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The United Kingdom is composed of four constituent countries: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The United Kingdom is composed of four constituent countries: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The Union Jack, in addition to being the flag of the United Kingdom, also serves as a significant symbol of British unionism.
The Union Jack, in addition to being the flag of the United Kingdom, also serves as a significant symbol of British unionism.

Unionism in the United Kingdom, also referred to as British unionism, is a political ideology favouring the continued unity of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as one sovereign state, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Those who support the union are referred to as "Unionists".[1] British unionism can be associated with British nationalism, which asserts that the British are a nation and promotes the cultural unity of the Britons,[2][3] which may include people of English, Scottish, Welsh, Irish, Cornish and Manx descent.

Since the late 20th century, differing views on the constitutional status of the countries within the UK have become a bigger issue in Scotland, Northern Ireland, and to a lesser extent in Wales. The pro-independence Scottish National Party first became the governing party of the Scottish Parliament in 2007, and it won an outright majority of seats at the 2011 Scottish Parliament election. This led to a referendum on Scottish independence in 2014, where voters were asked: "Should Scotland be an independent country?"[4] 44.7% of voters answered "Yes" and 55.3% answered "No", with a record voter turnout of 84.5%.[5][6]

Formation of the Union

Further information: Formation of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

In 1542, the crowns of England and Ireland had been united through the creation of the Kingdom of Ireland under the Crown of Ireland Act 1542. Since the 12th century, the King of England had acted as Lord of Ireland, under papal overlordship. The act of 1542 created the title of "King of Ireland" for King Henry VIII of England and his successors, removing the role of the Pope as the ultimate overlord of Ireland. The crowns of England and Scotland were united in 1603, when James VI of Scotland succeeded his cousin Elizabeth I in England.

The Kingdom of Great Britain was formed on 1 May 1707 through the Acts of Union 1707, two simultaneous acts passed by the parliaments of England and Scotland. These created a political union between the Kingdom of England (consisting of England and Wales) and the Kingdom of Scotland. This event was the result of the Treaty of Union that was agreed on 22 July 1706.[7] The Acts created a single Parliament of Great Britain at Westminster as well as a customs and monetary union. However, England and Scotland remained separate legal jurisdictions.

With the Act of Union 1800, the Kingdom of Ireland united with Great Britain into what then formed the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. The history of the Unions is reflected in various stages of the Union Jack, which forms the flag of the United Kingdom. The larger part of Ireland left the United Kingdom in 1922, however the separation of Ireland which originally occurred under the Government of Ireland Act 1920 was upheld by the British Government and the Unionist-controlled devolved Parliament of Northern Ireland, and chose to remain within the state today, which is now officially termed the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The 300th anniversary of the union of Scotland and England was marked in 2007.

Support for the Union

England

Main article: Unionism in England

In England, support for the Union has traditionally been high, while support for a separate English state has conversely been relatively low. However, the rise of English nationalism has seen a decrease in support for the United Kingdom, although English nationalism does not necessarily advocate English independence from the United Kingdom. In November 2006, an ICM poll, commissioned by the Sunday Telegraph, showed that support for full English independence had reached 48% of those questioned.[8] However, two polls conducted in 2007 and 2013 showed that English support for the Union was stable and high, with 78% opposed to English independence in 2013.[9]

Scotland

Main article: Unionism in Scotland

In 2014, a referendum for Scottish independence was held. Voters were asked: "Should Scotland be an independent country?"[10] 44.7% of voters answered "Yes" and 55.3% answered "No", with a record voter turnout of 84.5%. Chief counting officer Mary Pitcaithly stated: "It is clear that the majority of people voting have voted No to the referendum question." Results were compiled from 32 council areas, with Glasgow backing independence—voting 53.5% "Yes" to 46.5% "No" (turnout in the area was 75%)—and Edinburgh voting against independence by 61% to 39% (turnout in the area was 84%).[5][11][12][13][14]

Although support for independence declined and/or stagnated generally between 2015 and 2018, it started to increase towards the end of 2019. Independence was leading over Union support in most polls for each month of 2020 up to July. On 6 July 2020, Professor Sir John Curtice stated that "support for the Union [in Scotland] has never been weaker".[15] Following the Brexit transition period, and the UK-EU trade deal going into effect, unionism has generally polled higher than nationalism within Scotland.

Wales

Main article: Unionism in Wales

This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (June 2022)

Northern Ireland

Main articles: Ulster loyalism and Unionism in Ireland

Towards the end of the 19th century, Irish unionism was, by and large, a reaction to an increase in movements for Irish home rule. This led to the partition of Ireland along the lines of nationalism and unionism in 1920, causing 26 out of 32 counties of Ireland to be separated from the Union to form Irish Free State in 1922. The rest of the counties were incorporated to Northern Ireland.

