Nationalism is a belief or ideology where the individual is tied with a nation state. It involves national identity, and the individual identifying himself with the culture and aims of a particular state. It has been a force prevalent since the creation of the state. From a political or sociological perspective, there are two main perspectives on the origins and basis of nationalism. Nationalism is a reflection of the ancient and perceived evolutionary tendency of humans to organize into groupings based on a place of birth. The modernist perspective describes nationalism as a recent phenomenon that requires the structural conditions of modern society in order to exist.
“A country is not a mere territory; the particular territory is only its foundation. The country is the idea which rises upon that foundation; it is the sentiment of love, the sense of fellowship which bands all the sons of that territory.” – Mazzini, 1860
Mazzini, writing for the cause of Italian Unification, touches on the foundation sentiment of nationalism, the banding together of people who were born or relate to a particular nation. However, it’s difficult to see how this ideology can amount to good overall.
Nationalism has become a foundation for conflict. The encouragement of the incongruence of two different nationalities has led to violence between them, further embedding the nationalist poison. The birth of nationalism in its modern form in the early 1800′s was an early success for good. It allowed seemingly incompatible cultures and influences to give them a voice on the international stage. However, it soon became a case of nationalists thinking that their country was unique, and therefore superior to other nations. The things that typically ‘unify’ people of a nation (language, ethnicity, history, values, customs, and religion) are not unique to a particular nation. Religion and language can be taught and spread to others, and the notion of taking pride in the history of people who have just happen to be born within lines drawn on a map, is simply absurd.
Nationalism presents an illogical argument. Borders have changed and the customs and traditions of people who live within them have changed so why an affinity with people who may be very different should, be promoted? It seems nonsensical to be proud and identify the differences between two nationalities based on the actions of someone who might have lived hundreds of years ago. Society and culture has changed, and an increasingly globalised and integrated society is ready to leave behind this idea of difference and superiority.
The idea that labour, the workers and people who live in society should be able to move as freely as money, as presented by Roberto Unger:
“Consider the distinctive and poisonous character of contemporary nationalism. Two nations living close together come to hate each other not because they are different but because they are becoming alike and they want to be different.”
This idea, that borders should be opened, that individual nations should almost cease to exist as separate entities, but as commutative ideas; through community and co-operation the ‘nations’ will develop humanity as a whole.
But where does Scotland fit into all of this? Scotland does not have its own ethnicity that it wants to protect and is in fact becoming increasingly diverse. The stem of Scottish Nationalism appears to come from political difference, the classic left-right political divide between Scotland and the rest of the UK is startling. However, a total break from a successful union of nations to overcome political difference appears drastic, particulary for Scotland. It is difficult to find a separation between two states that has been peaceful and without problem. Kosovo and Serbia or Sudan and South Sudan being recent examples where conflict as marred the progress of the newly independent state. Whilst it’s nearly impossible to envisage any sort of conflict caused by Scottish independence, it’s difficult to see how it will benefit Scotland as much as the Union currently does. Whether or not you agree with EU membership (I certainly don’t) due to the current geopolitics of Europe, the new state of Scotland will find it difficult to establish itself, with no guarantee of EU membership and certainly no guarantee that it will be able to secure preliminary trade deals to compensate its non-membership.
Indeed, it’s difficult to see how independent Scotland will truly be successful. It won’t be a republic; it will keep the pound and take on some the UK debt. It is nonsensical for any state that appears to desperate for independence to retain these stalwarts of the Union. For a successful independent Scotland surely a fresh start as a new state will be much better in the long term, so holding onto these parts of the Union will only hinder Scottish progress. Nationalism in Scotland has come a long way, fuelled by anti-conservative, anti-right attitudes, the existence of a Scottish parliament and ridiculous claims by Alex Salmond.
Does a yes vote mean more tests for the rest of the Union? It’s unlikely that Wales will seek independence, Plaid Cymru’s popularity is dwarfed by Labour and that is set to continue. The Welsh Assembly already has significant powers over education and health and took pick up more tax powers in the new government. Any nationalist sentiment in Wales will be dampened by this surely, and Wales will remain. Northern Ireland is a different story however, and is unpredictable but at the moment it seems to be following the same kind of line as Wales; contented existence as part of the Union.
There are enough divisions within society. We are constantly divided everyday by race, religion, sexuality, education, career, gender and class. Surely the question of Scottish independence, another line to divide us by, will only hamper our progress towards a total equality in society. Lines on a map can be overcome, redrawn, erased. It is the deep rooted divisions within society that needs to be addressed, that can only be addressed together as a Union of England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland. Being part of the Union does remove the identity of ‘Welsh’ or ‘Scottish’ but it does bring people together, to fight common cause, under one banner, one flag, one nation. Yes, we are better together.