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Digital Subscriptions > Prospect Magazine > May 2017 > Twig the truth about Scotland

Twig the truth about Scotland

Learn from history, and plan for a practical, working divorce

Scottish nationalism will not go away. Once separatist glory is embedded in the subconscious, it becomes a badge of honour. As long as independence is the cry of Scotland’s dominant party, the Scots seem happy to indulge it, even if not fully support it. But Brexit has been a lesson to us all. Who knows what independence really means?

The continued appeal of nationalism is no mystery. Half a century ago, Isaiah Berlin adapted Kant’s image of the “crooked timber” of mankind by describing nationalism as “the bent twig.” He attacked those who dismissed it as “a passing phase… a pathological inflammation of a wounded national consciousness.” To relegate nationalism to past history was, he thought, to play with fire. Berlin was right. In 50 years, the number of independent nations has not shrunk but doubled. They may have been born of imperial collapse, civil war, partition or, sometimes, peaceful negotiation. But the seeds of separatism swiftly take root and do not blow away.

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About Prospect Magazine

In Prospect’s May issue: Neal Ascherson, Simon Jenkins, John Curtice and Frances Cairncross examine the growing divide between England and Scotland. Ascherson argues that England has become Scotland’s “neurotic neighbour,” while Jenkins says we should learn from history and prepare for Scotland to leave the Union. Cairncross and Curtice debate whether Scotland could afford to break with England and whether a fresh referendum on independence is actually winnable. Also in this issue: Jason Burke questions whether the world will be a safer place after the downfall of Islamic State, Paul Hilder examines how politics got tangled in the web and Michael White reviews a new book charting the history of the Daily Mail
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