong sense of regional identity, alongside the idea of a Scottish national identity. Some residents of Orkney and Shetland also express a distinct regional identity, influenced by their Norse heritage.

History of Scottish identity

The history of Scotland as a nation state starts in the later period of the so-called Dark Age. Scotland by the 12th century contained what Goidelic "Scots" kingdom of Dál Riata, Galloway, the Brythonic Kingdom of Strathclyde, the Anglo Saxon kingdom of Bernicia and the Pictish Kingdom, the latter's origin being highly contentious. The disparate cultures of Scotland were cemented together firstly by the Viking threat, and latterly in the High Middle Ages by aggression from the neighbouring Kingdom of England. Even though the countries have shared monarchs since the 1603 Union of the Crowns and Parliaments since the Act of Union 1707 the Scottish identity remains strong, though many residents of Scotland will also, or alternatively, identify with Great Britain, the United Kingdom or Europe. Furthermore, Scotland has a large English minority, some of whom continue to identify themselves with England.

Cultural icons

Cultural icons in Scotland have changed over the centuries, e.g. the first national instrument was the Clarsach or Celtic harp until it was replaced by the Highland pipes in the 15th century. Symbols like the tartan, the kilt and bagpipes are widely but not universally liked (or flaunted) by Scots, their establishment as symbols for the whole of Scotland, especially in the Lowlands, dates back to the early 19th century. This was the age of pseudo-pageantry: the visit of King George IV to Scotland organised by Sir Walter Scott. Scott, very much a Unionist and Tory, was at the same time a great populariser of Scottish mythology through his writings.

Further reading


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