To What Extent Are We Witnessing the “End of Britishness”?
The current interest of the “end of Britishness” came to people’s minds after the independence referendum in Scotland. The majority of Scotsmen voted for independence, as a result, it made the government of the United Kingdom (UK) worry about today’s situation in the country. Thus, the question about the national identity of the British people is of a great importance. The paper aims at observing the current situation in the main parts of Great Britain by considering the future of Britishness. In addition to this, nations in Great Britain, their loyalty, and striking for their history should be analyzed. Moreover, it is rather interesting to look at the reaction of world society to the present events.
It is a well-known fact that the UK consists of four parts: England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. The relationship between these countries is under intense pressure, especially after the referendum in Scotland. All of the countries began to think about their independence, and only Scotland made a decision to claim about it all around the world. These events show that the end of Britishness has started. It is obvious that it had started earlier because the Scottish people have been planning to gain independence for many years. The referendum was preceded by situation in Ukraine, consequently, Scotland realized it can also be a separate country, not under the UK and its power (Giovannini & Willett, 2014).
The UK is a multinational state, which was completely formed in 1801. However, according to the current situation, in the nearest future the world will see the UK without Scotland, because of the Scottish intention to be a single state. The Scots were preparing for the referendum. Moreover, all the reasons for it are considered and measured (Tomaney, 2002; Tomaney, 2006; Harvie, 1991).
Scotland and Britain united only in 1707, and their union was called “marriage of convenience”. If, for example, in 1979 the balance between national (Scottish) and state (British) identity was 56% to 38% (Colley, 1992), so closer to 2000 it became 77% to 17% (Bryant, 2003). It means that there is the observation of the decreasing number of the British people. Scotland is almost populated by its own citizens – the Scottish. No wonder why they have a wish to unplug (Bryant, 2006).
Considering nationalism of Scotland, only 44% of its nation reported that they supported independence (Kenny, 2014). It means that a bit less than a half want to unplug. In addition to that, it is observed that most of the people are ready to fight for their unity – it is one of the best features. However, during the voting there were used different methods. According to Mitchell’s interview, negative politics can work, and the questioning the opposite side can be useful. Here is examining a tendency of Scottish rude playing – there is the “Yes side” of voting. The reasons they made this choice are various. One of them implies stopping nuclear weapons designing because of its immorality and unethicality. The Scotchmen want to save their native land and protect it from a war on its territory. In addition, the Scottish people can get all the power in Scotland because, in this case, the government will move to Scotland, not reside in Britain. People will have the right to choose the government themselves. Moreover, the Scots are sure that they have enough finance and sources to be independent (Curtice, 2006).
According to Elliott Green, Scottish nationalism contradicts other secessionist actions for being civic in origin rather than ethnic. The author is trying to convey people in explaining that being Scottish is to be characterized not by blood, but by voluntary connection to Scotland and cooperation in its civic life. According to the Centre on the Dynamics of Ethnicity, Scottishness is a broader national identity than Englishness for a lot of ethnic groups in Britain.
It is obvious that the UK is going to split up. This state has not that power it had before. The secession has already started. If one of its parts showed its wish to be a separate country, it cannot be possible to stay together. The UK will never be unfied as people living in the UK are completely different in mentality and ethnicity. The British people can be described in terms of the concept Britishness.
Britishness is the term for a state of being British;it also explains the definitions of British culture. To be British means both citizenship and national identity. From one point of view, it is about being patriotic, calling yourself British, and be proud of it. On the other hand, Britishness is to be a citizen of Britain and live in this country, but, nevertheless, these two reasons can be mixed. In other words, you may be British inhabitant and be honored by its history and nation. Nowadays, this word has lost the real meaning of being British. British society is more arrogant than other nations; the British people feel superiority over others like British people are the only one nation in the world and others are just nobody. Moreover, if people do not remember the past of their motherland and do not look forward to the future, if they only think about their ego, it is hard enough to call them British. In such a way, Britishness goes to the end. Even in the next decade, there will not be real British people with good thoughts. As reported by Tony Blair, the Britishmen must have a chance to explicit the personal views on who they are and what is the worth of being British. Certainly, the author tells the truth, but today the most population of Great Britain does not even want to know about their identity and the past. They just do not care about it. Thus, the British nationalism lost its value (Young, 2008).
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It is necessary to mention the differences between British and Scottish nationalism. Of course, they are not the same. In confirmation to this statement there are some facts. First, the people of Scotland can address all the issues with the help of the referendum because they want changes in their lives, government, etc. The Scottish people are not afraid of telling what they think. But the British people act in the opposite way: they cannot imagine the future of the UK without these four countries together. Furthermore, even if they want to, they will not let that happen (Steed, 1986).
