Independence, nationalism and the referendum

Independence, nationalism and the referendum

posted 29 Sep 2014 02:24 by Simon McKerrell   [ updated 29 Sep 2014 02:27 ]

What significance might the referendum on Scottish independence have for Scottish traditional music and musicians?

The following post is based upon a reading of the Understanding Scotland Musically survey results which are available in full at: Questionnaire on Scottish trad music.

[image: Andrew Philp’s hand drawn comedy map of Scotland printed by Bartholomew 1882, accessed from:].
Politically the respondents to the survey felt that Scottish independence was a desirable thing, but perhaps not as fervently as one would expect amongst those with a deep involvement in Scottish vernacular culture. Only 53% of respondents reported that they supported independence, with 21% undecided and 15% firmly against. The results of the nationwide referendum on independence in Scotland held on the 18th September 2014 found over 2 million Scots against independence (55%), there were 45% of voters in favour of independence with overall, an exceptionally high turnout of 85% of the possible electorate. 
  The lack of a greater proportion of respondents who are committed nationalists tells us something quite important about Scottish traditional music today. When one considers this against the other factors reported about what constitutes Scottish traditional music today, it adds further evidence to the claim that nationalism as a cultural trope has faded from people’s understanding of why traditional music matters. Furthermore, the character of the public debate in 2014 on Scottish independence was almost entirely devoid of appeals to cultural nationalism. As well as being a deliberate campaign policy of the Scottish Nationalist Party, the absence of cultural appeals to nationalist impulses across the public debate tells us something about the place of culture in Scottish society today. It suggests that musical culture within Scotland is now considered part of the personal domain, something that creates a sense of belonging and identity, but not necessarily a national one. This is supported by the evidence from the survey which suggests that the oral transmission and traditional compositional style are key defining factors in their understanding of what Scottish traditional music is. Neither of which are nationalist qualities of music. Scottish traditional music today is seemingly a musical community where the interpersonal relations and aesthetics count more strongly than any sense of national identity. 

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