Scottish Identity and Britishness in Empire

BritishnessCurrent debates relating to the Scottish independence referendum often focus on political matters, but there are also important questions with respect to the Scots’ sense of identity. Ever since the Union of 1707 Scots could claim to be both Scottish and British, and this ability was significant too beyond Scotland’s borders. Within the wider imperial world, the military glamour of the Scottish soldiers in the British imperial armies was crucial, for example, to the promotion of a strong sense of Scottish identity. With famous victories gained and their members skilfully depicted in Highland garb and glory, regiments such as the Black Watch contributed to consolidating a positive image of Scottishness. Scots, notes MacKenzie, ‘were everywhere in the visual record’, this reflecting the ways in which they could play out their …

A formula for Scottishness?

nationalityThe BBC Magazine ran a story today that I wanted to comment on, so here are a few thoughts:

Yes, for the purpose of a political referendum, residence in Scotland is perhaps the only feasible criterion to establish Scottishness. But looking at the deeper meaning of Scottishness, and including the Scottish diaspora around the world rather than just in the UK, it is ethnicity that has been, to quote the article headline, the ‘formula for Scottishness’ for hundreds of years.

Keen to seize imperial opportunities, an estimated 2.33 million Scots journeyed across the Atlantic or made their way to the Antipodes between 1825 and 1938. Among the Scots who made their way abroad, the zeal to use their ethnicity actively, coming together with fellow Scots for the purpose of forming …

Home Rule for Scotland: An early 20th century view from New Zealand

homeruleBlenheim was the birthplace of one of the few Scots in New Zealand who actively promoted home rule for Scotland: Richard McCallum. His name, as was stated by the New Zealand Truth in 1927, ‘implies something of a fine old “Hieland” strain.’ And indeed, though born in Blenheim, Marlborough, in the South Island in 1863, McCallum developed a keen interest in things Scottish. Perhaps it was his father, Archibald McCallum, one of the pioneer settlers in the Wairau who hailed from Glasgow, who had instilled in his son a sense of Scottishness. One important influence had been Australian Alexander Renfrew, J.P., who first obtained McCallum’s interest in the issue of Scottish Home Rule in 1892. It was shortly after his a meeting with Renfrew, in 1892, that McCallum composed a …