Second, the civic nationalism completely belongs to Scottish people, as had been mentioned before. However, the ethnic variety of nationalism applies to the British people: their goal is to unite the endemic population against the anticipated danger of outsiders. In addition, Scottish nationalism is the one that encourages the idea that the Scottish people form a united nation and national identity. The Scottish national identity proceeded in the face of the Act of Union, which combined the independent kingdoms of Scotland and England into the United Kingdom, due to the continued reality of a distinct legitimate system, Scots law, and distinct Scottish institutions. Lingual independence was an important part of the twentieth century Scottish Renaissance, cooperative with the nationalist incentive provided by Hugh MacDiarmid. It is worth mentioning again that these two types of nationalism are completely different (Nairn, 2002; Osmond, 1988).
Back to the referendum on the 18th of September, 2014, there were two groups: “The Yes campaign” and “The No campaign”. The first one was in support of independence. The official name for this operation was “Yes Scotland”. “The No campaign” wanted to carry the Union unhurt. The definite signature of this campaign was “Better Together”. In the result, half of the population voted against independence. Consequently, there were a number of causes for it.
The first one is about politics: leaving responsibilities in Westminster. No one knows about future references, as a result, there is no certainty whether Scotland will be able to have its full powers being an independent state or not. Next, someone should go to support Scotland. Most of the people are sure that Scotland costs more than it develops. The UK Government is making every citizen think that Scottish people would be financially unstable after independence. They clearly make people understand that they will not help Scotland in finance. Surely, the Scottish people doubt about supporting from the European Union (EU). This situation is unclear because the UK is looking forward to withdraw from the EU altogether. Additionally, there was said nothing about the situation in Scotland.
Scotland, consisting the UK, has a number of advantages. First of all, as a part of the UK, it can calmly make deals across other parts of the UK and has connections to more jobs. Second, Scotland also has the safety of the UK armed forces and somehow influences the UN Security Council. It is obvious that this part is just not ready to be a separate country after perennial existence in one powerful state. It is a difficult choice. However, almost half of the nation voted “yes”. It all goes to the end of the UK: what the Scottish have organized is not just a one-time performance. They will fight for their independence. Nevertheless, the UK is trying to save its unity supposing some conditions, but Scotland is not going to give up.
Defenders of independence want Scotland to make its decisions about how resources are regulated and money is spent. In addition, they want to improve their status: economy, politics, and national relation. The Scottish people voted not only for independence. Another reason for the referendum was making sure the Conservatives never take control of Scotland again. As for national pride, they believe that only in their own way they can turn back all the fame of their original nation. People even think that Scotland can become richer, if it breaks out of the UK. Actually, the autonomy gives more goodies, and this referendum was crying for help. The Scots wanted the world to hear their wishes and requests, and the world had heard, but Britain would not let Scotland go.
By any means, the referendum influenced the relationship between the UK and Scotland. The reaction to the results was ambiguous. The opinions differed definitely. This news doubtless has spread across the world immediately. Prime Minister David Cameron said that if the UK ceased to exist, it would make him feel heartbroken and he knows that not only Britishmen are worried about this situation. The people all around the world are also alarmed. Confirming to Alex Salmond, the Scottish First Minister, the referendum made a splash with its demands, and he was sure that all Scots would follow the Yes campaign, but the results of it shocked him (Hazel, 2006).
In regard to other countries, Germany, for instance, reacted in the following way: Britain is inviolable, the Scotland’s independence is out of the question. France was just happy that Scotland stayed in the UK and did not go anywhere. China found here an advantage for itself; it is good for Chinese living in the UK, most of all for students and their foreign studying. Mr. Salvini, the head of the league in Italy, wrote on Facebook the support for Scotland. He approved this referendum, and said that now Scotland is ready to become independent; it can control its condition in finance and places in Government. He also added that the Scots will have more courage, be richer and stronger than before. Writing it, he was not afraid of people’s reaction, moreover, he wanted for the world to be able to see it. The American people were glad about the results. In addition to this, the president of the USA, Barack Obama, compared this referendum to the Crimea’s one, saying that it was conducted in a much fairer way than the Crimean.
