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Scottish nationalism promotes the idea that the Scottish people form a cohesive nation and national identity.

Scottish nationalism began to shape from 1853 with the National Association for the Vindication of Scottish Rights, progressing into the Scottish National Movement in the 1920s[1] maturing by the 1970s[2] and achieved present ideological maturity in the 1980s and 1990s.

The nation's origin, political context and unique characteristics including the Gaelic language,[3][4] poetry and film maintains an individual's distinct identification and support of Scotland.


Scottish Nationalism, the concept of Scotland as an individual nation state became prominent within Scotland in the Middle Ages.[5] During the Anglo-Scottish Wars, the campaign led by Scotland[6] was to obtain Scottish independence as a separate sovereign state. The campaign was successful, and following the Declaration of Arbroath, a formal letter sent to Pope John XXII, Scotland, and the nation's individual identity were officially recognised as sovereign in 1328.[7][8][9]

Scotland proceeded to operate as an independent nation state until the Acts of Union[10] which merged both the Parliaments and Kingdoms of Scotland and England in 1707 to be "united into one Kingdom of Great Britain", a united state[11] retaining separate legal system, however a distinct Scottish institution continue to exist.[12]


Scottish Gaelic, also known as the founding language of Scotland[13][14][15] is currently the oldest Scottish language still in use today.

The History of Scottish Gaelic itself has been through a tremendous legacy of turmoil, from Scots nobles learning only English as a first language as far back as the 13th century, the implementation of the Statutes of Iona[16] in 1609 forcing Scots nobles to learn English, or the 1616 Education Act implemented by the Scottish Privy Council which declared that no heir of a Gaelic chief could inherit unless he could write, read and speak English[17]

Around ten such Acts were raised between 1494 and 1698, passed by the Scots Parliament to make English the first language,[18] Gaelic had struggled to retain a foothold over Scotland. As Scotland and Great Britain were united under the Acts of Union 1707, Gaelic lost its legitimacy as a legal and administrative language. Gaelic did however continued to gain importance as the language of the Highland clans, and the language of the Jacobites.[citation needed]

Prior to the Education (Scotland) Act 1872, the Act of Proscription 1746 was implemented to assimilate Highland Scots into Lowland & British culture. Following the Government victory over the Jacobites, Jacobitism as a significant political force diminished, Highland dress was outlawed, banned, and Highland culture & Language deterred, those speaking Gaelic, or wearing highland dress historically received various forms of punishment. On 1 July 1782, royal assent was given to Repeal of the Act Proscribing the Wearing of Highland Dress 22 George III, Chap. 63, 1782 and a proclamation issued in Gaelic and English. Under the Education (Scotland) Act, school attendance was compulsory and only English was taught, or tolerated in the schools of both the Lowlands and the Highlands and Islands. As a result, any student who spoke Scottish Gaelic in the school or on its grounds could expect what Ronald Black calls the, "familiar Scottish experience of being thrashed" for speaking their native language of Gaelic.[19]

Since devolution and the passing of the Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act 2005, Scottish nationalists have spearheaded an effort to bring Scottish Gaelic back from the brink of extinction through the spread of immersion schools funded by the Scottish Parliament.[20]

The lowland Scots Language, previously known as Inglis/Early Scots is a member of the West Germanic languages[21][22] which also has a reported history of being deterred within Scottish Education. Scots speakers today agree that they have received various forms of punishment for speaking Scots. For this reason, the protection and revival of both Scottish Gaelic[4][23] and Lowland Scots play a key role in nationalist ideology.[24][25]

Linguistic independence is primarily associated with the poetry of Robert Burns about the events of the Wars of Scottish Independence, before it experienced a resurgence during the Scottish Renaissance, as led by Hugh MacDiarmid.[26]


Within politics, Scottish nationalism was held as a key ideology by the National Party of Scotland which later became the Scottish National Party (SNP). Their rise in popularity since being elected to government at Holyrood in 2007 led to the 2014 Scottish independence referendum. The referendum was held on Thursday 18 September 2014, and was a victory for the Better Together campaign; who advocated keeping Scotland part of the United Kingdom, with 55% of the Scottish electorate across all 32 council areas voting "No" to independence. However, four of the thirty-two local authority council areas in Scotland did have a majority "Yes" vote in support of independence: Dundee, Glasgow, North Lanarkshire and West Dunbartonshire, which accounted for the wishes of 1,617,989 people who voted in favour of independence across Scotland as a whole.

