Unionist Nationalism

Unionist NationalismGraeme Morton

Paperback 212 pages,
Tuckwell Press Ltd 1999,
ISBN 186232039X

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Mid-19th century Scottish nationalism has been perceived as weak, failing to produce a parliamentary challenge.

The European revolutions were set alight in 1848 yet missed Great Britain; for Scotland a British/Imperial agenda was said to dominate. This "failure" of Scottish nationalism is an orthodoxy long overdue for challenge

From an analysis of the major expressions of national identity in mid-century, it is stressed that Scottish nationalism demanded equality with England within the Union of 1707. Strange as it may be to 20th-century eyes, Scotland wanted more Union, not less. Nor was it weak for its lack of rhetoric of parliamentary independence.

Unionist-nationalism flowed from its axis of a British state and a Scottish civil society in the 1830-1860 period. The governing of Victorian society was local - the role of the central state was to empower urban Scotland. "Civil society" meant more to contemporaries than kirk, law and education - where central or local government failed, the bourgeoisie intervened in their urban world through a myriad of associations and voluntary societies, structuring class and power. The parliamentary state was effectively marginalized for this period in mid-Victorian life, and this shaped fundamentally the meaning of Scottishness. The parliamentary state was not the mechanism through which the nation was governed. The focus must shift to where "government" was at its most critical - at the level of civil society.

It was there that Unionist-nationalism was forged.