Understanding of Scottish society

The concept of a nation state has only
emerged over the last couple of
centuries, before this point less
advanced and coherent states
managed the affairs of the populous.

The nation state is the overlapping of
two separate features. The nation is the
identity that individuals relate to within
the society. This can exist on its own, as
all that is needed is a person to feel that
they have a connection with others on no
more than shared belonging. The state
is used to take national feelings of
loyalty and use them to effectively
govern peoples lives. The state almost
like a governmental overlay for a
national identity to operate within.

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Scotland can be seen in this light
because it is a fine example of what
nationhood looks like, without the
apparatus of the state to cloud the
picture. Scotland has this dual identity of
Scottish nation within the confines of a
British state.

In answering this question it is necessary to
investigate the origins of modern nation states.

Firstly examining what the term ‘Nation State’
means by breaking it down into its two parts. Lastly I
will examine how accurate a term the ‘Nation State’
is when applied to Scottish Society.

The ‘Nation State’ is a recent phenomena, with most
of human history being founded on stateless
societies. These stateless societies refer to the
tribal and clan systems that existed across the
globe, before the emergence of larger societies
such as Empires and Kingdoms. These societies
were able to function as they were relatively small.

The whole or at least a large part of the community
could be involved in any decision that need to be
made, although because of their size complex
decision making processes were needed. With the
increase of population and the subsequent
competition for limited resources, systems started
to emerge that could handle the new demands.

Economies started to produce more than what was
required by the community, so the surplus was trade
with neighbouring communities. This process also
created the need for higher authority to govern the
transactions between the communities. These
embryonic communities developed into what can be
described as traditional states, with a sovereign
leader such as a King or Emperor who ruled
absolutely. They could do this because they held the
reins of the states military forces. In Max Weber’s
view this was the critical component of any state.

For a state to be legitimate it must have a monopoly
of the use of violence within the confines of its own
territory. However usually this was only a last resort
and the ordinary people were quite unaware of the
state developing around them. A limited form of
government would emerge to ensure that the Head
of the State could rule effectively. Up until the
Industrial Revolution this was the most common
form of state in Europe. Since the industrial
revolution the demands of modern society and its
increasing skilled populous has meant that
traditional states have been swept away. Nation
States now cover the surface of the world and with
few exceptions all the world’s population can claim
to be a citizen of a nation state.

The Nation State is a combination of two different
terms, a nation or a state can exist quite
independent of each other. The nation consists of a
community that shares common language, values
and customs. The nation can be broken down into
four parts. The narrative is were the customs and
stories of the nation are kept alive, by people
retelling them to the next generation and also by
reinventing them so as they take on new relevance
to the people. People consider the nation to be a
ancient symbol that keep’s them in touch with their
past and previous generations. This connection
gives people a sense of belonging that all people
seek in their lives. The ancient aspect of nations
can be overplayed as many are of a quite recent
origin. This last point is important as historical
accuracy is not always of the highest priority when
the myth of a nation is being retold. In fact
sometimes the tradition can be of pure invention,
but if it serves the purpose of creating identity for
the people then it will survive and flourish. The
Victorian invention of tartan in Scotland is perfect
example of this fabricated history suiting the needs
of a alienated populous. Lastly the purity of the race
is often cited as a requirement for membership of a
nation. This purity often takes the shape of
possessing certain physical and mental
requirements such as all Swedish people are tall,
blond and blue eyed or that Black people can not be
identified as being British because of their colour.

Again this point is open to debate as all nations are
a mixture of different cultures and races. However
this purity is something that people strongly identify

The concept of a state can be viewed as the
infrastructure that is needed to run a society
effectively. This is characterised by the creation of
three different elements, a political apparatus,
territory and laws. The state needed a separate
political apparatus from the general community that
can govern the subjects or citizens. This will include
the setting up of decision making process that are
usually quite remote form the ordinary subject. A
state must have a defined territory which its claims
to rule. Over time these boundaries can be
amended due to the process of expansion or
invasion with neighbouring states. Lastly there
needs to be some form of legal system that can
uphold the laws of the land and give legitimacy to its
rulers. This institution also means that any laws
which have not been upheld can be legally enforced
by the use of the military or police force.

Europe has for the last couple of centuries been
developing the concept of nation states. This has
also occurred across the rest of the globe over the
period of the twenty century. These nation states
contain all the characteristics of a state, but contain
three more distinct characteristics, sovereignty,
citizenship and nationalism. The old forms of state
found it hard to centralise power effectively and
therefore could not really use the absolute power
that sovereignty entitled them to. Sovereignty could
be more easily exerted by the state over its
population in these new states, because they had
better defined territories, more effective central
government and a improved social infrastructures.