Despite the nationalist side losing the referendum, the SNP experienced a surge in support in the following months, and won a landslide majority in Scotland at the UK general election the following year; ending 51 years of dominance by Scottish Labour. Many long-serving Labour politicians lost their seats in the biggest political upset in decades, with the SNP winning all but three Scottish House of Commons seats and displacing the Liberal Democrats to become the third party of the United Kingdom; despite only standing for election in Scotland. On Thursday, 23 June 2016, the United Kingdom held a referendum on continuing membership of the European Union, which resulted in 52% of the British electorate voting for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union. A second Scottish independence referendum has been proposed, as 62% of the Scottish electorate voted for the UK to remain in the European Union, and guaranteed prosperity through single market access was part of the Better Together campaign's argument to convince the Scottish people to vote to stay part of the UK.[27]

In 2021, former SNP Leader and First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond launched the Alba Party and announced it would run in the 2021 Scottish Parliament election, to try to achieve "supermajority" for Scottish independence.[28] However, the party failed to win any seats in Parliament.[29]

On 15 June 2022, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon declared that she planned to hold a second Scottish independence referendum in October 2023.[30] Her decision was unanimously struck down as null and void by the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom on 23 November 2022.[31]

Popular culture

Hugh MacDiarmid was an influential figure and staunch believer in Scottish nationalism.



See also


  1. ^ "Siol nan Gaidheal - William Gillies".
  2. ^ Begg, H. M.; Stewart, J. A. (1971). "The Nationalist Movement in Scotland". Journal of Contemporary History. 6 (1): 135–152. doi:10.1177/002200947100600108. JSTOR 259628. S2CID 159694293.
  3. ^ "Scottish Gaelic".
  4. ^ a b "Scottish Government Gaelic Language Plan 2016-2021".
  5. ^ Newstalk. "What's the history of Scottish Nationalism?". Newstalk.
  6. ^ "William Wallace Overview". Retrieved 14 May 2023.
  7. ^ "National Records of Scotland". 31 May 2013.
  8. ^ "The Declaration of Arbroath".
  9. ^ "Scottish freedom".
  10. ^ "Act of Union 1707 - UK Parliament". Retrieved 14 May 2023.
  11. ^ "The UK, Britain, Great Britain, the British Isles, England - what's the difference?".
  12. ^ G. M. Trevelyan, Ramilies and the Union with Scotland (Fonatana) p. 285-6
  13. ^ "The Gaelic Language: Past and Present |". Scotland. Retrieved 14 May 2023.
  14. ^ "Scottish Gaelic & the Gaelic Language".
  15. ^ "Gaelic in Scotland | CELTIC STUDIES". 31 March 2021.
  16. ^ "The Statutes of Iona - Gaidhlig ann an Alba". 5 May 2021.
  17. ^ "1616 Education Act, Scottish Privy Council | Exploring Celtic Civilizations".
  18. ^ "BBC - Voices - Multilingual Nation".
  19. ^ Ronald Black (1999), An Tuil: Anthology of 20th Century Scottish Gaelic Verse, p. 787.
  20. ^ "Chapter IV Plan Commitments". Retrieved 11 January 2024.
  21. ^ " - 550-1100 Anglo-Saxon (Pre-Scots)". Retrieved 11 January 2024.
  22. ^ "What are the different languages of Scotland?". Retrieved 11 January 2024.
  23. ^ "Scottish Gaelic History". 13 January 2023.
  24. ^
  25. ^ "The National Gaelic Language Plan". Bòrd na Gàidhlig. Retrieved 11 January 2024.
  26. ^ P. S. Fry/R. Mitchison, The History of Scotland (1989) p. 209
  27. ^ "SCOTLANDʼS FUTURE YOUR GUIDE TO AN INDEPENDENT SCOTLAND" (PDF). 1 November 2013. p. i. Retrieved 18 November 2019.
  28. ^ "Former SNP leader Alex Salmond launches new political party". BBC News. 26 March 2021. Retrieved 28 March 2021.
  29. ^ "Scottish Parliament election 2021 - National results". BBC News. Retrieved 12 May 2021.
  30. ^ "Sturgeon plans to hold second Scottish independence referendum in October 2023". The Guardian. 15 June 2022. Retrieved 18 June 2022.
  31. ^ "UK Supreme Court rejects Scottish referendum bid". France 24. 23 November 2022.
  32. ^ Not Burns – Alasdair Mac Mhaighstir Alasdair! by Alan Riach, The National: The Newspaper that Supports an Independent Scotland, 11, February 2016.
  33. ^ A great Scot, too aft forgot: Alasdair mac Mhaighstir Alasdair by Hamish MacPherson, The National: The Newspaper that Supports an Independent Scotland, 13 January 2020.
  34. ^ "Wallace movie 'helped Scots get devolution' - [Sunday Herald]". 2 July 2013. Archived from the original on 2 July 2013. Retrieved 28 March 2021.
  35. ^ "The 10 most historically inaccurate movies - Times Online". 15 June 2011. Archived from the original on 15 June 2011. Retrieved 28 March 2021.
  36. ^ "What 'Outlaw King' gets wrong - according to a historian". 13 November 2018. Retrieved 28 March 2021.