The Case for Scottish Independence: The Political Thought of Scottish Nationalism, c. 1960-2014

By Ben Jackson

History | Politics
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Since the Scottish referendum in 2014, Scottish nationalism has emerged as a genuine mass movement for the first time in Scottish history. Currently nationalism not only dominates Scottish politics at Holyrood and Westminster, it also mobilises large numbers of activists throughout Scotland and the Scottish diaspora.

This book will be a fresh, original and up to date examination of the politics of Scottish nationalism, written in a readable style for students, researchers, politicians and anyone else interested in modern Scottish identity and politics. In particular, the book examines the ideas of Scottish nationalism, investigating how the key arguments for Scottish independence were crafted by intellectuals, politicians and activists in the fifty years or so before the 2014 referendum.  

The book argues that the roots of Scottish nationalism lie in the decades after the 1960s and not in the distant past of the Acts of Union or the Scottish Enlightenment. The nationalism that emerged from this testing period of Scottish history was unusual, in that it did not primarily demand independence for Scotland in order to defend a threatened ancestral culture. Instead, Scottish nationalists emphasised that independence was the most effective way to promote the political agenda of the left in a neo-liberal era. The book explains why this version of the goal of Scottish independence became more persuasive over this period by illuminating the driving forces behind this seismic change.

Born and raised north of the border but currently living in England, Ben Jackson possesses both an insider’s and an outsider’s view of Scottish politics which adds strength to his analysis, enabling him to create a book which will become essential reading for anyone interested in modern Scotland.

The project is the first collaboration between Cambridge University Press and Unbound. If the title is successfully funded, in addition to delivering the printed book to all supporters, Cambridge will make an ebook version freely available to anyone worldwide, via its Cambridge Core platform. (This model is known as Open Access, a term which is used to describe a published work which offers an unchanged and unabridged free-to access online version.) The title will also be available in print via bookshops and online retailers.

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$40  + shipping
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Contribute to Open Access publication and receive a paperback copy. All supporters will have their names printed in the back of the book.
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  • Ben Jackson avatar

    Ben Jackson

    Ben Jackson is Associate Professor of Modern History at Oxford University and a Fellow of University College. He grew up near Kilmarnock in Scotland and studied at the universities of Cambridge, Harvard, Essex and Oxford. Ben teaches and researches about modern British history and the history of ideas. He has previously written about themes such as the political thought of socialism and liberalism in twentieth-century Britain and the rise of free-market ideas and Thatcherism. His first book, Equality and the British Left (Manchester University Press, 2007), explored the importance of the egalitarian critique of capitalism to the rise of British social democracy. He has also edited several books, including Making Thatcher’s Britain (Cambridge University Press, 2012, co-edited with Robert Saunders). He is one of the editors of the journal Political Quarterly, which aims to bridge the divide between academic and public debates about politics. Ben has long been fascinated by Scottish politics but was drawn into writing about Scottish nationalism by the 2014 independence referendum, which inspired him to place that tumultuous event in the longer historical context of debates about Scottish self-government and statehood since the 1960s.

  • Introduction: Dreaming Scotland

    ... if our debates, agreements and disagreements did not influence how North Britain is governed, then democracy here does not exist.

    Alasdair Gray, 2014 (1)

    On 18 September 2014 Scotland held a referendum on whether to become an independent country, the third referendum on Scotland’s constitutional status to be staged in the space of some thirty-five years. The advocates of ‘yes’ lost, polling 45 per cent, but the most remarkable feature of the referendum was the large increase in popular support for independence during the campaign and then for the Scottish National Party (SNP) at the subsequent British general election in 2015 (at which the SNP polled 50 per cent of the Scottish vote). In these years Scottish nationalism emerged as a genuine mass movement for the first time in Scottish history. Nationalism not only dominated Scottish electoral politics at Holyrood and Westminster but was also now capable of mobilising a large number of activists, inspiring a swathe of associated civil society groups, generating avid online communities based around sympathetic websites, and even providing a sufficiently engaged readership to make viable a new daily print newspaper, The National, which vigorously propounded the pro-independence message (2). In telling the story of Scottish nationalism’s journey to this historical high watermark, it is striking how recently the cause of independence emerged as a focus of Scottish public debate. The origins of Scottish nationalism lie not in the medieval battles for Scottish statehood, the Scottish Reformation, the Acts of Union, the Scottish Enlightenment, or any of the other familiar historical milestones that regularly crop up in debates about Scottish identity. Rather, an influential separatist Scottish nationalism began to take shape only in the 1960s and 1970s, and achieved its present ideological maturity in the course of the 1980s and 1990s.

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  • 12th November 2019 Why Cambridge University Press is crowdfunding to make this history of Scottish Nationalism available to all

    Cambridge would like to bring this book to as wide an audience as possible, by making the book free online for all readers worldwide. By pledging to support the project, you'll be helping to make this happen, as well as receiving your own copy of the book in print.

    Find out more about this experiment in this short blog post.

    12th November 2019 Find out more about the book with the author Ben Jackson

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