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It is really worth comparing the referendums in Scotland and Ukraine. The experts from the different parts of the world vented their thoughts about this situation by the reason of their similarity. The referendum that took place in Crimea in March and the one in Scotland are only outwardly similar. Scotland was not holding its referendum in confrontation of Westminster. Moreover, it was commonly agreed that Westminster would accede in whatever decision the Scottish come to. The referendum in Crimea was partially a response to the actions that took place in February. It was held in the presence of outside (Russian) forces and did not follow independence or greater regional autonomy. Fairly, it was a referendum on whether to join the Russian Federation or not. The most important thing is that Scotland’s independence referendum was held within the existing legal and political structures of the UK, and Scotland went a long way in preparing for it. The day of voting was predated by decades of devolution, the 2012 Edinburgh Agreement, public debates on government figures, economic and monetary policies, security and defense affairs, foreign relations, etc. Apart from this, the voting in Scotland differs significantly from the referendum that took place in Crimea. First, the UK recognized the legality of the voting while the referendum in Crimea was claimed wrongful by the Ukrainian government as well as by most of the countries in the world. Second, the choice offered in Scotland’s poll was for either gaining independence or staying as a part of the UK. In the case of the Crimean referendum, inhabitants could accept either independence from Ukraine or a restoration to an earlier status in which they had more independence from Ukraine’s force. They did not have the opportunity to vote for keeping its status.
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According to Kumar, the relationship between Britishness and Englishness is tense. English nationalism is different from Scottish or Welsh (Kumar, 2003). The English people do not care about other nations,. They feel this power as if they are the center of the Great Britain. One of the English politics’ features is well–described in the next statement, “This option is neither a realistic nor a sensible. It goes against the grain of its whole history – its whole temperament” (Kumar, 2010, p. 470). On the subject of Britishness, Kumar says that the history of Britain is not forgotten for the English people; they are proud of their past. Their relationship is symbiotic and constitutive (Hutchinson, Reynolds, Smith, Colls, & Kumar, 2007).
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Considering the future of the UK, there is the following situation. After the referendum in Scotland, other parts started to think about being independent. There is no confidence that, for example, people in England will not do the same. Mycock & Hayton in their article pay attention to the party politics of Englishness. The authors explain that there are three main branches: the Conservative Party, the Labour Party, and Liberal Democrats. Surely, there are some other parties, but these ones have special value. “The party politics of Englishness is a political reality that the Conservatives, the Labour and Liberal Democrats are beginning to engage with” (Mycock & Hayton, 2012). By all accounts, England is ready to be out of the UK’s constitution. From the political position, everything is perfect; they can organize the government, laws and constitution. Definitely, the English people need more time to make this hard decision, to prepare for it morally. Not every day you think that your country will not be one of the parts of the powerful state. Sooner or later, it will happen. The secession had started as was mentioned before. England has not said its word yet. Alternatively, maybe, it is waiting for the better moment (Featherstone, 2009).
As a matter of fact, English nationalism is the one that claims that the English are a nation and stimulate the cultural unity of the English people. In a general meaning, it contains political and social movements, an idea motivated by love for English culture, language, and history, and a sense of honor for England and the English people. English nationalists often imagine themselves as principally English rather than British (Royle, 1998; Flint, 1993).
On the political level, a few English nationalists have supported self-government for England. It could take the form either of a delegated English Parliament in the UK or the restored of an independent absolute state of England out of the UK.
Concerning Englishness, the collapse is not going to happen. The nation never dies – Englishness is a cultural identity (Taylor, 1991; Taylor, 1993; Paasi, 2000). In the Wales, the tendency of its identity seems not as determined as in England or Scotland. This country keeps quiet. One can suppose that people there just wait how it will turn out being a separate country. Welsh people are an ethnic group native to Wales and the Welsh language. Wales is a little country and, obviously, it cannot exist out of the UK union. The people understand it. Therefore, they do not act and do not take a part in these political pickings. The young people in Wales are proud of being Welsh and their readiness to survive is impressive. They even do not think about unplugging, they act not only like Welsh people, but also as British. Probably, Wales is the only part who wants to stay in the UK and would fight for it.
To sum up, it should be noted that “the end of Britishness” is inevitable. The secession goes inside the state, because Scotland said its own word. The people of Scotland will try to gain their point. Surely, the nations such as Scottish, English, and Welsh will never die and will never be forgotten. However, there is no confidence about the British one. The British society does not feel good about being, so to say, British family. Everything goes to the consequential ending. It is a pity that one of the most powerful states goes off. Undoubtedly, the UK will struggle for its unity, but no one knows what consequences will follow. Someone supports the unity of Great Britain, others respect and rate the intention of Scotland being independent. Certainly, the ruining of the UK will shock the world, even now the thoughts of Britain collapse affect people.