Keith Howell: Identity defined through the prism of nationalism

A Yes supporter gets his point across at a rally in Glasgow. Picture: John Devlin
A Yes supporter gets his point across at a rally in Glasgow. Picture: John Devlin
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For most of the 25 years or so that I have lived in Scotland, people here have seemed much like people everywhere. While disparate opinions might be expressed during discussions with family or friends, or in the midst of election campaigns, they would never be significant enough to push us apart.

Such differences were soon largely forgotten and we got on with our lives. Yet since the peak of the campaign running up to the 2014 independence vote, the atmosphere in Scotland has changed.

The things we cherish about Scotland are still here: from the sense of humour and character of its people, to the grandeur of its landscapes; from the depth of its cultural heritage to the continued successes of its science, technology and enterprise.

But something has come to the surface that impacts the day to day of our lives. An unhealthy narrative of “identity” has gripped Scotland and will not seem to let go.

We can all be guilty of drifting into being a part of the problem, if responding to those who would divide us, our language merely mirrors theirs. Yet as those in power issue a daily round of grievance and divisive propaganda, to not respond feels like appeasing those seeking to impose their will on Scotland.

The geographical, historical and cultural variances across the UK provide a base for some to build imagined or exaggerated difference and resentment. Yet the moral superiority claimed by those seeking to turn us against each other to further their political ambitions, is not justified.

Scotland being our home does not make us inherently better or different to people elsewhere in the UK.

While some in the independence movement argue identity is not at the core of their thinking but rather a simple desire for self-determination, the daily tirades from those leading our government say otherwise, with a narrative suggesting the UK is essentially bad, while the nationalist vision of Scotland is all good.

I do not want to be against anyone. As much as I disagree with the ideology of Scottish nationalism, I recognise the great passion and belief that drives the attitudes of large numbers of Scots who support the drive to separate from the rest of the UK, and I know the vast majority are good people who have simply arrived at a different conclusion to me.

But I do not want to be apart. In Scotland today we have a government that reminds us time and time again, subtly or bluntly, that we are either with them or against them, either prepared to break-up what for so many of us is the wider country of our birth and home, or we are in some way to be considered lacking, misguided or disloyal.

Whatever the outcome of the next couple of years, there is every prospect that the lasting legacy of the current Scottish government is the divisiveness that they have brought upon us.

Keith Howell is a business consultant. He lives in West Linton, Peeblesshire and blogs on