Narratives of Scottish history and identity in pro-independence poetry written for the 2014 Scottish referendum

  • Kathryn Ailes

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


In the 2014 Scottish independence referendum campaigns, writers played a key role in articulating binding myths of Scottishness and visions of Scotland's future. This dissertation surveys a range of poems written for the referendum - the majority of which are pro-independence - to gauge which myths and narratives of Scottishness were promoted, twisted, or discarded in artistic engagements with the independence debate. It questions which narratives proved salient to pro-independence writers and considers how these historical narratives and statements of identity are contextualised within traditional concepts of Scottishness as well as how they deviate from those concepts. It sketches first how some poets hearkened back to long-standing myths of Scottishness in order to characterise contemporary Scotland as fundamentally egalitarian. It then investigates how some poets fixated on past injustices and aligned Scottishness with the victim position, and concludes with a discussion of those poets who rejected both of these traditional concepts of Scottishness and past-fixation to encourage a fresh start for the nation. Its compare poems with these themes and identifies the roots of these themes in Scottish literature and criticism, as well as weighing their effectiveness as pieces of political propaganda. In sum, the body of pro-independence poetry written for the referendum indicates a Scottish culture simultaneously clinging to traditional concepts of the nation and also keen to reject stereotypes and cultural dependencies in favour of a fresh start.
Date of Award21 Oct 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University Of Strathclyde
SponsorsUniversity of Strathclyde

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