North and South
Linda Colley on the break-up of Britain
The uneven rise of Scottish nationalism is deeply interesting: but not because it is hard to explain, or because it is the only domestic fracture that matters. It has long been accepted that neither the Union of Crowns of 1603, which saw the Scottish King James VI move south to London, nor the Treaty of Union of 1707 served to cancel out Scottish distinctiveness. In educational, ecclesiastical, intellectual and legal terms, and not only those, Scotland has always retained significant differences. Moreover, Great Britain (and still more the UK) never sought to operate as a determinedly assimilationist nation state in the way post-Revolutionary France often tried to do. This does not mean the UK can be regarded merely as a multinational state, or (pace some post-colonialist commentators) as an English-constructed empire.
Vol. 34 No. 17 · 13 September 2012
Linda Colley is right in observing that Scottish and English universities are being ‘dragged further apart by the different funding policies of Edinburgh and London – and by politics’ (LRB, 2 August). As the rector of the University of Edinburgh from 2003 to 2006, in the wake of the abolition of the University Grants Committee, which covered the whole of Britain (hindsight may be a wonderful thing, but I did vote in the Commons against the setting up of a separate Scottish Funding Council), I became increasingly dismayed at a situation in which teaching and research funding north of the border were bound to suffer. Seven years on, the situation of Scottish universities, especially those without endowments, is near critical. Moreover, imagine the acrimony growing between Scottish-domiciled students, whose tuition fees are paid, and students from England, who have to find £9000 per year.
Linlithgow, West Lothian