Thursday, September 26, 2013

Scottish Identity

I wonder if the unionists regret including a national identity question in the 2011 Census?  Little-England-Beyond-Wales?  Completely shot out of the water by the revelation that folk from southern Pembrokeshire feel just as Welsh as the rest of us*. Likewise the locals in Maelor Saesneg, an area which in the 1880s was considered so anglicised it was planned to hand it over to Shropshire.

Today we got the results from Scotland.  How often have the unionists banged-on about how it's not Scotland's oil because the folk in Orkney and Shetland aren't even Scottish?  The reality revealed by the census: Orkney 62% Scots only identity, Shetland 60% Scots only - and remember that some 20% of these islands' population weren't even born in Scotland.  Oh and before someone claims there was no Orcadian or Shetlander box to tick, well there was no Cornish box either, but more than 73000 of its citizens took the trouble to write-in a Cornish identity.  Nothing similar to that in the figures from the northern isles.

Comparing Wales and Scotland we find that 62% of Scots opted for a Scots only identity while 57% of those in Wales chose Welsh only.  We have to remember that more than 20% of our population was born in England whereas this applied to less than 9% of those in Scotland.  If you compare the Welsh-born total with Welsh-only identifiers you get a figure of 80%.  The Scottish equivalent is 75%.  One up to Wales.

Another difference is the figure for Welsh/Scottish and British identifiers 18% in Scotland, just 7% in Wales.  I'd guess that the independence debate has polarised things a bit, you can imagine tribal-Labour supporters ticking this box.  In Scotland just 8% opted for a British-only identity while in Wales the figure was nearer 17%.  This is easily explained by the fact that twice as many in Wales were born in England.  People who may for example feel like the author of this blog comment:

"Maybe it's Englishness that no longer regards itself as such and yet doesn't think it has earned the right to call itself Welsh.  Take me, for example. I was born and raised in England, yet I and my children speak Welsh (extraordinary though that may be in Maesyfed), and regard Wales as 'our' country. Indeed, later this week we will all be spending a few days at the Urdd Eisteddfod as we do every year.  Did I list myself as Welsh on the census form? No: I felt the obligation to tick the British box, simply because it was the closest approximation to what I am"

Around 11% of the population of Wales had no such well-mannered qualms, listing themselves as English-only.  Here is another major difference with Scotland where just 2.3% distinguished themselves in this way.

*  This doesn't mean I believe in an homogenised Wales, far from it.  I get as annoyed as the next when someone claims, for example, that Cwmteuddwr isn't the correct spelling or pronounciation of Cwmteuddwr.  Regional differences within Wales should be celebrated, they're what make us a nation and not, well, a region.


MH said...

I've been pondering why the figure for W&B in Wales is so much higher than the figure for S&B in Scotland. I think your explanation is good, but only to a point. This is because it doesn't account for why the figure for E&B in England (9.1%) is roughly the same as the figure for W&B in Wales (7.1%) rather than the much higher figure for S&B in Scotland (18.3%). In every other respect the figures for Scotland are broadly the same as for Wales and England, as I mentioned here. So why this one anomaly for Scotland?


One answer is that completely different factors are in play in England, that these balance out your explanation, and the fact that it brings the E&B figure in England much closer to the W&B figure in Wales than to the S&B figure in Scotland is therefore a coincidence. Foremost of these would be the higher level of non-UK immigration into England than into Wales, coupled with the fact that non-UK immigrants tend to think of themselves as British-only because they have had to deal with the officialdom of the British State (with its relentless emphasis on Britishness) in order to gain residency or citizenship. This British-only identity would then be passed down to their children.


Another way of looking at it is that the figure for S&B in Scotland is different from that for both W&B in Wales and E&B in England because Scotland has a greater number of distinctive Scottish national institutions. Wales has these institutions to a much lesser extent; but England does too because of the general lack of distinction between what is an English national institution and what is a British national institution. In this respect Wales and England are much the same.

So a born-and-bred local who would call themself British-only if they lived in Wales or England would be more inclined to think of their national identity as B&S in Scotland, simply because those who live in Scotland are much more exposed to the idea of Scotland as a nation in contradistinction to "Britain-and-or-England" as a nation.


I think your explanation and both of these other explanations are true to a certain extent. At the moment I'm more inclined to think the last is primarily responsible for the Scottish anomaly, but I'm open to persuasion.

radnorian said...

One of the problems is that the Scottish census is only broken down to local authority level. Your theory about national institutions is a good one - I've always thought that the great unifying factor behind Scottish identity was the Scottish legal system.

If we had ward figures we could see if there were differences between, say, posh Edinburgh suburbs, Labour strongholds etc. I did see that East Renfrew and East Dunbarton which have the highest S&B figures were also areas where the SNP were weak and the Tories surprisingly strong.