In Northern Ireland, support for the Union has been found to increase since the end of The Troubles, especially within the Roman Catholic population.[16] In part, this is as a result of a decreasing association of the Union with radical or extremist political ideologies following the Good Friday Agreement.

Political parties and other groups

The following is a list of active political parties and organisations that support the Union.

Major, Great Britain-wide parties
Northern Ireland parties
Parties in British Overseas Territories
Minor parties
Militant and other groups

See also

References

  1. ^ "BBC - History - British History in depth: Irish Home Rule: An imagined future". www.bbc.co.uk.
  2. ^ Motyl, Alexander J. (2001). Encyclopedia of Nationalism, Volume II. Academic Press. pp. 62–63. ISBN 0-12-227230-7.
  3. ^ Guntram H. Herb, David H. Kaplan. Nations and Nationalism: A Global Historical Overview: A Global Historical Overview. Santa Barbara, California, USA: ABC-CLIO, 2008.
  4. ^ "Scotland's Referendum 2014 - Background". Retrieved 8 September 2014.
  5. ^ a b "Scottish referendum: Scotland votes 'No' to independence". BBC News. 19 September 2014. Retrieved 19 September 2014.
  6. ^ "Referendum results: Turnout a record high as Scots vote No to independence". Scotland Now. 19 September 2014. Retrieved 20 September 2014.
  7. ^ "Articles of Union with Scotland 1707". www.parliament.uk. Retrieved 19 October 2008.
  8. ^ Hennessy, Patrick; Kite, Melissa (27 November 2006). "Britain wants UK break up, poll shows (68% in favour of English Parliament, 48% support a complete independence of England from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland)". The Daily Telegraph. London. Archived from the original on 18 May 2007. Retrieved 26 May 2007.
  9. ^ NatCen research paper, Does England want Scotland to leave or stay? (2014), p4. http://www.natcen.ac.uk/media/338789/bsa-england-reacts.pdf
  10. ^ "Scotland's Referendum 2014 - Background". Retrieved 8 September 2014.
  11. ^ Griff Witte (19 September 2014). "Scotland votes to remain part of United Kingdom". The Washington Post. Retrieved 19 September 2014.
  12. ^ "Scottish independence: Edinburgh rejects independence". BBC News. 19 September 2014. Retrieved 19 September 2014.
  13. ^ "Scottish independence: Glasgow votes Yes to independence". BBC News. 19 September 2014. Retrieved 19 September 2014.
  14. ^ "Scottish referendum: Scotland votes no to independence". BBC News. 19 September 2014. Retrieved 19 September 2014.
  15. ^ "'Support for the Union has never been weaker' with Yes vote at 54". The National.
  16. ^ BBC News, 'Do more Northern Ireland Catholics now support the Union?' (29 November 2012) https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-20547143
  17. ^ "Reform Politics". Reform Party Scotland.
  18. ^ Mark Aitken (12 May 2013). "UKIP leader Nigel Farage insists he will play a key role in the campaign against Scottish independence". Daily Record. Retrieved 18 October 2013.
  19. ^ "LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION POST-REFERENDUM PARLIAMENTARY ADDRESS". Archived from the original on 10 September 2016. Retrieved 7 July 2021.
  20. ^ Britain First official website. Statement of Principles Archived 9 October 2014 at the Wayback Machine. "Britain First is a movement of British Unionism. We support the continued unity of the United Kingdom whilst recognising the individual identity and culture of the peoples of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. We abhor and oppose all trends that threaten the integrity of the Union". Retrieved 8 July 2014.
  21. ^ British National Party website. The SNP. A real nationalist party? Archived 7 July 2014 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 8 July 2014.
  22. ^ "Stand by Loyal Ulster!" – British People's Party leaflet. Official British People's Party website. Retrieved 8 July 2014.
  23. ^ British National Front website. What we stand for. "We stand for the continuation of the UNITED KINGDOM OF GREAT BRITAIN AND NORTHERN IRELAND – Four Countries, One Nation. Scotland, Ulster, England and Wales, united under our Union Flag – we will never allow the traitors to destroy our GREAT BRITAIN!". Retrieved 8 July 2014.
  24. ^ Respect Party website. Scotland Archived 27 August 2014 at the Wayback Machine. "Respect officially passed a motion at its 2014 AGM backing a ‘No’ vote in Scotland’s Independence Referendum in September". Retrieved 8 July 2014.

Further reading