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.

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