British and Substate National Identities

The referendum result which Cameron reported to his Queen confirmed that Scotland would remain within the Union but by nothing like the margin which had been expected not very long before it was held. The referendum was based on Yes and No for an independent Scotland. But when, in 2012, respondents to a survey had been asked their preference among choices including independence and degrees of devolution, only 23 % opted for independence (British Social Attitudes 30 2013). On a very high turnout (85 %) on 18 September 2014, some 44.7 % of voters cast their vote for an independent Scotland, and in two-thirds of the 32 councils reporting, more than 40 % favoured independence. Scotland came close to ending the Union and taking a very large step in what had for a long time been suggested, feared or at least seen as possible—the break-up of Britain (Nairn 1977).

For years, and even months, before the referendum took place, the campaign and the probable or possible results of the referendum had caused scarcely a ripple in England. If it had been thought that the creation of a parliament for Scotland would provoke a ‘nationalist’ reaction in England, the reaction was muted. Research by Susan Condor suggested that opinion in England largely accepted the devolution arrangements in other parts of the UK and did not adopt resentful attitudes or seek a devolved or separate state for England (Condor 2010). The evidence of repeated BSA Surveys also suggested that the devolutions to substate governments in the UK had not produced an ‘English backlash’:

Has the proportion choosing British fallen while the proportion choosing English increased, as predicted by those who expect an ‘English backlash’? The answer is no—at 61 %, the proportion choosing English in 2011 is in fact slightly lower than that recorded in 1999 (65 %). (Ormston 2012: 5)

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