All this allowed people, information and goods to
travel throughout the society a lot more effectively.

Traditional states operated at a level were only a
few of the populous held the states power and in
fact most of the people cared little about the state.

Nation states population are all citizens, which
means they have all got common rights and duties
towards the state. This change to two way process
of state membership means that people better
identify with their citizenship of the nation state. The
rise of nationalism and adoption of national symbols
create a stronger bond between the people and the
state. The sense of national identity promotes unity
within the community.

Scotland as a nation has been evident since the
Romans invaded Britain in the first century AD The
population has changed much since its Celts
origins with invasion and immigration playing apart
in changing the character of the people. Before the
Act of Union in 1707 Scotland existed as an
independent state with all the hallmarks of a
traditional state. However because of the Union of
the Crowns in 1603, Scotland had shared its
monarchy with its English neighbour. The Act of
Union dissolved the Scottish Parliament in
Edinburgh and transfer all political control, with
representation to the Parliament in London.

Scotland still retained some of the institutions that it
held when it was a independent state, the Education
system, Legal system and the Presbyterian Church.

Since the Union these three institutions have kept
alive the separate identity of the Scottish Nation
within the British State. Political power has been
partially transferred back to Scotland in the shape of
the Scottish office which has since the 1890’s
exercised power over Scotland. Recently the
debate of some form devolved Parliament being set
up in Edinburgh to further enfranchise the Scottish
nation has more relevance as the recently elected
British Labour Party have this as a policy.
Scotland can be seen to have all the characteristics
of a nation with institutions such as the education
system which perpetuates the Scottish culture or at
least a Scottish slant on modern society to future
generations. The Church in Scotland can also be
seen to have done this task as it has remained
separate and distinct from its English cousin.

Scotland has clearly defined boundaries but in
reference to a state is divorced from being
sovereign within its own territory. With over three
hundred years of economic and social integration
with its more powerful neighbour England, it is
amazing that Scottish culture has managed to
survive to the extent that it has. When states are
usually absorbed the dominant culture can be seen
to be eradicate the weaker culture. To a large extent
this can be seen to have happened with Old ‘Scots’
language almost extinct and Gaelic only being
spoken by a small minority of modern day Scots.

Much of Scotland’s icons and symbols bear little
resemblance to the Scotland of pre-1707, but these
same items do bear a relation to what modern day
people feel it is to be Scottish. Pipe bands, tartan
scarves, kilts and rolling glens all existed in the past,
but have been used by modern Scotland to create a
separate identity of its own within the larger British
state. Not all of the changes that have happened
within the British state have harmed Scottish
interests. Since the Union Scotland has enjoyed
much better economic fortunes that it could have
ever hoped for as small independent European
state. Scotland of 1707 and of 1997 are two very
politically different countries, with less than one
percentage of the population holding a voting
franchise in 1707, today this includes nearly all the
adult population. State apparatus can be created
against the back drop of no nation like in Yugoslavia
and many of the post colonial African state. This
means because Scotland has strong sense of
nation, it could become a nation state
In conclusion Scotland is a nation that is submerged
within a host state. Although this host state does not
directly damage Scottish interests or discriminate
against its citizens, ultimate power of government
lies in a foreign lands. The state apparatus holds
this power and as is the case with any nation the
uneven relationship between nationhood and self
determinism will always grate on the general will of
the people. The British Empire which Scotland
benefited from has left in its wake a country that has
enjoyed influence beyond its size, but now must like
the rest of Britain carve out a new identity for itself.

The case of a Scottish nation is not in question as it
is evident that a separate identity and culture does
live and thrive north of the border. The question is
how can this difference be managed within a larger
structure without the disintegration of the larger
state or is this inevitable.
Anderson B. (1995) Imagined Communities,
Verso, London
Dickson T. (1980) Scottish Capitalism,
Lawrence and Wishart Ltd, London
Giddens A. (1993) Sociology, Polity Press,
Haralambos M ; Holborn M. (1991) Sociology
Themes and Perspectives, Collins Education,
Mann M. (1990) The Rise and Decline of the
Nation State, Basil Blackwell Ltd, Oxford
McCrone D. (1992) Understanding Scotland,
Routledge, London
Paterson L. (1994) The Autonomy Of Modern
Scotland, Edinburgh University Press Ltd,
Tivey L. (1981) The Nation State, Martin
Robertson, Oxford
Category: Miscellaneous