Education and support for Scottish independence, 1979-2016

Lindsay Paterson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The rise in support for Scottish independence between the 1970s and the 2010s has shaped Scottish politics and policy profoundly. The rise provokes a paradox: in this same period, the average educational level of people living in Scotland has also risen strongly, and yet, at each particular moment in time, higher levels of education have been associated with lower levels of support for independence. Scotland is an interesting case of wider developments. Recent political science theories of national populism in many countries would lead us to expect that a movement for national sovereignty would be based mainly on the support of people with minimal education. Why both independence support and educational levels have risen is investigated using a series of 20 surveys of the Scottish population from 1979 to 2016. Using a long time series allows the effects of survey year and birth cohort to be disentangled, and to be interpreted in the light of educational expansion since the middle of the twentieth century and also the different periods of political socialisation of successive cohorts.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Education Policy
Early online date22 Nov 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 22 Nov 2021


  • education
  • sex
  • populism
  • nationalism
  • national identity
  • independence


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