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Tartan nation? : strategic appropriation and avoidance of symbols of national identity by Scottish independence movement organizations
Chloe Elizabeth Kinsey
May 8, 2013
Department or Program
The centuries-old Scottish independence movement won a significant victory in autumn 2012 with the agreement of the British government to a referendum on Scottish independence, to be held in September 2014. The movement has been strengthened in recent years by the growth of powerful organizations in favor of independence, including the Scottish National Party and the Scottish Independence Convention. Drawing on social movement theories of national collective identity formation, I examine the use of symbols of Scottish culture, such as tartan patterns, bagpipes, and the Highland landscape, in the formulation of a unique concept of Scottish national identity. I propose that independence movement organizations both strategically employ and avoid the usage of salient images of Scottish culture in order to construct concepts of a unified Scottish national identity. My content analysis of promotional materials produced by Scottish independence movement organizations revealed that political organizations use significantly fewer symbols of national identity than do organizations that operate outside of the political sphere. Through their promotional discourse and broad avoidance of national identity symbols, political organizations in Scotland are actively engaged in the framing of independence as a question of material benefit. This thesis examines the rhetorical strategies employed by the movement in order to shift the concept of Scottish national identity towards that of a modern, European nation that will be stronger economically and socially with independence from the United Kingdom. As Scotland’s independence referendum approaches, the strategies employed by organizations within this movement give great insight into the general political processes of secession and their relationship to citizens’ personal identities.